Abstract Plasma display panels (PDPs) are gaining attention due to their high performance and scalability as a medium for large format TVs. The performance and life of a PDP strongly depends upon the nature of phosphors. Currently, Eu 2+ activated barium magnesium aluminate (BAM) is being used as a blue component. Because of its low life, efforts are being made to explore new blue emitting phosphors. One of the alternatives to BAM is Tm 3+ activated lanthanum phosphate (LPTM) phosphor. LPTM phosphor samples are prepared by a solid-state as well as sol–gel process in presence of flux. The phosphor of the present investigation, having uniform and spherical shape particles in the range of 0.1–2 μm, is appropriate for thin phosphor screens required for PDP applications. It exhibits a narrow band emission in the blue region, peaking at 452 nm and also a number of narrow bands in the UV region when excited by 147 and 173 nm radiation from a xenon gas mixture. Various possible transitions responsible for UV and visible emission from Tm 3+ ion are presented. These phosphors also exhibit good color saturation and better stability when excited with VUV radiation. To achieve higher brightness, they are blended with other UV excited blue emitting phosphors such as BAM. Results related to morphology, excitation, after glow decay, emission and degradation of these phosphors in the powder form as well as in plasma display panels are presented and discussed.