One of the showiest natives that is on the shorter side, but extraordinarily showy has got to be Prairie Phlox. Beautiful bright pink clusters of flowers that last for about a month or more can add curb appeal and compete with any garden center non-native plant when it comes to attractiveness. So, if you love traditional gardening but would like to transition to natives, Prairie Phlox should be on your list.
But this article will be a complete profile on this plant including:
- What is Prairie Phlox
- What are the benefits of Prairie Phlox
- How to grow and care for Prairie Phlox
- Identification / Characteristics
- What Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases effect Prairie Phlox
- Where to buy Prairie Phlox
- Uses of Prairie Phlox
What is Prairie Phlox
Prairie Phlox is a showy perennial native to Eastern North America. Scientifically known as Phlox Pilosa, it will grow 6-18” tall in full sun or partial shade and well-draining soil. Blooming lavender to pink flowers for approximately one month in late Spring, the flowers will attract long-tongue bees and butterflies/skippers.
Such a low-growing flower that is showy makes Prairie Phlox a great candidate for any formal flower bed, but still fits in with a more ‘wild’ garden. Overall, one should rate this plant as residential friendly that can fill many of the same landscaping roles that common exotic ornamentals are normally used.
Slightly challenging to start from seed, it can readily be purchased from various native nurseries that are becoming much more common throughout the Country. You can use our searchable map to locate one near you.
Native Range of Prairie Phlox
The Native Range of Prairie Phlox is very wide, running from North Dakota to Texas, then East to Florida and New York. So, it covers roughly the Eastern half of the United States.
|Scientific Name||Phlox pilosa|
|Common Name(s)||Prairie Phlox|
|Native Range, USDA Zone||Hardiness Zones 4-9|
|Bloom Time||Late Spring to early Summer|
|Bloom Duration, Color||4 weeks, Pink|
|Spacing / Spread||12-18″|
|Light Requirements||Full Sun / Partial Shade|
|Soil Types||Sandy loam to clay loam|
|Moisture||Moist to medium-moist soil|
|Fauna Associations / Larval Hosts||Bees / butterflies / moths / skippers|
What are the Benefits of Prairie Phlox
The showiness of the flowers are obvious for all to see! Clusters of pink flowers fixed at the top of short plants are eye-catching and a great choice to place unbalanced on one side of a flower bed, or perhaps their own small island.
Many natives are quite large, but the more compact nature of Prairie phlox makes this plant adaptable to many gardening situations. It can feature prominent in a ‘shorter’ flower bed, or occupy the front row or edges of a taller more landscaped garden.
Prairie Phlox can find a home in most locations due to its wide tolerance of soil, sun, and moisture conditions. This makes it possible to grow in just about anybody’s yard.
The deep throated flowers make this plant attractive to long-tongue bees and butterflies. The nectar produced help ensure that you can get a steady stream of fluttering visitors. Short tongue pollinators can’t obtain the nectar, which means more for butterflies!
Grow and Care for Prairie Phlox
Prairie Phlox will grow in full sun (6+ hours of sun per day) or partial shade (4-6 hours of sun per day). However, the plant will grow the largest and showiest under full sun conditions.
Prairie Phlox can grow in a wide variety of soil types. It will grow in everything from sandy loam, rich fertile loam, clay loam, or even rocky soil.
For moisture, Prairie Phlox is quite adaptable in that it can grow in slightly moist to slightly dry conditions. The key factor is that the soil drains well.
Alternatively, you could use our method to contain the spread and plant it in pots lined with landscape fabric. You can see our method and read about our test results here.
But other than dividing, the only maintenance required for Prairie Phlox is to remove the previous season’s stalks each Spring, or cut them back to ground in Fall.
Prairie Phlox is a clump forming plant. So, it slowly increases it’s size via rhizomes each year. This means that every second or third year, depending on how large it is getting, one may need to divide it to keep it’s size in check in a formal flowerbed.
Prairie Phlox will not require supplemental fertilizer. It will grow and thrive as long as it is planted in sunny locations with well-draining soil.
How to Grow Prairie Phlox from Seed
The Phlox genus is a somewhat difficult seed to germinate. Germination rates have been reported as low as 2%. In fact Greene and Curtis found an improvement from 2 to 10% by just cold stratifying them by 2 months. 
There are a wide variety of recommendations for pretreatments to break dormancy….everything from a couple months cold stratification to no stratification and exposure to sunlight, and finally warm stratification period followed by a cold stratification period. So what is a backyard gardener to do?
I have found that simple Winter Sowing, early enough in Winter (December) will provide Prairie Phlox with enough cold stratification to induce germination (3-4 months total). [See Winter Sowing Guide] But, know that the highest germination rates I’ve come across are about 50%, so you need to take that into consideration before you sow. If you are purchasing a pack of seed, then my recommendation is to hold nothing back, and use all seed.
One other important point, Prairie Phlox does have the potential to germinate prematurely if the temperature in the Winter Sowing container reaches 60-70F. So, it is important that the container stay in the shade until after the coldest parts of Winter have passed, and you are approaching your last frost date. 
Process to germinate Prairie Phlox seed
1 – Fill a suitable Winter Sowing container with moist potting soil. The soil should be wet enough that if you squeeze a handful, only a couple of drops of water fall from your hand.
