Simply The Best Natives-False Dragonhead


Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~Henry Beecher



I am not sure if flowers have a soul, but I think they might….they certainly lift my soul.  I was going to do a profile of my American Linden tree today, but I thought I would wait until June for a more in-depth post, as the tree is finally leafing out.  

Some folks would think me daft for singing the praises of the plant I am profiling today, but it has grown on me, and on my garden as well.  Physostegia virginiana is either well-loved or loathed due to its aggressive nature.  As it is part of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae), you are warned.  This plant goes by a few names and you may know it by a more common name that I use frequently, Obedient Plant.  

This native plant can be found throughout North America, from eastern Canada to northern Mexico in habitats including open meadows, prairies, stream banks, borders of lakes, swamps, thickets and open woodlands.

It gets its name, Obedient Plant, due to the fact that if you push the flower aside, it will often stay in that position.  The name False Dragonhead is in reference to the flowers of the dragonhead plant (Dracocephalum)…. dragonhead is a similar-looking species that grows in Europe. And the genus name comes from the Greek physa meaning bladder and stege meaning covering, referring to the ends of the flower tubes that cover the seeds as they form.

Physostegia virginiana is a perennial herb producing clumps of stiff, squared stems (which you would find with other mints) 2 to 4 feet tall. The opposite leaves are lance-shaped and toothed. The flower spikes are one foot tall pink, white or lilac tubular flowers that bloom in the summer, and remind me a bit of snapdragons.  Also the non-scented flowers bloom from the bottom to top, and often have accenting marks like stripes or dots of a darker shade. 

amandaAs I profile this wonderful native plant, I will link in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme later this month.  And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amandaโ€™s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out her wonderful 2015 Spring Catalog to see which natives Ellen is selling this year.




Growing Conditions

As I have said, this plant spreads aggressively by both rhizomes and self-seeding given the right DSCN2887
conditions…namely moist, sunny conditions in average, acidic and poor soil.  Those I have grown in dry and/or more shady conditions tend to not spread as much, and may flop.  It is easy to pull and keep this plant controlled, but keep it in check once it starts to spread.  I did not, and now have a big task ahead of me.

It is easy to propagate through dividing.  One small root will grow into a clump in no time so be careful where you throw any you dig up or rip out.

Physostegia virginiana has no serious insect or disease issues.




Benefits to Wildlife 

DSCN3854If you want to draw in hummingbirds, this is your plant.  They come in droves constantly making for easy pictures.  
Mammals do not usually browse this plant, but the pollinators flock to the plant along with butterflies looking for nectar.
Bumblebees are the main pollinators of False Dragonhead.





DSCN3797Physostegia virginiana is great if you have a rain garden and lots of space for it to spread, but the wetter the
conditions the more it will spread so be careful.  Many people use it in cottage gardens, native plant gardens, even meadows where it has room to grow.

It is said to be a great cut flower so I will certainly use it in vases I am making this year.

There are more cultivars now, and they are more rosy pink or purple in appearance than native flowers which are paler in color.




Folklore and Tales 

DSCN3827There is not any folklore listed for this plant in the dozens of resources I checked.  But there are resources that show when it was first introduced into many garden areas in Minnesota. around 1908.  

In the Language of Flowers, False Dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana) represents bravery.  And you need to be brave to plant this flower.  Not much will compete with it and win…not even Goldenrod.







Do you grow any native plants?  Are you crazy enough, or should I say brave enough, to grow flowers in the mint family?  





In A Vase On Monday 



I have wanted to use this vase since I spied it in my bookcase.  A cherished Belleek with shamrocks and violets.  It is a favorite I never used, just kept it on display.  And I knew what I wanted to put in it.

