A mainstay and showstopper in cottage gardens everywhere, phlox flowers are beloved for their large, brightly colored clusters of flowers that are relatively easy to grow and maintain. They also have a rich symbolic history and deep cultural significance across North America. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Phlox flower meaning, plus learn about their history and origins, uses and benefits today.
- Phlox Flower Meaning – The Essentials
- About Phlox Flowers
- Uses and Benefits of Phlox Flowers
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Phlox Flowers
- The Meaning and Symbolism of Common Phlox Flower Colors
- Phlox Flowers Origin Stories in Myths and Folklore
- Phlox Flowers in the Middle Ages
- The Meaning of Phlox Flowers During the Victorian Era
- Phlox Flowers in Spirituality and Religion
- Add a Some Fire to Your Garden With Phlox Flowers
- Phlox Flower FAQs
Phlox Flower Meaning – The Essentials
Phlox flowers symbolize harmony, compatibility, unity, partnership, agreement, and united hearts and souls. In the Victorian language of flowers, a gift of phlox flowers would have indicated a marriage proposal, and wearing fragrant phlox would have demonstrated a wish for sweet dreams.
About Phlox Flowers
Taxonomy of Phlox Flowers
Phlox is a genus of 67 flowering plants in the Polemoniaceae plant family.
Botanical Characteristics of Phlox Flowers
With small leaves, phlox is truly prized for its showy flowers. Phlox flowers bloom in elongated clusters along the plant’s stems. They’re trumpet-shaped with five petals and come in a variety of colors including blue, violet, pink, red, and white.
Depending on the species, some phlox plants grow upright, others have a mounding habit, and others have a creeping habit, making an excellent blooming ground cover.
Additionally, in warm and sunny weather, certain species emit a strong, sweet fragrance that resembles vanilla and clove.
To What Regions Are Phlox Flowers Native?
Except for one species that is native to Siberia, all species of phlox are native to North America. They grow naturally in a diverse range of climates including alpine tundra, prairies, meadows, and woodlands.
The History and Origins of Phlox Flowers
Growing natively across North America, phlox flowers have a long history of medicinal use by several Native American tribes.
Scientifically speaking, they were first recorded by the Swedish botanist and taxonomist, Carl Linnaeus. Phlox flowers were introduced into cultivation in Europe in the late 1700s.
Popular Types of Phlox Flowers
- Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox or Fragrant Phlox)
- Phlox Subulata (Creeping Phlox)
- Phlox adsurgens (Northern Phlox)
- Phlox divaricata (Wild Blue Phlox)
- Phlox pilosa (Downy Phlox)
Etymology: Where Do Phlox Flowers Get Their Name?
Phlox is the Greek word for flame, and these flowers get their name for some varieties’ bright and fiery colors.
When Do Phlox Flowers Bloom?
Phlox flowers start blooming in early spring, mid-summer, and late summer into fall. The exact timing varies depending on the species.
Uses and Benefits of Phlox Flowers
Phlox flowers are a popular choice for growing in cottage gardens, rock gardens, beds, borders, and containers. They have large, showy, and colorful clusters of flowers that add visual interest, texture, and a lovely, sweet fragrance when in bloom.
Herbalism and Medicine
Although phlox flowers are primarily ornamental plants, wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata), native to much of the United States and Canada has a history of medicinal use by Native American tribes.
The whole plant was boiled as a tea to treat gastrointestinal disorders, the leaves were boiled to treat skin problems, and the roots were steeped and used as an eyewash.
Since wild Phlox flowers are native to much of North America, they attract a variety of native pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies (including gray hairstreaks, swallowtails, and western pygmy blues), bumblebees, honey bees, moths, and more.
With its strong symbolic meanings of unity, harmony, partnership, and agreement, phlox flowers are appropriate for almost any occasion. They’re especially nice in a bouquet for celebrating a marriage proposal, engagement, wedding, or anniversary.
Additionally, phlox flowers make great office flowers, as they can encourage harmony, represent new partnerships, and hopefully help create plenty of hand-shaking moments.
Phlox Flowers in Feng Shui
Since phlox flowers have a strong association with unity and harmony, they can be used in feng shui to encourage harmony and unity in different areas of your life. For example, phlox flowers placed in the marriage/romantic relationship or family corners of your home could draw harmonious energy into those aspects of life.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Phlox Flowers
The Meaning and Symbolism of Common Phlox Flower Colors
In floral symbolism, the color almost always carries a meaning of its own. When analyzing the symbolic meaning of a phlox flower, you must also consider the color of its flowers which bloom in blue, violet, pink, red, and white.
