How to Grow an Obedience Plant


The obedience plant, also known as obedient plant, false dragonhead or by its scientific name, Physostegia virginiana, is a popular garden perennial native to North America. Gardeners value the plant for its attractive, white to purple blooms that appear on stiff, upright stalks in late summer to fall. The obedience plant's name derives from its habit of obediently staying in place when the flowers are moved to a different position. This ability makes the plant ideal for use in cut flower arrangements, which is one of its most common uses.

Step 1

Plant obedience plants during mid-spring after the threat of frost has passed. Choose a planting site that receives four to six hours of direct sunlight each day. Select a shady location in dry regions or a sunny area in wet regions. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.

Step 2

Water once every five days during spring and summer. Decrease watering frequency to once per week during fall and once every two weeks during winter. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely at any time, or the plant may begin to wilt and drop leaves.

Step 3

Feed obedience plant twice per year, once in early spring and again in early fall, to provide proper nutrition to survive summer and winter temperatures. Use a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer at the rate recommended by the manufacturer for the best results.

Step 4

Cut down obedience plant to the crown just before the onset of winter to prevent the plant from sustaining cold damage. Spread a 1-inch layer of mulch over the soil afterward for insulation. Remove the mulch the next spring to allow normal growth to resume.

Step 5

Insert a wooden stake into the soil near obedience plant if it grows too tall and begins to flop over. Tie loosely to the stake with garden twine to prevent the plant from doubling over. Untie the plant before cutting back for winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Wooden stake
  • Garden twine


  • University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service: Physostegia virginiana
  • Physostegia virginiana
  • "Perennials: The Gardener's Reference"; Susan Carter, Carrie Becker, Bob Lilly; 2007
Keywords: obedience plant, false dragonhead, Physostegia virginiana

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including