When I was out in the Shade Garden, I spied a whole patch of Brunnera marcrophylla sporting their stunning little blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots.  But before I could pick them in their nice little flower head stage, they grew and became more open.  So I decided to look about the rest of the shade garden for other flowers to add to the arrangement.  




brunnera vase

It wasn’t hard to find more flowers since right next to the Brunnera were the Virginia Bluebells or Mertensia virginica now blooming away and making an amazing display.  I still wanted something else for a bit of subtle contrast, and as I looked right, I saw the patch of native Yellow Trillium.  These are the rare yellow form of Trillium erectum that I obtained about 8 years ago from a local native plant sale.  There are so many now I didn’t feel bad about taking 5 or 6.  

As I was coming in with the handful of flowers, I saw the small white Bleeding Hearts just opening, and thought they would look nice in the arrangement as well.  Just 2 little arms of those delicious heart-shaped flowers, but perfect as little more accent against the green and purple.

I do love the pastel blue, yellow and pink in this spring vase…and it is sitting on the mantle next to my lovely blue and white birdhouse so I can see it daily.

I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare this vase:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, Todayโ€™s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.  And I was invited to link in with Macro Monday Mixer hosted by




Next up on the blog:  

Monday, I will have an update on the veg garden that I planted earlier in April, and what else we have planted in May.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week. 


sharetheloveI am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2015.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only. 

116 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-False Dragonhead”

  1. Hello, Donna!
    When I read the Henry Beecher quotation, I wanted to object: Of course flowers have a soul! Then I noticed that also you think they might…
    For sure, trees do have a soul! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I believe I would be one of those that love Physostegia virginiana. It looks lovely.
    Your vase looks wonderful, as always.
    Have a great week ahead!

    1. Oh I know you would love this plant Sara…it definitely has a soul and is a reminder of resilience for me. Hope you are having a lovely weekend.

  2. We have Physostegia in our garden which has quite pink flowers and yes, it does need a firm hand to keep it under control but is a good plant for adding late colour to the borders when everything else is almost finished for the year.

  3. I love your vase today, Donna. The blue bells with the gorgeous mix of blue and pink work beautifully with the Brunnera marcrophylla. The vase itself is beautiful, I can understand why you always have it on display. Have a lovely week Donna.

    1. It is funny sometimes when we imagine a vase in our heads and it turns out completely different and even more beautiful than we could have imagined…so glad you enjoyed the vase this week Christina.

  4. Donna, this is my favorite of all your vases. Such lovely color and interesting shapes working together. The vase itself is beautiful too. I had Obedient Plant at my former house for years, passed along by a special person. So naturally when I moved I brought some along. Here it has become terribly aggressive.

    1. I have it in 4 spots Susie and one is just overrun with it….I need to get a handle on it though as my poor shrubs are not doing well as it bowls them over. I love the look of it though….

  5. that vase is quite perfect, Donna. I love the softness and the colour combo. I’d heard of Obedient Plant but hadn’t seen it. Gorgeous photos, especially the hummingbird and the mauve collage.

    1. Thanks Sue…I enjoy when it blooms every year as I know I will delight in its beauty along with the hummers.

  6. Good Morning, Donna. I would love have some Obedient Plant growing in my yard. Especially for the hummers, anything to make them happy! I love your vase arrangement, the bluebells are pretty.

    Have a happy day and new week ahead!

    1. Well I will have plenty as I have to rip out some…so let me know Eileen. I could send you some roots in fall. They easily transplant…too easily.

  7. Moist sunny conditions in my garden and even the lilies are pushed aside, but tansy is proving a formidable companion. I love to watch the hummingbirds flock to this plant in the fall. It is a wonderful plant and I find it beautiful in large drifts in the autumn light. Swooning over those Virginia Bluebells – what a fantastic arrangement. Always look forward to it.

    1. Thanks Kathy….the vase came together in a way I wasn’t expecting. My tansy is almost gone and does not seem to like my wet garden where the Obedient thrives.

  8. It’s such a treat to visit your blog, Donna. I always learn something new! I enjoy growing Obedient Plant in my Midwest cottage gardens. Hope the hummingbirds will discover it one day! Thanks for sharing so many helpful tips. Your vase looks gorgeous! Wishing you happy days in the garden. โ™ก

    1. Oh I am sure they will find it Dawn….and once they do they will never miss it again….I bet it looks stunning in your cottage garden.

