Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Care for Obedience Plant

Obedience plant (Physostegia virginiana), an erect perennial more commonly known as obedient plant or false dragonhead, derives its common name from the stem's ability to remain in place when moved. This makes the plant especially valuable for use in cut flower arrangements or for planting in a child's garden. In addition, obedience plant tolerates soggy conditions where other flowering plants may fail. Native to eastern North America, the plant grows wild along streams, creeks, swamps, ditches, damp meadows and bogs. In the home garden, obedience plant requires only minimal care if you provide it with an optimal planting location.

Plant obedience plant during spring or summer in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day and consists of well-drained, moist soil. Space obedience plant 18 to 24 inches apart to provide room for the plant's maximum spread.

Water once every five days or whenever the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch to keep the soil consistently moist at all times. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 4 inches to ensure the roots absorb plenty of moisture. Do not water during the winter dormancy period.

Feed obedience plant once per month during spring, summer and fall using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to provide proper nutrition for flower development and root establishment. Check the instructions provided on the package for dosage information.

Prune during early summer to encourage the plant to form additional blossoms and grow in a compact habit. Cut back the tallest stems by 3 to 4 inches and several new branches will form, each tipped with a flower bud.

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding obedience plants during late fall to provide insulation and prevent the establishment of weeds. For the best results, remove the mulch the following spring, just before active growth resumes.


Use a thick mulch to provide maximum insulation, such as shredded cedar bark.


Despite its name, obedience plant can be rather invasive if not controlled. If the plant begins to spread out of bounds, reduce watering and fertilizing frequency until the spreading is under control.

Garden Guides