How to Plant and Grow Obedient Plant

This fall-blooming perennial appreciates consistent moisture.

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Although the name might imply this plant will behave and stay in one place in the garden, it is anything but tame when it comes to shape, appearance, and vigorous growth. In fact, it can be an invasive spreader. The "obedient" part of the name comes from the curious habit the blossoms have of being held on a swivel, allowing the individual flower to rotate around the center stem and remain in place no matter where you turn them. It's a fun plant for kids to play with.

Obedient Plant Overview

Genus Name Physostegia virginiana
Common Name Obedient Plant
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 2 to 3 feet
Flower Color Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Colorful Combinations

One of obedient plant's best features is its long bloom time, about a full month from late summer into fall. The blossoms are light shades of pink and white, a rarity among the hot, bold colors of fall. The flowers look good in a garden setting and also make good cut flowers. The lance-shaped serrated leaves are typically a deep green color, but there is also a variegated selection with green leaves edged in cream that take on a purple coloring once nights begin to cool in the fall.

Obedient Plant Care Tips

It is hard to find a situation where obedient plants won't grow. In the ideal setting, the plants prefer fertile, well-drained soil with consistent moisture. This encourages rapid growth and gives plants plenty of energy to rampage over more timid perennial neighbors. Overly rich soils prompt floppy growth, causing taller varieties to fall over and require staking. Try planting them in drier soil to slow them down a little; they can even tolerate heavy clay, too.

Obedient plant performs best in full sun, which produces fuller growth and helps prevent loss of lower leaves on the stems. Full sun is also best for flower production and provides the most amount of blossoms. While obedient plant tolerates part shade, it will be looser in habit and more prone to flopping.

Because obedient plant can become an invasive spreader, make sure to keep it in check; otherwise, you may risk losing nearby plants. This rambunctious perennial spreads primarily by underground runners. If spread is a concern, plant in a pot with the bottom removed and set it in the ground. This will help prevent the runners from escaping. Deadheading spent blossoms right away can also help prevent any potential spread from seedlings.

Varieties of Obedient Plant

'Variegata' Obedient Plant

'Variegata' obedient plant
Greg Ryan

This variety of Physostegia virginiana is a variegated form with cream-edged green leaves and bright pink blooms. Plant in zones 3-9.

'Vivid' Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant
Clint Farlinger

Physostegia virginiana 'Vivid' grows 1-2 feet tall, with strong spikes of vivid purplish pink tubular flowers from midsummer to fall. The square stems carry 5-inch toothed leaves. Plant in zones 2-8.

Obedient Plant Companion Plants

Shasta Daisy

detail of shasta daisies leucanthemum x superbum
Peter Krumhardt

Easy, always fresh, and always eye-catching, Shasta daisy is a longtime favorite. All cultivars produce white daisy flowers in various degrees of doubleness and size. The sturdy stems and long vase life make the flowers unbeatable for cutting. Shasta daisy thrives in well-drained, not overly rich soil. Taller sorts may need staking.


Peter Krumhardt

Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shaped blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant. The flowers are born on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.


sneezeweed blooming in a garden
Peter Krumhardt

Long-blooming helenium lights up the late-season garden with showy daisy flowers in brilliant yellows, browns, and mahogany, centered with prominent yellow or brown discs. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids. All are excellent for cutting. Deadhead to extend bloom time, and divide the clumps every couple of years to ensure vigor.

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