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How to Grow Obedient Plant — Physostegia

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Physostegia–commonly called Obedient plant–bears spikes of hooded, two-lipped, tubular white, pink, or purple flowers. Blooms appear in late summer.

Obedient plant is a compact, erect perennial with lance-shaped, toothed mid-green leaves. When moved, the flowers will remain in the new position–thus the common name obedient plant.

Physostegia is a good choice to grow in borders. It is a good cut flower.

Physostegia is a genus of about 12 species of rhizomatous perennials. They are native to sunny sites in Eastern North America.


Get to know Physostegia

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 2-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -35°F (-37°C)
  • Height and width: 3 to 4 feet (1m) tall; 3 feet (1m) wide and tends to spread further by runners
  • Foliage: Square stems and alternate pairs of toothed leaves
  • Flowers: Spires of tubular, 2-lipped flowers
  • Flower colors: Pink, white
  • Bloom time: Late summer through early fall
  • Uses: Flower beds and borders
  • Common name: Obedient plant, false dragonhead
  • Botanical name: Physostegia virginiana
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Origin: Eastern North America

Where to plant Physostegia

  • Grow the Physostegia in full sun or part shade.
  • Grow the Physostegia in average, well-drained soil that is acidic.

Physostegia uses and companions

  • Grow Physostegia for late-summer color in borders and naturalistic gardens.
  • Physostegia is a good cut flower.
  • Good garden companions for Physostegia include Anemone hybrida, Aster, Chrysanthemum, Erigeron, Phlox paniculata, Scabiosa caucasia.
Obedient plant, Physostegia
Obedient plant, Physostegia

When to plant Physostegia

  • Set established Physostegia in the garden in spring or fall.
  • Sow seed in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Physostegia

  • Space Physostegia 3 feet (1m) apart.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in evenly prepared soil.

How to water and feed Physostegia

  • Physostegia needs moderate to abundant moisture. Keep the soil evenly moist; do not let it dry out.
  • The obedient plant does not need extra fertilizer. Fertilizing can spur invasive growth.

Physostegia care

  • Mulch around the Physostegia to conserve soil moisture.
  • Avoid fertilizing Physostegia; extra nutrients can cause plants to become invasive.
  • Cut the Physostegia back after blooming to encourage new blooms.
  • Remove or thin some plants in spring or fall to keep the Physostegia from becoming invasive.

Physostegia pests and diseases

  • Physostegia is sometimes affected by rust.
White flowers of false dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)
White flowers of obedient plant or false dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)

Physostegia propagation

  • Physostegia seeds germinate in 2 to 4 weeks at 60° to 75°F (15°-24°C); refrigerate seeds for 60 days before sowing to enhance germination.
  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn.
  • Divide in winter or early spring before growth begins.

Physostegia varieties to grow

  • Physostegia virginiana, obediant plant, false dragonhead: spreading perennial with lace-shaped leaves bears racemes of deep purple or bright lilac-pink, sometimes white, flowers from midsummer to early autumn; grows to 4 feet (1.2m) tall and 24 inches (60cm) wide; cultivars include ‘Vivid’ is a favorite, and ‘Summer Snow’ is early blooming and less invasive.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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