How to Grow Pink Chelone — Turtlehead

Red Turtlehead Flowers (Chelone obliqua) blooming in a garden on sunny day, close up, pink flowers blossom

Chelone, commonly called pink turtlehead, is a bushy perennial with rose pink inflated, tubular flowers that resemble the head of a turtle with jaws open. Chelone is a genus of about six species; all are native to moist woodland, prairies, and mountains.

Turtleheads have a stiff, upright habit. Flowers are borne in dense, terminal racemes from lae summer to mid-autumn.

Combine pink turtlehead with other perennials for late summer color.

Red turtlehead flowers, Chelone obliqua
Red turtlehead flowers, Chelone obliqua

Get to Know Chelone

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 3-8
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -30°F (-34°C); intolerant of excessive heat
  • Height and width: 12 to 36 inches (30-90cm) tall, 12 to 24 inches wide (30-60cm)
  • Form: Bushy perennial to 3 feet tall; 4 to 7-inch leaves are broadly ovate with toothed margins
  • Flowers: Tubular flowers that resemble the head of a turtle with jaws open
  • Flower color: Pink and white
  • Bloom time: Late summer
  • Uses: Beds and borders
  • Garden companions: combine with asters, phlox, and goldenrods
  • Common name: Pink turtlehead
  • Botanical name: Chelone species
  • Family: Scrophulariaceae
  • Origin: North America

Chelone Uses and Companions

  • Plant Chelone in borders for late summer blooms.
  • Naturalize Chelone in a bog garden or along a stream or pond.
  • Good garden companions for Chelone include Aconitum, Anemone hybrida, Astilbe, Cimicifuga, Geranium, Hemerocallis.

Where to Plant Chelone

  • Plant pink turtlehead in full sun in wet regions. Plant in partial shade in drier conditions.
  • Pink turtlehead prefers rich, slightly acid soil.

When to Plant Chelone

  • Set pink turtlehead in spring.
Red turtlehead (Chelone obliqua)
Red turtlehead (Chelone obliqua)

Planting and Spacing Chelone

  • Space pink turtlehead 12 to 24 inches (30-61cm) apart.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in light potting mix or outdoors in evenly prepared planting beds.

How to Water and Feed Chelone

  • Pink turtlehead prefers wet soil, even boggy conditions. Never let the soil dry out.
  • Fertilize pink turtlehead with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring and every 4 to 6 weeks for best flowering.

Chelone Care

  • Stake plant growing in shade or if plants become rangy.
  • Pink turtlehead is commonly pest and disease-free.

Chelone Pests and Diseases

  • Chelone is susceptible to powdery mildew, rust, fungal leaf spots, and damage from slugs and snails.

Chelone Propagation

  • Divide crowns to reduce large clumps in older plants. Divide in spring or after flowering.
  • Take stem cuttings in early summer.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in fall or indoors in late winter.
  • Chelone seeds germinate in 3 to 5 weeks at 65°F (18°C).
Chelone obliqua
Chelone obliqua

Chelone Varieties to Grow

  • Chelone glabra has pinkish-white flowers and grows to 4 feet (1.2m); it is hardy in Zones 5-9
  • Chelone lyonii has purple-pink flowers; grows to 4 feet tall; hardy in Zones 3-9.
  • Chelone obliqua has deep pink or white flowers; it grows to 3 feet (.9m) tall and is hardy in Zones 3-9.

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