Sand Phlox (Cleft Phlox)

Phlox bifida

Polemoniaceae (phloxes)


A spreading, mat-forming perennial of dry, rocky soils. Flowers pale purple or blue to nearly white, tubular with 5 spreading lobes, each lobe with a deep, V-shaped notch. Blooms March-May. Leaves many, opposite, linear to lance-shaped; very short, bright green.

Similar species: There are 9 species in the genus Phlox recorded living wild in Missouri. This is the only one that creeps and has deeply cleft petal lobes.


Height: to about 6 inches.


Photo of sand phlox several flowers in a colony
Sand Phlox (Cleft Phlox)


Photo of sand phlox closeup on two flowers
Sand Phlox (Cleft Phlox) (Flowers)
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in dry upland woods, wooded or open slopes, and ledges of bluffs; in dry, rocky soils derived from chert, granite, or limestone; mainly on acidic but also on lime soils.

image of Sand Phlox Cleft Phlox distributon map
Distribution in Missouri

Southern Ozarks and north-central counties.

Human connections

This is a great native choice for a sunny Missouri rock garden, but do not dig plants from the wild. Instead, visit a local native wildflower nursery that propagates the plants ethically. Some special cultivars have been developed with unique colors.

Ecosystem connections

A variety of butterflies, moths, and skippers drink nectar from the flowers. A variety of insects and mammals eat the foliage. Plants that grow in thin, rocky soils play an important role in preventing erosion, which is one reason you should not dig them up, or even trample them.