Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'm crazy about a good colonizing plant like Physostegia virginiana


If you like a well behaved plant that never, ever trespasses into another plant's space then forget about Physostegia virginiana, aka, False dragonhead, its colonizing ways will make you crazy.**
 the big late summer show from several seasons past
Of course, you could consider some other pretty lavender-pink late blooming flowers, but, you will miss the dramatic show and the cool bottom up bloom.
With colonizers you get free offspring and a dramatic show
 I didn't edit last year or this spring (hand surgery) and the result is a marvelous mass planting, much larger than usual. It makes me happy every time I step into the garden.  Surely this won't surprise any of you! My mostly native garden has its fair share of colonizers. I let them duke it out all summer and sit back to enjoy the fall show. It never disappoints me.
I garden for wildlife and grow False dragonhead because it's a magnet for pollinators, especially bumbles, carpenter bees and small bees and because it makes a wonderful and dramatic late summer/early fall show in the garden.

The purplish pink tubular flowers are perfect for plump little bumblebee bodies to slip inside and sup on the nectar and collect a little pollen.

 When you watch bees work these plants~ they move in and out, up and down and all around the flower head a mass planting makes sense.  When they're finished with one, they quickly move onto the next False dragonhead plant not a plant in a different genus. I've read that a planting of the same flower should be at least 4 foot wide...the key for me is "at least".  This planting is much larger~maybe 10 feet by 4 feet. This fall they'll have a whole lot of the same plant in one spot! That's what makes colonizing plants so attractive to me, they reproduce to create a nice sized planting for pollinators....and it's free plants. (I will have plants to share with others this fall.)
Bumbles are the primary pollinator~not the chubby carpenter bee~It's too large.
The entire flower head is striking, but, let's take a closer look at the individual flower. Do you suppose the dots, stripes and dots act like nectar guides to draw bees on to the perfect central lower lip landing pad? They're certainly colorful. When you get close you can see how perfectly designed the tubular flowers are for a bumblebee! It's a perfect relationship between bee and flower~ the bee gets food and the flower gets pollinated. We get to enjoy the beautiful flowers and watch the delightful critters.
A perfect flower for bumbles...ahhhh, the Pollination Syndrome at work!
Nature amazes me, every single day!
there's plenty of room for smaller bees


xoxogail

PS. In case you need a reminder, please make the pledge to never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in your garden.

** Please don't call native plants invasive. They may be thugs, they may be aggressive, but, what they are is highly competitive plants that you must edit or decide not to plant in your gardens!

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

24 comments:

  1. How do you think obedient plant would fare with drought? I don't have any places that stay consistently moist throughout the year...

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    Replies
    1. They might not survive in a true drought, but, if you water it at least every few weeks you can keep it alive.

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    2. I can do that!

      I'll give it a try :)

      PS - Based on your recommendation, planning on planting some hardy blue ageratum too. Maybe I can put them in the same bed and let them duke it out? ;-)

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  2. That is one I have been reluctant to try here. I do have a white cultivar that seems to be better behaved, though. I was waiting for you to mention the other plant I was seeing in some of the photos, Northern Sea Oats. I have one clump, and need to get out there to remove the seed heads, which is too bad, because they are quite pretty. If the volunteers that came up were easier to pull up, I'd leave them. Do they compete well with the other plants you have there?

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  3. That would probably work well in my wet meadow.

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  4. Tolerates deer and clay soils according to Missouri Botanical Garden, so I'm going to see if I can get some of these into the ground this fall! So nice!

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    Replies
    1. Two more excellent reasons to grow it!

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  5. While it is a beautiful plant and has many things going for it I hate it. It is too thuggish for my garden. I like the way it behaves the first year or two but after that ... look out.

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  6. thought of you yesterday evening as we went to a talk on our Cape wild bees.
    She explained that bees harvest from 100 flowers of the same type - take that back to the hive.
    Then showed us how the bees make honey separately form each flower type.

    http://ujubee.com/?page_id=19 perhaps her blog would interest you?

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  7. I wonder if rabbits eat it? If so, I doubt it would get out of hand in my garden. If not, maybe it could take the place of all the plants the rabbits ate this year. Ugh. It's a lovely plant. I don't think I would mind if it spread a little bit. :)

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  8. A lovely plant and I enjoyed your analysis of its bee-friendly characteristics! I love plants which colonise!

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  9. We have no invasive native plants BUT do have invasive English ivy and Virginia creeper. It's a chore every year (15 years now) to keep them from growing on our fence and trees and spreading from our neighbors yard to ours and vice versa.

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    Replies
    1. Virginia creeper is native here! Ergo, cannot be 'invasive'. It does pop up everywhere, but so far I don't mind. (Well, except for one spot right between the front porch and a mature camellia, where I have a hard time pulling it back and getting it under control...)

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  10. Gee, I did have that at one time....must get some more. It is a lovely, late bloomer. Thank you for the reminder, Gail.

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  11. I do enjoy these flowers every fall and watching the bees swarm to it. But it does like to spread...it would take over my small butterfly garden if I let it.

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  12. The white Physostegia in my garden pretty much keeps to itself, maybe because it is in a sunny dry spot, and I read it prefers damp areas. Let me compliment you on your beautiful healthy looking version.
    Ray

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  13. I've never grown it, and I don't think I ever will. I just don't have room for "colonizing". So I'll just enjoy seeing yours!

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  14. I have loads of this and I love it! I used it to fill in an area that was full of some weedy anemone. I fought fire with fire and the phytostegia won. It's always full of pollinators. :o)

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  15. I have left mine self seed too, but your has spread way more than mine. It looks good. See - hand surgery can have its benefits. JAJAJAJAJ Jack

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  16. Very pretty. I grew a white cultivar called 'Miss Manners', but it faded away.

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  17. I enjoyed reading your post Gail, your garden is beautiful and totally agree with you about pesticides. Even slug pellets that claim to be harmless are not. You can't kill one species without it affecting all the other tiny creatures! We never use chemicals here and any pests that do arrive become food for our garden birds. Here's some of our wildlife
    http://countrygardenuk.com/2015/09/21/meet-the-locals/

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  18. Gail,
    I love the big clump - probably one of the few positives of being completely incapacitated. I've never seen clump like that here. I originally thought the Obedience name was because it stayed in one spot, not realizing it was because you could move the little blossoms where you wanted around the stem. The light on the chartreuse leaves with the blossoms in front is magical. Barbara p.s. How are the eyes doing? Did it all go well?

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  19. I was unable this year and last to do a bit of thinning but oh the sight of this mass planting is amazing.

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  20. I'm with you about embracing our natives whatever their growth habits. Editing is a good thing.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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