The obedient plant is a rhizomatous, native perennial that is found from Quebec to Manitoba southward to New Mexico and Florida.
This attractive plant looks a bit like a snapdragon, but its square stem is typical of the mint family. They grow to a height of approximately 4 feet, and to 6 feet under optimal conditions. If the flowers are bent, they tend to stay in the new position for a while, thus the common name "obedient plant." Several garden forms occasionally “escape” to the wild. Flowers can be either white or pink, and recent research has developed a purple variety, too.
The obedient plant can grow in either full sun, partial shade, or full shade. It prefers a moist, humus, well-drained soil.
The obedient plant can be propagated by dividing the roots in the autumn or via seeds, which can be ordered online. The divisions should be planted in the autumn and the seeds sown in late autumn or early spring.
This moderately large plant makes a fine background to block an area such as a building foundation, a wall, or out-buildings.
This species often attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
All members of this large family (the mint family or Lamiaceae) have a stem that, in cross section, is square. This includes not only the obedient plant but also the mints, lavender, rosemary, hyssop, basil, and many of the other edible herbs we use every day.
The obedient plant has no serious insect or disease problems.
Rust can be an occasional problem.
Be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites which can be controlled using an insecticidal soap rather than a pesticide.
Species plants and the varieties can be aggressive spreaders; however, it can be controlled since the shallow roots are easy to pull out.
This perennial is easy to establish and requires only medium maintenance.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!