Obedient Plant 101: Your Guide To Growing And Caring

Last Updated February 8, 2021 By Bella Zinti

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Botanical Name: Physostegia virginiana

Common Name: Obedient plant or false dragonhead

Type: Perennial

Mature Size: 2-4 feet

Sun Requirement: Full sun

Planting Zones: 3-10

Toxicity: Not toxic to human or pet

Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) or false dragonhead is a bright and spiky flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. Native to North America, the obedient plant's flower resembles snapdragons. Blossom in late summer, the obedient plant's individual flowers can be bent in different directions and stay in that position.

Obedient plant is considered a vigorous plant in the garden as it can grow easily and spreads quickly. It can spread quite aggressively throughout the garden by rhizomes. The biggest obedient plant care is keeping it from rampant spreading.

In this guide below, we will share everything you need to know to grow obedient plants in your garden. From water requirements to how to propagate an obedient plant, we will share all the tips and tricks to grow healthy obedient plants.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant Type

Mature Size

Sun Requirement

Soil Type

Hardiness Zone

Pet Friendly

Physostegia virginiana

Obedient Plant


24-48 inches

Full sun to partial shade

Moist, well-drained

3-9 USDA


What Is Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Obedient plant, scientifically known as Physostegia virginiana, is a charming native perennial wildflower to North America. This fun plant is aptly named for its unique characteristic of allowing its individual tubular-shaped flowers to be repositioned manually, staying in the new position until moved again. These spikes of tubular, showy flowers come in various shades of pink and white and attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

How To Grow Obedient Plant


Obedient plants generally prefer full sun to partial shade for optimal growth and flowering. They thrive in locations with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day but can tolerate some shade.

In regions with hot summers, providing some afternoon shade can help prevent excessive heat stress. However, in cooler climates, they tend to benefit from more sun exposure. Adaptable by nature, obedient plants can still bloom reasonably well in various light conditions, making them a versatile choice for many garden environments.


The obedient plants grow best in moist, slightly acidic soil (5.5 to 6.3 pH), loamy, and well-drained, not overly rich soil. They are adaptable to various soil types, including loamy, sandy, or clay soils, as long as there is good drainage to prevent waterlogging. Adding organic matter like compost can improve soil quality and moisture retention.

Obedient Plants are particularly tolerant of moist or wet conditions, making them suitable for rain gardens and areas with periodic flooding. Ensuring proper soil preparation and moisture control can help these plants flourish in diverse garden settings.


In a drought environment, the obedient plants need watering frequently. During hot summer months and your obedient plants are in the full sun all day, your obedient plant leaves can droop. If this happens, it is a sign the plant is thirsty and needs watering.

While the plant prefers plenty of moisture, it doesn't like excessive watering. Avoid over-watering your plant.


Obedient plants are adaptable to a range of temperatures. They are primarily hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 10, making them suitable for a broad geographic range. They can withstand cold winters and thrive in hot summers, provided they receive adequate moisture.

Obedient plants are heat-tolerant but benefit from some afternoon shade in regions with scorching summers. In colder climates, they go dormant during winter and regrow in spring. Their adaptability to different temperature conditions makes them a resilient choice for gardens in various climates.


Obedient plants typically have modest fertilization requirements. They don't demand excessive feeding and can thrive in moderately fertile soils. Applying a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring, when new growth begins, is usually sufficient.

Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Monitor the plant's growth and adjust fertilization accordingly. In nutrient-rich soils, they may not require additional fertilization. Maintaining a balanced approach to fertilization helps Obedient Plants produce healthy, vibrant blooms without the risk of excessive growth or nutrient imbalances.


The propagation of the obedient plant is best done through seeds or rhizomes in fall or spring.

To Grow From Seeds

When it is grown from seeds, it is best to start out in a plant starter and plant 2-3 seeds per container. Use a mixture of potting soil and water regularly. Place the container in full sun, and after a few weeks, you will start to notice germination. Once it starts to grow, you can then transplant it to another area.

To Grow From Rhizome

To grow the obedient plant from the rhizome, dig a hole for growing the small plant. Then, trim the rhizome roots and wrap them with a damp paper towel. Then, place it in another prepared hole and fill it with soil and potting mix. Water regularly to promote healthy growth.

Pest/ Diseases

Physostegia virginiana contains a powerful chemical compound called Iridoids. This chemical compound gives the plant a bitter taste and protects Physostegia virginiana from harmful insects, herbivores, and even deer resistance.

Physostegia virginiana is, however, often affected by leaf-spot fungi. The damaged leaves should be removed and disposed of at the first sign.


Obedient plant is a low-maintenance and easy-care plant. Recommend pruning in early summer to encourage branching and additional blossoms. To prune, cut the stems back about 3 to 4 inches, and the new branch tip forms a flower bud.

If you have had your obedient plants for years, the plant might need to be staked or divided, especially when the obedient plant is thinning out in the center and becomes floppy. To divide, dig out the excess stalks and plant them in new areas in spring.

Varieties Of Obedient Plant

"Pink Bouquet" Physostegia virginiana: long spikes of rose-pink flowers typically grow about 3 feet tall. This variety peaks in late Summer and Fall.

"Summer Glow" Physostegia virginiana: Taller plants with deep lavender-pink flowers that typically grow about 3 to 4 feet tall.

"Variegata" Physostegia virginiana: Pink flowers with cream-white edges on leaves. This variety typically grows up to 24 inches tall and grows well in zones 3-9.

"Vivid" Physostegia virginiana: Sharp spikes that produce short and dense clumps. It has bright purple-pink flowers and can grow up to 2 feet tall. Grow best in zones 2-8.

'Summer Snow' (Physostegia virginiana 'Summer Snow'): This cultivar features white flowers that stand out in the garden and is known for its vigorous growth.

Is Obedient Plant Pet Friendly

Obedient plants are generally considered non-toxic to pets like cats and dogs. The leaves and flowers of these plants do not contain substances known to be harmful to animals. While they are not typically attractive to pets due to their bitter taste, it's always advisable to discourage pets from nibbling on any plant in the garden. As a precaution, observe your pets around the plant and other garden foliage, and consult a veterinarian if you suspect ingestion or notice any unusual symptoms.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.