Mystery plant!

Posted on August 29th, 2008 – 10:09 AM
By Jaime Chismar

This Greengirl loves garage sale finds. Muppet glasses, cha-cha records, old Better Homes and Gardens design books, I have eye for kitch — and the impractical.

This year, I also kept an eye out for plants. It was an excuse to talk to local gardeners and try something new without paying garden center prices. Some names I remember. Others I quickly forgot the moment I handed over my two dollars.

“Thanks for the bupleurum praealtum. OMG. Look at that tacky dog lamp!”


Purple and spikey, our mystery plant just started blooming this week. It’s about two feet tall and looks like a snap dragon. Do you have this in your garden? Can anyone identify it? If you have the right answer, we may send you a marvy Greengirls surprise.

13 Responses to "Mystery plant!"

anneesha says:

August 29th, 2008 at 10:20 am

Just off the top of my head …
Turtlehead – or Obedience plant?

alissa says:

August 29th, 2008 at 10:37 am

Obedient plant…and spreads like mad.
Very invasive

Peter Hoh says:

August 29th, 2008 at 10:45 am

Obedient. Not turtlehead.

You can see turtlehead in the rain garden outside the south entrance to the Eco Experience building at the State Fair.

Jaime Chismar says:

August 29th, 2008 at 11:53 am

Dis-obedient plant? Is it a native?

I *did* see the pink turtlehead outside the Eco Experience just last night!

Connie Nelson says:

August 29th, 2008 at 11:55 am

That’s obedient plant for sure.
Anyone know how it got that name?

Peter Hoh says:

August 29th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Wikipedia says it’s native.

sparklegirl says:

August 29th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I think it’s called “obedient” because when you bend the stems, they stay where you put them.

Connie Nelson says:

August 29th, 2008 at 1:47 pm

You’re right, sparklegirl!

Here’s a description of obedient plant from horticulturist Nancy Rose:

Obedient plant
Physostegia virginiana

Looking for some late-season color in your garden? Try obedient plant, a native perennial that’s perfect for informal gardens. (This easy-to-grow plant also will do just fine in formal gardens, but its exuberantly spreading growth habit may have to be curbed a bit.)
Obedient plant spreads from rhizomes to form an expanding clump. A member of the mint family, it sends up many square, upright stems clad in lance-shaped, dark green leaves. Its spikes of flowers, which are densely packed with tubular, bright lavender blossoms, appear from late summer into fall. Cultivars include ‘Vivid’ (vibrant purplish pink flowers), ‘Miss Manners’ (white flowers on compact plants) and ‘Variegata’ (white-margined foliage).
Obedient plant grows well in a range of soil types, though it grows best in evenly moist, fertile soil. It’s wise to deadhead the spent flowers to prevent reseeding.
Combine it with other moisture-seeking perennials, such as cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, monkshood, culver’s root, joe-pye weed, swamp milkweed, turtleheads and snakeroot for a procession of garden color. In large open areas you can let it run to form a tall ground cover. Obedient plant also makes a nice upright element in large container plantings, and its flowering stems make excellent cut flowers.

Plant type: Native herbaceous perennial.
Hardiness: Zone 3.
Site: Full sun or partial shade.
Size: 2 to 4 feet tall.
Available as: Container-grown plants at nurseries; species can be grown from seed.
Fun fact: You can push individual flowers up, down, or to the side and they’ll stay in that position — that’s why it’s called “obedient plant.”

Michele says:

August 29th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

This looks like Turtleheads – my are just starting to bloom and the bees go crazy for them.

Jaime Chismar says:

September 1st, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Anneesha and Alissa:

Thank you for your help! Watch your inbox for a GG email!

Lynne Holman says:

September 2nd, 2008 at 10:04 am


My advice is dig this Obedient plant out now!!! It is anything, but obedient- it’s incredibly invasive. If you keep it and it spreads all over next year,don’t say I didn’t tell you! The Rickety Gardener

Swimray says:

September 2nd, 2008 at 8:06 pm

I have the white version of this growing in my garden, and it is not too difficult to keep contained. In early spring as it starts growing, I rip up areas that it spread to, and that’s it for the year. It is growing in normal-drained soil in full sun. Maybe if you keep it watered (like its native habitat in marshy light woods) it will respond with a more healthy growth. Right now, it looks terrible – it finished blooming and the tall stalks with seeds are falling all over.