Obedient Plant, False Dragonhead
Physostegia virginiana (L.) Benth. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Physostegia. It was named and described as such by George Bentham in Labiatarum Genera et Species in 1834. It was first described as Dracocephalum virginianum by Carl von Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753.
The genus, Physostegia Benth., was also named and described by George Bentham in Edward’s Botanical Register in 1829.
Plants of the World Online currently still lists 12 species in the Physostegia genus (as of 2-12-21 when I last updated this page. It is a member of the plant family Lamiaceae with 236 genera. These numbers could change as updates are made (and likely will).
THERE ARE A FEW LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
I bought my Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant) from one of the local garden club’s plant sale in the spring of 2016. This plant has been on my wishlist for many years so I was glad I found one at the plant sale. A lot of information online says this species can be somewhat invasive, but so far I haven’t had any problems with that. I put it where an invasion would be a good thing in a corner along the foundation of my grandparent’s old house.
This square stemmed perennial gets the name Obedient Plant by the way the individual flowers will temporarily stay where you put them. Flower spikes (inflorescences) can be around 10” long are arranged in four rows. Flowers can be white, pink, and lavender shades and can have stripes or dots.
Origin: North America
Zones: USDA Zones 3a-10b (-40 to 35° F)
Size: 24-36” tall
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Well-drained soil
Notes: Plants can flop in rich soil, too much shade, and hot temps.
On February 18 (2018), I pushed back the leaves in the corner of the foundation and this plant was growing under the leaves. We had a very cold January and I was surprised. I am not sure when they started coming up
I brushed back the leaves on March 9 and saw what had become of the single plant I put here in 2017.
By April 13 more had come up.
By June 3 the Physostegia virginiana was almost as tall as the foundation.
By the end of July the Physostegia virginiana was loaded with buds and the Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ was loaded with flowers.
On August 11 the Obedient Plant is blooming up a storm while the Rudbeckia is begging to fade. Some of the upper leaves of the Obedient Plant turn brown and I am not sure why. It almost appears they were burned. I don’t water this bed that often and I rarely get the leaves wet when I do (especially on top).
Hmmm… The flowers seem to be white but they look pinkish in this photo. I tried bending the flowers to see if they would stay in that position. They are called Obedient Plant because the flowers are supposed to stay in whatever position you put them in. Well, it didn’t work… Does that mean this isn’t a Physostegia virginiana after all? Hmmm… I AM NOT going there…
The winter of 2018-2019 wasn’t near as cold as last year. We had a lot more snow but it never lasted long. I went to check to see what perennials were coming up on March 7 and the Physostegia virginiana were all alive and well. I wonder how many will be under the leaves when I remove them?
I removed the leaves covering the Obedient Plant on April 24 and saw how much they had spread. A few of the plants in the right side of the photo are Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’. I think the Rudbeckia has been here longer, and remember we just had one Obedient Plant to start with in 2017.
GEEZ! I am really glad I planted the Obedient Plant in this corner and not in a flower bed. The worse thing here is the Nutgrass (Nutsedge). There will always be a little Bermuda Grass to contend with as well because my grandpa planted in this area MANY years ago to help control erosion. It can be a pain in flower beds and is very hard to get rid of.
The Obedient Plant is almost as tall as the old foundation now. We have had a lot of rain in May, so it is really doing well.
MAN, this one plant has spread!
I am going to run out of words…
Some of the plants have a problem standing up…
You know this is just weird… In 2017 when they first flowered and in 2018, the flowers appeared to be white but when I took photos they had a pink tint. Now, in 2019, the flowers are DEFINITELY PINK!
I am not a “pink” person so whenever I have a choice I don’t bring home plants with pink flowers. I do have a few, I will admit, but that is because there was no choice. Well, I suppose I did have a choice in a way. I have a lot of cactus that have pink flowers but they bloom over a shorter period.
When I do wildflower research I take a lot of photos of the plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems. Physostegia virginiana is a native wildflower of Missouri and is native to around 3/4 of the United States and much of Canada. Since there is a subspecies, Physostegia virginiana subsp. praemorsa, this particular species “should be” listed as Physostegia virginiana subsp. virginiana. Anytime a subspecies name is described, an “autonym” is automatically created that is closest to the species which is called a “type specimen”.
Its tubular flowers can be white, lavender, or purplish-pink, and they often have dots, fine stripes, or swirls of a slightly darker color. The flowers have 2 lips, one upper and one lower. The lower lip is three-lobed. Flowers have no scent…
Leaves are lanceolate, sessile, glabrous, and grow opposite one another on the hairless stems. The leaves have sharp teeth along the edges.
The stiff, square stems are sharply angled and hollow. Plants produce multiple stems from the base but are usually unbranched below the inflorescence.
Some information says the plants can flop in rich soil, too much shade, and hot temps. Other sites say they need rich, moist soil.
As I mentioned earlier, this plant can supposedly become invasive if it is growing where in favorable conditions. There are several cultivars, including one called ‘Miss Manners’ which behaves itself and doesn’t wander.
I was fairly busy over the summer in 2020 so I didn’t take many plant photos around the house. I assure you, though, these plants are alive and well… I will take more photos in 2021.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.