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Obedient Plant

Physostegia virginiana

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 great plant for kids to play with.

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Part Sun, Sun



From 1 to 8 feet


From 2 to 3 feet, indefinite

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Colorful Combinations

Gardeners like obedient plant's 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 prized cut flowers. Foliage of the obedient plant includes narrow, lance-shape serrated leaves held in circles around the stems in a deep green color. There is also a variegated selection, with deep green leaves edged in cream that take on a purple coloring once nights begin to cool in the fall.  

See more perennials for wet soil here.

Obedient Plant Care Must-Knows

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; they can even tolerate heavy clay, too. 

Obedient plant performs best in full sun, which keeps the plant nice and full 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 sun, it will be looser in habit and more prone to flopping. 

Because the obedient plant can become an invasive spreader, make sure you spend time maintaining colonies of the plants; otherwise, you may risk losing nearby plants. The obedient plant 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.

Plant more of our favorite low-maintenance Southern perennials.

More Varieties Of Obedient Plant

'Variegata' obedient plant

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

'Vivid' obedient plant

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. Zones 2-8.

Plant Obedient Plant With:

Shasta daisy
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.
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-shape 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 borne 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.Shown above: 'Little Grapette' daylily
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.
Grow artemisias for the magnificent silver foliage that complements nearly all other perennials and ties together diverse colors within the garden. They're nothing short of stunning next to white or blue flowers.They thrive in hot, dry, sunny conditions such as a south-facing slope. A number spread rapidly to the point of being aggressive, so consider limiting yourself to varieties listed below that are well-behaved.
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