  9. It’s a beautiful vase, Donna – the delicate colors and shapes are perfectly balanced. I love that Trillium – it’s not a plant you see in SoCal!

  10. Yes, indeed they do…
    Fascinating info about the Physostegia today – thanks for that – and the delicate colours of your little vase are gorgeous. I thought you had included pulmonaria and had to keep re-reading just to make sure! Such a soft and gentle vase – thanks for sharing

  11. In my former garden, mint went wild but Obedient plant failed to take hold. That was before I knew anything about plants. Your research is a great addition to these ever-more-crwded memory banks.

  12. Your photos are gorgeous, as always. I love “False Dragon head” or “Obedient” Plant, as I call it. It is spready, but easily maintained here in Texas with a little maintenance. It’s an excellent wildlife plant. Nice post!

    1. Exactly Tina…an important wildlife plant and if you have room to let it spread a beautiful plant too in large drifts.

  13. Hi Donna, super vase – I love the trillium and white bleeding heart, both are on my wish list for my garden. It is so interesting to see what people are growing in their gardens across the Atlantic. Who knew Cathy’s meme would forge such connections.

    1. Exactly Sarah….this meme has become so much more than vases…garden friendships and love of flowers beyond those growing in our gardens. Trilliums are fussy and take years to grow once you plant a rare root. The trillium in my vase is a rare one to find. I am hoping to get more bleeding heart to grow in my garden finally.

  14. I found your presentation on the False Dragonhead very useful as I have lots of them in my garden; they are all white. The pastel colours are so elegant, thanks for sharing a beautiful vase, as usual, Donna!

    1. I love the white too Anca and have them in the White Garden and one other area….so glad you found the post helpful! That is something a teacher loves to hear…..

  15. That was a nice look at your Obedient plant, which I had heard of but didn’t realize it is such a pretty flower. I wonder if I dare plant some…! And your vase is beautiful. The pastels go so well in your vase, and the white Bleeding Heart is the perfect finishing touch… how brave to cut TWO pieces! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes I have little bleeding heart growing so I was a little reluctant to cut it, but I figured I could bring it in and admire it even more….be careful if you plant Obedient…have an area where you would like it to spread Cathy.

  16. Thanks for coming by. This is a beautiful plant. I have never grown it, but have grown other mint relatives. And last year I willfully put in some chocolate mint knowing full well it’s spreading proclivities. I decided I didn’t care. The catnip, on the other hand, I need to contain because it gets huge. But it has an inverted planter basket cage over it, so my cats don’t destroy it. And for some unknown reason I had a ton of wild lamium pop up this year. I had never seen it before. Your blog is certainly beautiful. Yael from Home Garden Diggers

    1. Thanks Yael I have seen that same lamium this way too….I put a pot of mint on my walled garden and didn’t that mint still jump the container and send a root into the garden…now I have mint there.

  17. It’s a beautiful plant and flower ๐Ÿ™‚ I think they might have souls just in a different dimension from ours…or there’s something there…all the old myths have nature spirits, divas, fairies…there’s got to be something to that ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your mixed bouquet in the vase is absolutely lovely. Ethereal spring beauty.

    1. I agree there has to be something to the old tales of spirits of plants…so glad you enjoyed the vase Deb.

  18. I used to call this one “disobedient plant.” ๐Ÿ™‚ It didn’t like my dry, sandy conditions, though, and I no longer have it in my garden. It’s interesting to learn more about it.

    1. Yes I think those are about the worst conditions for this plant to grow in Jean…I seem to have the best as it loves my wet clay….you have to respect any plant that can bust through that.

  19. Are you suggesting I put obedient plant back in the garden for our hummers? I do like the looks of the flowers but it can travel like lily-of-the-valley and I pulled it all out.
    Have you tried and of the cultivars that are supposed to be clump forming Donna?
    Do you know if phlox paniculata ‘David’ is prone to seed around? It appears my one clump has grown to be in 4 or 5 places.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

    1. I have noticed ‘David’ seeding around as well and good thing for me as the deer sometimes get to it and almost kill it. I have tried one cultivar of Obedient and so far it has not spread but for the life of me I have no idea which cultivar I planted Judith. If you have room and love hummers then yes plant it…but I caution folks that in tight quarters it is not a good choice. I understand why you pulled it. I have a few plants I am trying to pull too.

