The obedient plant is an easy-care native perennial that's perfect for informal or naturalized gardens. It will also do fine in formal gardens, but you'll probably have to curb its spread. A late-season bloomer, obedient plant sends up numerous square, upright flower spikes from late summer into early fall. The spikes are densely packed with tubular, lavender-pink flowers. You can push individual flowers up, down, or to the side and they'll stay in that position, hence the name "obedient plant."
Common name: Obedient plant or false dragonhead
Botanical name: Physostegia virginiana
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 2 to 4 feet
Family: Lamiaceae, mint family
- Sun: Plant in full sun or partial shade.
- Soil: Obedient plant grows well in a range of soil types, but does best in fertile, evenly moist soil. It's adaptable to a range of soil pH, but prefers slightly acidic soil.
- Moisture: Water during dry spells to keep soil evenly moist.
- Mulch: None, or a 1-inch layer of fine compost.
- Pruning: Deadhead flower stalks to prevent seeding and encourage rebloom. Cut plants back in late fall or early spring.
- Fertilizer: Over-fertilizing can encourage too much lush growth, making obedient plant floppy. Apply one light fertilization per year if needed.
- Divide clumps and replant sections. Even small pieces of the rhizomatous root system will produce vigorous new plants.
- Sow seeds in outdoor seedbeds in the fall.
Pests and diseases
- Obedient plant rarely has any insect or disease problems.
- Obedient plant tends to be a rampant spreader, especially in good soil. Pull or dig out any plants that spread too far.
- Flowering spikes of obedient plant make good cut flowers. Cut stems in the morning and let them sit in warm water (with floral food added) for several hours before arranging them.
- If your obedient plant gets floppy, place supports such as peony hoops around the plant as it starts growing in the spring.
- var. alba-like the species but with white flowers.
- ‘Miss Manners'-compact (18 to 24 inches tall), white flowers, blooms earlier than species.
- ‘Variegata'-attractive variegated leaves have white margins.
- ‘Vivid'-vibrant purplish pink flowers on compact, upright plants.
All in the family
- Obedient plant is native to the eastern United States, where it grows in moist, sunny sites.
- Obedient plant is a member of the mint family, a large family whose members include Salvia, rosemary, lavender, mint, and Ajuga.