Featured Flower: Obedient Plant

The Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), or False Dragonhead as it is also commonly known, is a native plant to Eastern Canada and the United States. The common name – obedient plant – comes from the fact that if you gently push the flower into a different position it will stay there as though it is obeying your wishes.

The plant itself is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial, meaning it will come back year after year and it will spread within the garden by little underground off-shoots. It is, in fact, a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and anyone who has grown any type of mint will be familiar with the ease at which these plants can run rampant in a garden. But even given its tendency to spread (and ultimately take over if left unchecked), I still think it makes a beautiful addition and is worth including. But be warned – you will need to stay on top of pulling out all the little ones that pop up, particularly if you have a small garden. Luckily they are easy to pull – and you can always share with friends and neighbours because who doesn’t like free plants???

Obedient plant grows to about 3-4 feet tall, forms a nice looking clump, and has spikes of pink to lilac flowers that bloom from the bottom up. The flowers resemble the popular annual snapdragons, and are quite attractive in my opinion. These plants bloom in late summer and into fall. They prefer average quality soil that is moist but can tolerate drought and even poor soil. They can get tall and floppy if in rich soil or in too much shade but his can be remedied by either staking or pruning to encourage bushier growth.

The tubular shape of the flower makes it a good nectar source to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. I have noticed that the bumblebees love the one that I have planted in my front garden – bumbles are known to pollinate this plant. I also have one of these planted in the pollinator garden at my local elementary school, and this is the plant that was used by a leaf-cutter bee that had me so excited back in July (you can read about my experience with the school garden here: https://doctorb.blog/2019/07/22/my-field-er-garden-of-dreams/).

Evidence of leaf cutter bees at work

Obedient plant is quite commonly seen at garden centers, and often in a variety of flower colours. Most often these are cultivars, so if looking specifically for native plants (and I think you should!) please be aware of this. I was able to find my specimens at a farm that sells only native plants (and are pesiticide free to boot!).

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