Sand Phlox (Cleft Phlox)

Photo of sand phlox several flowers showing cleft petal lobes
Scientific Name
Phlox bifida
Polemoniaceae (phloxes)

Sand phlox, or cleft phlox, is a spreading, mat-forming perennial wildflower of dry, rocky soils. The flowers are pale purple or blue to nearly white, tubular with 5 spreading lobes, with each lobe having a deep, V-shaped notch. Blooms March–May. The leaves are many, opposite, linear to lance-shaped, very short, and 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.

Where To Find
image of Sand Phlox Cleft Phlox distributon map

Southern Ozarks and north-central counties.

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.

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.

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.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!