2 – Sprinkle Prairie Phlox seed on top of the moist potting soil.
3 – Place the container outside in a shady location, such as the North side of your house
4– Once Spring is approaching, you can transfer the container to a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
5 – Germination should occur once temperatures reliably warm up
After most seeds have germinated, you should separate or thin seedlings. If the seedlings are quite scattered, you may wish to separate them early and carefully avoid damaging roots. If seeds germinated very close together, perhaps consider waiting until there are several sets of true leaves and then separating once the root systems are mature.
You can expect Prairie Phlox to bloom by it’s second year after seed germination. The plant will focus on developing a root stock during the first year.
Also, Prairie Phlox is readily consumed by many mammals (rabbits, deer). So, you should protect the plants with liquid fence!
Identification and Characteristics of Prairie Phlox
Prairie Phlox will grow in single unbranched stalks 6-18” tall. The stalk is red/purple or light green and round with white hairs.
The leaves of Prairie Phlox are opposite along the stalk and 2-3” long by 3/8” wide, linear-lanceolate in shape, and have no stem (sessile). Each leaf will have a prominent central vein.
At the top of each stalk will be a cluster of flowers on a short pedicel. Individual flowers are small, being roughly 1/2” diameter with 5 petals. Lobes are roughly oblanceolate in shape and are widely spread, leaving a large gap between each petal. The petals at the end are also somewhat angled.
Flower color can range from a light lavender to a rich or “hot” pink color. The blooming duration of Prairie Phlox is about 4 weeks in late Spring or early Summer, often coinciding with Penstemons. Flowers also produce a nice fragrance.
Save seed from Prairie Phlox
Seeds will form at the flower locations roughly 4-6 weeks after blooming. Seeds are very tiny and should be collected as soon as ripe. They can be stored in the fridge in a zip-lock bag until ready to be Winter Sown.
Prairie Phlox has a tap-root and rhizomes. So, the plant will expand itself as a clump over time.
Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases associated with Prairie Phlox
The deep throat of Prairie Phlox flowers mean it is mainly pollinated by butterflies, long-tongue bees, and skippers. It has been well documented that Prairie Phlox will attract butterflies. 
Pests don’t seem to effect Prairie Phlox. But in hot and dry areas spider mites may infest a plant.
Deer and Rabbits
Deer and rabbits absolutely love to eat Prairie Phlox. If you grow it, you need to plant on protecting it with deer and rabbit repellent or a cage for the first year or two. I personally use Liquid Fence, and have had great success in keeping the deer and rabbits at bay. You need to follow the directions though, and reapply after heavy rains. You can find Liquid Fence on our recommended products page.
Prairie phlox is generally disease free.
Where you can buy Prairie Phlox
is not typically sold in nurseries, as it isn’t a typical ‘garden friendly’ plant. But it can be purchased at specialty nurseries that deal in Native Plants. You can find native plant nurseries near you on our interactive map.
Where to buy seeds
We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)
Uses of Prairie Phlox
Prairie Phlox is one of the most versatile native perennials for use in formal flower beds due to it’s shorter height and how adaptable it is to different growing conditions/soil types. Just about every homeowner should be able to successfully grow this plant in their yard as long as there is enough sunlight and the soil can drain. It can be used in formal flower beds, borders, shorter meadows – just about anywhere.
Due to the wide variety of conditions it grows in, and it’s smaller height, there are a seemingly endless number of companion plants that can be grown with Prairie Phlox. For some plants that would bloom concurrently with Prairie Phlox:
- Hairy Beardtongue
- Foxglove Beardtongue
- Lanceleaf Coreopsis
- Fire Pink
- Prairie Smoke
- Tennessee Coneflower
- Echinacea Angustfolia (Narrow Leaf Coneflower)
For a seclection of companion plants that would bloom before or after Prairie Phlox:
- Virginia Bluebells
- Shooting Star
- Purple Coneflower
- Black Eyed Susan
- Wild bergamot
- Heliopsis helianthoides
- Orange Coneflower (perennial black eyed susan)
- Aromatic Aster
The Meskwaki Tribe had several uses for Phlox Pilosa. They used an infusion of leaves to ‘cure and purify blood’ and would also use an infusion of leaves as a wash for eczema. And finally they made a compound that contained the root of Phlox Pilosa as a ‘love medicine’.
 – USDA NRCS. “Phlox Pilosa”. Retrieved 01JUN2022. https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=PHPIP
 – Hendrix, Stephen D., and And John F. Kyhl. “Population size and reproduction in Phlox pilosa.” Conservation Biology 14.1 (2000): 304-313.
 – Greene, H. C., and John T. Curtis. “Germination studies of Wisconsin prairie plants.” American Midland Naturalist (1950): 186-194.
 – Madeiras, Angela M., Thomas H. Boyle, and Wesley R. Autio. “Germination of Phlox pilosa L. seeds is improved by gibberellic acid and light but not stratification, potassium nitrate, or surface disinfestation.” Hortscience 42.5 (2007): 1263-1267.
 – Robertson, Charles. “Flowers and insects; lists of visitors of four hundred and fifty-three flowers.” (1928). pp.151. Retrieved 04JUN2022.
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