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In Print

Plant Picks - August 2004

Physostegia virginiana
Obedient plant lives up to its name in production, not the landscape

Obedient plant got its name for the flower's ability to be twisted on the stem and remain as arranged. It's also "obedient" in the nursery setting because it's easy to grow, said Alan Shapiro, owner of San Felasco Nurseries in Gainesville, Fla.

It doesn't require special mixes or tender-loving care in production, he said. Shapiro grows Physostegia virginiana in 1-gallon containers in the same mix used for shrubs -- seven parts pine bark, six parts Florida peat and one part sand, he said.

"It's not a picky plant in terms of soil mixes or even watering schedules," he said.

Cicconi Farms Inc. in Jackson, N.J., pots plugs into 1-quart and 2-gallon containers, said grower Jason Austin. Austin grows 'Crown Rose,' 'Rose Queen' and 'Vivid' outdoors without shade.

"They tend to flop over in shade and if you give them too much fertilizer," Austin said.

Shapiro grows the species and 'Miss Manners,' a clumping variety. P. virginiana grows 3 feet tall with an upright habit. Tubular flowers bloom from bottom to top on spikes that appear in summer. Flower colors range from rose to light purple to white.

It's propagated by seed, cuttings or division. Shapiro propagates it by cuttings taken once new growth hardens off.

Some discipline needed

In the landscape, a more appropriate name for P. virginiana might be disobedient plant. It grows and spreads quickly and flourishes in almost any soil condition, Shapiro said.

"I have some in my yard that have taken over," he said. "They've lived through flooding and drought conditions."

It grows well in full sun or part shade, but grows a bit leggy in the shade, Shapiro said.

"It's perfect for hot sun and moist soil. It grows well in drought conditions too, but it won't self-seed as much in dry conditions." Austin said. "Physostegia looks good with other wildflowers."

Some cultivars

'Miss Manners' is a clumping variety and is not as aggressive as the species. White flowers are a nice contrast to its waxy, dark-green leaves.

There are several pink varieties including 'Vivid' with dark, lilac-pink flowers; 'Rose Queen' with rose-pink flowers; and 'Variegata' with purple-pink flowers and white-edged leaves.

'Summer Glow' features crimson flowers, while 'Alba' offers white flowers.

'Eyeful Tower' is a giant obedient plant with pink flowers. It grows 80 inches tall.

-- Kelli Rodda

Name: Physostegia virginiana
Common name: Obedient plant, false dragonhead.
Family: Labiatae.
Description: Tall, upright perennial with tubular flowers of rose, light purple or white.
Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings and division.
Landscape use: Native beds, naturalizing, background plantings and cut-flower beds.
For more: San Felasco Nurseries, 7315 N.W. 126th St., Gainesville, FL 32653; (800) 933-9638; www.sanfelasco.com. Cicconi Farms Inc., 1005 Farmingdale Road, Jackson, NJ 08527; (732) 363-1420; www.cicconifarms.com.


New Jersey Wholesale Perennial Growers - Cicconi Farms ..The Perennial Specialists.