The common name of phlox hoodii
, spiny phlox, refers to the leaves, which are short, clustered and needle-like, terminating in a spike and lightly covered with short straggly hairs, non-glandular. Plants form low, loose mats, just a few inches tall. New leaves appear above dead leaves from previous years.
A single stalkless flower is produced from the tip of each stem, formed of a short, hairy, green calyx and a narrowly tubular, yellowish-green corolla (around half an inch in length) that opens to five spreading, white or pale pink lobes. The upper edges of the lobes are slightly uneven. Flower color becomes lighter with age. The anthers are yellow, and not exserted.