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  • David Edmundson

Plant Profile:Phytostegia virginiana

R. A. Nonenmacher, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Obedient Plant

Physostegia virginiana is a robust perennial wildflower with bold lance shaped leaves that blooms for about six weeks in late summer and early fall. The display of lavender, pinkish or white inflorescences is composed of individual 1” snapdragon-like florets that bloom first at the bottom of the spike and work their way up. The moniker “Obedient Plant”arises from the unusual property that each individual flower will, upon being pushed in any one direction, temporarily remain in the new position as if it were hinged. Some gardeners consider this common name a misnomer as this member of the mint family is known to spread aggressively in moist conditions.

This aggressive potential has led to the introduction of less exuberant selections in the marketplace. The original ‘Miss Manners’ was a seedling selection that blooms stark white despite its heritage. ‘Pink Manners’ is a hybrid bred to produce a cultivar with pink flowers, but lacking the rhizomatous growth seen in the straight species.

Obedient Plant is a great choice for a meadow or pollinator garden as it attracts bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Another plus is that as a member of the mint family, its foliage is aromatic, and thus usually avoided by deer and other mammals. Consequently, gardeners are faced with a choice: straight species or a ‘Miss Manner’ selection.

If one is blessed with ample room, or a not-so-moist garden location, basic Physostegia virginiana may be a good choice. Whether the straight species or one of the selections such as ‘Vivid’ expect growth 3 to 4 feet tall, with a spread of 2 to 3 feet. Full sun is preferred, and flopping may occur if sited in a location that is too shady, or in soil that is too rich.

The ‘Miss Manners’ selections are perhaps the best choice for wetter areas or formal garden settings. Plants are shorter and more compact, growing 2 to 3 feet tall and spreading 18 to 24 inches. The “Manners” in the name reminds one that the plant lacks the aggressively spreading rhizomes, and that the more diminutive stature greatly reduces the tendency to “flop”.

Whatever one’s choice, Physostegia virginiana is easily grown in average, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun.

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