  20. Hi Donna, Your arrangement in a vase is stunning! I love every flower you’ve placed in your beautiful Irish vase – the trillium is amazing and so is the bleeding heart. Love, love, love the bluebells. I have bluebells too, and they are pretty good spreaders as well. I have obedient plant but it hasn’t spread much for me. I will definitely keep an eye on it, though. I have chocolate mint in my herb garden and it wants to take over but is easy to pull. Right now, the flowers that have spread beyond what I like are lily of the valley, ladybells and tiger lilies. I am containing the tiger lilies pretty well – I will allow a couple to mature and bloom and then watch out for the seeds. The ladybells, though, seem to be in many, many areas and round-up doesn’t phase them. (I hand dig, but there are SO MANY of these that I tried chemical warfare.) I really dislike invasive plants but for me obedient plant is not invasive. I grow it in part shade, maybe that helps.

    1. Oh I had ladybells in my old shade garden….they do spread. I planted them in a sunny drier area and they still spread some.

  21. I am not kidding when I say that I just put several in! I am excited and nervous all at once as I have heard these plants are spreaders. Your shots make me happy that I put them in! Such a stunning plant that I will hopefully be able to control?!?! If not oh well! Lovely vase today friend! Wishing you a wonderful week in the garden! Nicole xo

    1. Enjoy this plant Nicole….you will love it and sometimes curse it but once it blooms and the hummers find it, you can’t help but keep it.

  22. Your vase is very pretty. Obedient plant is a plant I don’t use because it is too aggressive. It is similar to Gooseneck Loosestrife in how it takes over a garden. Both plants I think are beautiful and fine where they can roam.

    1. I agree Donna…caution always with Obedient and Loosestrife….I will be pulling Obedient until I leave this garden.

  23. Interesting–I’ve never seen Trilliums in a vase before. I’ve always been hesitant to pick them. But they’re certainly beautiful in your arrangement. What is the vase life of Trilliums and Virginia Bluebells? I don’t have Obedient Plant here, but I might add it to my garden in an enclosed area someday.

    1. Put in a good barrier wherever you plant Obedient Beth. The bluebells and trillium lasted a good 5 days…the Brunnera even longer.

  24. I came looking for Lime cousins and found a dragon with the most delicate of natures though underground it may be more of a threat. Sometimes I think we’ve become a bit paranoid about being over run by things so I would dare to plant such a lovely. p.s. love the group by the wooden building as well as the Folklore image p.s. nice pairing with Trilliums for VOM

    1. Sorry about the Lime post Laura…it will be ready for June 8th. Yes this is an amazing plant and why I don’t loathe it even if it takes over.

    1. Happy to share and certainly remind me again….I did not get a chance to check out many other blogs but hope to in the future.

  25. Good morining. I am glad to have read about the obidient plant. Jogged my memory that I planted it last year. Someone warned me after the fact that it would take over and I said, “Good.” I have an imense place that needs some agressive growers. I loved your vase. We have similair blue bells that grow in our Colorado mountains that always evoke wonderful childhood memories of my grandmother. Thanks for stopping by the Garden Spot.

    1. Oh I bet your bluebells are lovely there….and yes this is a perfect plant to let spread in a big area…hope it takes over and gives you quite a sight.

  26. I don’t grow obedient plant, but I do grow lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), another mint relative.

