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Jacob's Ladder

Polemonium

Native shade perennial Jacob’s ladder gets its name from its foliage. The long compound leaves have small leaflets along a central stem that resemble a ladder. These plants are adored for their dainty, bell shaped blue blooms in spring. Plant Jacob’s ladder with hellebores and other spring blooming perennials for stunning floral combinations.

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Light:

Part Sun, Shade, Sun

Type:

Height:

1 to 3 feet

Width:

1 to 2 feet

Flower Color:

Foliage Color:

Seasonal Features:

Problem Solvers:

Special Features:

Zones:

4-9

Propagation

Colorful Combinations

Native shade perennial Jacob's ladder gets its name from its foliage: The long compound leaves have small leaflets along a central stem that resemble a ladder. These plants are adored for their dainty, bell-shape blue flower in spring. Experienced gardeners favor planting Jacob's ladder with hellebores and other spring-blooming perennials.

Create a season-long wildlife garden.

Jacob's Ladder Care Must-Knows

These perennials grow well in some settings and are finicky in others. Jacob's ladder prefers well-drained soil; it will not tolerate standing water or excessively wet soil for long periods. The plant thrives with rich, organic soils, so adding compost to poor soil is a good idea. Keep moisture consistent. During extended dry spells, plan on additional watering to keep Jacob's ladder lush and happy. 

Jacob's ladder prefers shade, but is adaptable to sunlight conditions, depending on the cultivar. Solid green leaf varieties can handle full sun as long as they don't dry out. Varieties with variegated foliage appreciate part sun to prevent burning their tender foliage. In deep, full shade, some variegated varieties may green up and be less vibrant. The key is to balance the appropriate amount of sun to keep foliage looking good, while also finding the right amount to encourage the most blossoms. The bloom period of Jacob's ladder is fairly short, so err on the side of keeping the foliage looking its best by focusing on overall plant health.

Little additional maintenance is needed to keep these plants looking nice. Deadhead spent blooms to prevent plants from wasting energy on seed production. Some varieties of Jacob's ladder will naturalize, so if you want to prevent the plant from spreading, keep up with deadheading.  

See more native plants for the Northeast.

garden plans for Jacob's ladder

More Varieties of Jacob's Ladder

'Brize D'Anjou' Jacob's ladder

Polemonium caeruleum  is not as floriferous as many others, but its leaves are dramatically rimmed with creamy white. It grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-9

'Bresssingham Purple' Jacob's ladder

This variety of Polemonium caeruleum bears large light purple flowers. It grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-9

'Stairway to Heaven' Jacob's ladder

Polemonium reptans bears pink-and-white-edged leaves and lavender-blue flowers in early summer. It grows 2 feet tall. Zones 3-7

'Touch of Class' Jacob's Ladder

This selection of Polemonium is a sport of 'Stairway to Heaven' that features even more cream edged foliage than usual, with the typical light blue flowers.  Zones 3-7

Plant Jacob's Ladder With:

Coralbells
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
Phlox
Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.
Candytuft
Sparkling white candytuft, with its cool evergreen foliage, brightens any rock garden or wall for several weeks in spring. At bloom time, plants are covered with umbels of pure white flowers that fade to pink. Compact selections are now available. Where happy, this plant will spread. Supply good drainage, and cut back spent flowers to keep plants neat.
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