Deer-Resistant, Fall-Blooming Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant

A familiar fall bloomer in this area is obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana). These remind me of early American gardens: Thomas Jefferson grew these Native American perennials at Monticello, and George Washington had plantings at Mt. Vernon. Philadelphia plantsman John Bartram also grew them and sold them in his catalog. They are passalong plants, easily divided and shared.  My plants came from a friend who pulled a clump from her garden several years ago. My original plant has thrived and spread via rhizomes (underground stems) but only a few feet in the same garden bed. Not too much but just enough to provide extra plants to share and abundant flowers to cut for an arrangement.

My plants are in a full sun area of the garden. These perennials prefer moist, well-drained soils in full sun. They are great for wildlife gardens, sunny meadow gardens, and rain gardens. The plants are deer-resistant and the flowers attract bumblebees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

They get the name “obedient” from the fact that if you twist the individual flowers, they stay in that new position for some time, hence they are “obedient.”

Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant

Obedient plants provides vertical interest and a wash of pink in the fall, when you least expect it.  I prefer the pink flowering variety, but there are obedient plants with white flowers (‘Alba’) and even green and white variegated leaves (‘Variegata’).  If you have read about obedient plants, you may notice the caveat about spreading. In my garden they are not aggressive at all.

In the spring, the emerging stems are easy to identify. They are square (a mint family characteristics) and green with chocolate brown, vertical strips running up and down the stem. Being shallow-rooted, I can easily pull unwanted plants if I have to but could just as easily share with my gardening club. If unwanted growth is a concern, try ‘Miss Manners’ (white flowers) or ‘Pink Manners’ (pink flowers), both of which are known to maintain a clumping habit.

Hardy to zone 3, they are easy to grow and do not need fertilizing or deadheading. If you have a friends who have these in their gardens, ask for a clump. The best time to divide is in the spring so you do not ruin the fall display. Usually they bloom from August to October.  But they are commonly found at local garden centers as well. Try growing this native plant in your garden for fall beauty.

2 responses to “Deer-Resistant, Fall-Blooming Obedient Plant

  1. Oh wow, I have not seen this in decades. It was still available in nurseries prior to 1990, but I have not seen it since then. Most of it looked like these pictures, but I preferred white.

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