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, Amanda’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, Today’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.

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