How to Grow Physostegia — Obedient Plant

Physostegia virginiana
Physostegia virginiana

Physostegia–commonly called Obedient plant–bears spikes of hooded, two-lipped, tubular white, pink, or purple flowers. Blooms appear in late summer.

Obedient plant is a compact, erect perennial with lance-shaped, toothed mid-green leaves. When moved, the flowers will remain in the new position–thus the common name obedient plant.

Physostegia is a good choice to grow in borders. It is a good cut flower.

Physostegia is a genus of about 12 species of rhizomatous perennials. They are native to sunny sites in Eastern North America.


Get to Know Physostegia

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 2-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -35°F (-37°C)
  • Height and width: 3 to 4 feet (1m) tall; 3 feet (1m) wide and tends to spread further by runners
  • Foliage: Square stems and alternate pairs of toothed leaves
  • Flowers: Spires of tubular, 2-lipped flowers
  • Flower colors: Pink, white
  • Bloom time: Late summer through early fall
  • Uses: Flower beds and borders
  • Common name: Obedient plant, false dragonhead
  • Botanical name: Physostegia virginiana
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Origin: Eastern North America

Where to Plant Physostegia

  • Grow the Physostegia in full sun or part shade.
  • Grow the Physostegia in average, well-drained soil that is acidic.

Physostegia Uses and Companions

  • Grow Physostegia for late-summer color in borders and naturalistic gardens.
  • Physostegia is a good cut flower.
  • Good garden companions for Physostegia include Anemone hybrida, Aster, Chrysanthemum, Erigeron, Phlox paniculata, Scabiosa caucasia.
Obedient plant, Physostegia
Obedient plant, Physostegia

When to Plant Physostegia

  • Set established Physostegia in the garden in spring or fall.
  • Sow seed in spring or autumn.

Planting and Spacing Physostegia

  • Space Physostegia 3 feet (1m) apart.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in evenly prepared soil.

How to Water and Feed Physostegia

  • Physostegia needs moderate to abundant moisture. Keep the soil evenly moist; do not let it dry out.
  • The obedient plant does not need extra fertilizer. Fertilizing can spur invasive growth.

Physostegia Care

  • Mulch around the Physostegia to conserve soil moisture.
  • Avoid fertilizing Physostegia; extra nutrients can cause plants to become invasive.
  • Cut the Physostegia back after blooming to encourage new blooms.
  • Remove or thin some plants in spring or fall to keep the Physostegia from becoming invasive.

Physostegia Pests and Diseases

  • Physostegia is sometimes affected by rust.
White flowers of false dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)
White flowers of obedient plant or false dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)

Physostegia Propagation

  • Physostegia seeds germinate in 2 to 4 weeks at 60° to 75°F (15°-24°C); refrigerate seeds for 60 days before sowing to enhance germination.
  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn.
  • Divide in winter or early spring before growth begins.

Physostegia Varieties to Grow

  • Physostegia virginiana, obediant plant, false dragonhead: spreading perennial with lace-shaped leaves bears racemes of deep purple or bright lilac-pink, sometimes white, flowers from midsummer to early autumn; grows to 4 feet (1.2m) tall and 24 inches (60cm) wide; cultivars include ‘Vivid’ is a favorite, and ‘Summer Snow’ is early blooming and less invasive.

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