- Blue and Violet – In flowers, these cooler hues often represent honesty, patience, spirituality, wisdom, and understanding. A purple or blue phlox symbolizes stability and enduring love in a long-lasting, mature relationship.
- Pink – Pink traditionally symbolizes gentle admiration, love, and femininity. In phlox, it represents romantic intimacy and can be a tender expression of love.
- Red – Red represents passion, romance, and strong feelings in relationships. Red phlox flowers represent passionate love as a part of a relationship.
- White – White usually symbolizes purity and innocence. White phlox flowers mean pure intentions and represent an honest commitment to a relationship.
Phlox Flowers Origin Stories in Myths and Folklore
Native American Chickasaw Tribe
One story of the origin of Phlox flowers comes from the Native American Chickasaw tribe. The legend says that the tribe once trespassed on the hunting grounds of the Muscogee, a neighboring tribe. The act was interpreted as a provocation, and a battle that would last for three days ensued soon after.
Eventually, the Chickasaw tribe’s members attempted to retreat from battle, but the Muscogee had lit a wall of fire, trapping them in place. A Chickasaw boy named Chuhla (Blackbird) then called upon the animals to help them put out the fire.
Lots of animals came to help try to extinguish the fire, and many of them were changed by the event forever. Soot and ash turned the squirrel’s white coat to gray and deer lost their tails. As the animals and tribe were still trapped, the Great Spirit saw their struggles and miraculously turned embers from the fire into red phlox flowers. These flowers covered the scorching path, helping the Chickasaw people escape.
A myth from ancient Greece says that phlox flowers were created from the discarded torches used by Odysseus and his men when they descended into the underworld. When they threw away their torches, the flames transformed into phlox flowers, as a sign of their bravery.
Phlox Flowers in the Middle Ages
During the Medieval era, part of the Chivalric Code was for knights to pin phlox to their clothes and then gift them to their ladies at the end of an evening’s festivities.
The Meaning of Phlox Flowers During the Victorian Era
In the Victorian language of flowers, a gift of phlox could be interpreted as a public profession of love or even as a marriage proposal. A gift of fragrant phlox symbolized a wish for the recipient to have sweet dreams.
Phlox Flowers in Spirituality and Religion
In modern spiritualism, phlox is viewed and used as a force for connecting people to form unions, creating harmony, and promoting healthy relationships. Phlox can be positively incorporated into one’s life by being planted in a garden, included in bouquets displayed in the home, or by using it as an essential oil.
Phlox has been used in Wiccan spell work as a magical flower that can foster harmonious connections among romantic partners, families, friends, coworkers, and communities. Planting phlox in your garden is believed to help maintain unity and harmony within your own family and household.
Additionally, phlox is one of the herbs commonly included in Wiccan observance of the spring festival, Beltane. It’s woven into wreaths, included on Maypoles, and incorporated into flower baskets to represent the union of the May Lord and May Lady.
Used as a focal point in a mindfulness meditation practice, phlox is said to help reduce procrastination and boost productivity.
Add a Some Fire to Your Garden With Phlox Flowers
Whether you choose varieties with bright-red, flame-like blossoms or phlox that blooms in a cooler hue, these attractive blossoms will certainly warm up the look of your garden!
Phlox Flower FAQs
What do phlox flowers symbolize?
Phlox flowers symbolize harmony, compatibility, unity, partnership, and agreement. They represent united hearts and souls. Additionally, fragrant phlox flowers symbolize sweet dreams.
Do phlox flowers come back every year?
There are nearly 70 species of phlox flowers. Some of them are annuals, meaning they only bloom once, while others are perennials, meaning they come back every year.
Where do phlox flowers grow best?
Phlox grows best in moist yet well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade. The most popular type of phlox, garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is winter hardy in USDA growing zones 4 through 8.
However, flowers of the Phlox genus grow naturally in an array of habitats, making different species suitable to grow in a wide range of garden conditions.
What is a phlox flower used for?
Although phlox flowers are primarily ornamental plants, wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) has a history of medicinal use. The whole plant has been boiled as a tea to treat gastrointestinal disorders, while the leaves have been boiled to treat skin problems and the roots have been used as an eyewash.
What do phlox flowers attract?
Phlox flowers are native plants and, as a result, attract a variety of native pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, and other pollinators.
Are phlox flowers poisonous to dogs and other pets?
Phlox is not toxic to humans, dogs, or cats. Although it is not poisonous, phlox is not easily digestible and can cause an upset stomach if ingested.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.