    It’s growing and spreading, but so far it has not gotten *totally* out of control ๐Ÿ˜‰

    On the other hand, it has not flowered yet either. If it doesn’t bloom this year, I may have to go in and so some serious thinning. Hopefully that threat will prompt some flowers!! ๐Ÿ˜›

  27. Oh and I have it growing in my milkweed patch thanks to you and all the other seeds that I have planted that you sent.. Thank you.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. I would love the obedient plant, because it attracts hummingbirds! We try to keep a few plants around our tiny Oregon home, but we’re not there very much. If it grows wild there, it would be ideal! I’ll look it up. Your other flowers and arrangements, in the vase and in the mosaics, are superb, as always.

  29. That’s gorgeous…and honestly anything other then a weed that spreads nicely and flowers around here would be very appreciated. I don’t remember seeing any, but then again, we are hot and dry, cold and well cold….lol.

    It always amazes me how many flowers you can find for your vase, other then my beautiful bleeding hearts, and welsh poppies…a iris or two…little to choose from right now. Our climate isn’t a spring climate…but a hot summer nights sweating in the garden swatting mosquitoes away as you water…but the colors in summer…mind blowing.


    1. The mosquitoes are awful this year everywhere….it has taken a while to plant a succession of blooms but I seem to even find weeds for my vases….Obedient would love your climate…

  30. Your Obedient Plant looks lovely, I have grown big areas of mint but with our long dry summers, they need to be really drought tolerant, so I think I tried Physostegia unsuccessfully before. Your vase looks stunning, I love the dangling bluebells, and the cloud of ethereal blue Brunnera flowers. The yellow trilliums and white bleeding hearts add so much too.

  31. Well Donna, i love the harmony of those flowers in the vase, and of course in the collage. Happy gardening.

  32. I have grown obedient plant but I must not have the right conditions as it gradually dwindled away. I might give it another shot, though.

  33. That is certainly a most beautiful plant, Donna. I admired a Phystostegia in a friends garden last year but haven’t yet come across one to buy. Pretty colour too and suits the romantic garden perfectly. Your vase is very uplifting too, just the sort of lush, pastel arrangement I like. PS: Had to put my raspberries into raised beds but come to thinnk of it, it’s probably a good idea anyway as it reduces the runners, hopefully. Happy week!

    1. I think I may have to do the same Annette with my raspberries….glad you enjoyed the Obedient plant and vase.

    1. Thanks….I have one patch of Obedient that is proving challenging and hard to keep controlled. But it is so gorgeous I still love it.

  34. What a lovely arrangement with the Trillium and Brunnera! I haven’t grown any Obedience plant due to the fact you mentioned, though it is really pretty. Someone gave me a sprig of variegated mint with a few other plants last year. I kept it in a pot over the summer and just ended up tossing it out at the end of the summer. Of course, it has sprouted where I threw it and looks nice and healthy! I’m not sure if I want to transplant it somewhere or not. One has to be so careful with anything in the mint family.

    1. I have learned this the hard way Indie as so many mint plants have taken over in my garden…so it is good to beware.

  35. Your combination of flowers in the vase is stunning! One of my favorites among the ones you have featured this year.

    I will grow mint, but only in a pot! And even then I keep a close eye on it. If only Obedient Plant would behave!

    1. Thanks so much Deb….I do love the vintage look of this vase. I have to keep an eye on any pot with mint as some of mine jumped the pots and got into the garden.

  36. I have loads of this and love it but always warn anyone who wants a piece of it that it will take over. But it’s such a beautiful invader. The bees go nuts for it.

  37. I haven’t planted anything yet that will spread, as it would do so quite easily here in western Washington. Maybe one day when I have a larger yard, and can plot out my own garden vs using the one that was already here.

    Thanks for linking up to the Macro Monday Mixer. Hope to see you there again this week.

  38. I love this plant. The flowers are so beautiful and they are easy to grow. They are also fun to use in arrangements because you can bend the stems and they will obediently stay that way.

  39. My goodness Donna, I can’ t imagine having enough trilliums to pick but what a pretty arrangement. I found the information about Physotegia fascinating. It is a beautiful plant and I had no idea that it is invasive. It doesn’t t seem to be here.

    1. Actually I only picked about 6 or 7 Chloris….and lucky you that Obedient is well behaved for you…it can be very aggressive given time and the right conditions here.

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