The herbaceous perennial plant Physostegia is a member of the genus Spongiferae or Cloverfoot. According to information from various sources, this genus includes 3-12 species. These plants can be found in the wild in North America. Physostegia gets its name from two Greek words which translate to "bubble" and "cover", referring to the swollen calyx of the flower. Because of this feature of the plant, it is also called "false snakehead".
Gardeners cultivate only one species, the Virginia Physostega.
Peculiarities of Physostega
This not very conspicuous perennial plant as Physostega is capable of forming quite dense clumps. The height of the tetrahedral sturdy upright stems can vary from 0.6 to 1.2 m.
The sprawling creeping rhizome of such a flower is aggressive. Sitting supronate or paired leaf blades lanceolate or oblong in shape, with a serrated edge. Spikelet inflorescences are about 0.3 m long and consist of bidentate tubular flowers, which are usually polygynous, but monopausal also occur. The flowers are white, purple, pink or mauve.
The scent they emit attracts bees to the garden. It flowers in mid-summer but does not bloom until September. Its fruit is a small nut.
Phyzostega is usually planted in the garden not very large groups near paths. Often this plant is planted on the perimeter of the garden along the fence, they frame the ponds or fountains, and still grow in mixborders.
It is recommended to plant this flower together with echinacea, thuja, juniper, phlox, dahlia and dwarf spruce. Anyone can plant and grow Physostegia.
Growing Physostegia from seed
Seeds of Physostegia are highly germinating. They are usually sown in open soil immediately after harvesting. Such a flower is able to propagate itself by self-seeding.
If you have a great desire, it is quite possible to grow physostegia through seedlings, especially if you want to get a new variety. The seeds are sown in March. The seeds should be moved into a greenhouse.
The first seedlings will be visible 14 days after sowing. The seedlings of this flower should be cared for just like seedlings of almost any other garden plant.
Watering is made only after the drying of the top layer of substrate. In the case that on the surface of the earth mixture appeared crust, it will be necessary to shake it gently. The seedlings should be protected from drafts and direct sunlight.
When the seedlings have their second true leaf plate, they should be pricked. The distance between the seedlings should be 7 to 10 centimeters.
Half a month before the planned day of planting in the open soil, you should do their hardening. In order to do this, the seedlings should be taken outdoors daily, gradually increasing the time they spend outdoors until they fully adapt to the new conditions.
When to plant
Phisode of Physostegia is transplanted into open soil in the last days of May or first days of June. Such a flower is rather unpretentious to growing conditions. In this regard, you can choose both a well-lit and shaded area for its planting.
The soil should be moist, loose and saturated with humus. It is also important that it can retain water well. Loamy, sandy loam or chernozem soil is ideal.
How to properly plant
A distance of 25-30 centimeters between the plants should be kept. Physostegia has a fast-growing rhizome that can drive other flowers out of the plot.
To avoid this, a limiting system should be made when planting. Thus, the plants can be planted in open soil in a container that will limit the growth of their rhizomes, for example, you can use a section of an old pipe or bucket without a bottom. In this case, the container should be dug so that from its upper edge to the surface of the site was a layer of soil with a thickness of 20-50 mm. Also very often a fence made of metal, slate, plastic or wood is dug around the perimeter of the bed, and the sheets should be deepened into the soil by 0,3-0,4 m.
Garden care of the Physostegia
For the Physostegia to grow and develop properly, it must be watered systematically, followed by obligatory soil loosening along with the removal of the weeds.
The site should be covered with a layer of mulch, provide the plant with timely feeding, as well as protection from pests and diseases and preparation for wintering.
This flower is rather moisture-loving. You should therefore water it when it is dry. If it rains systematically in summer time, the physostegia can do without watering. Remove weeds and loosen the ground surface after every rain or watering.
To facilitate tending, it is recommended to cover the ground with a layer of mulch (humus or peat), in which case the number of weeding, loosening and watering will be significantly reduced. If the soil is rich in nutrients, top-dressing should be done only once a season and a water-soluble complex mineral fertilizer should be used. Fertilizing should be done in conjunction with watering. Fertilizing is recommended before flowering.
This flower can be multiplied not only by seeds but also vegetatively, namely by dividing the rhizome or bush, by grafts, as well as by cuttings.
Dividing the shrub is recommended in the spring (before the plant blooms) or at the end of the summer (after flowering). However, some gardeners have divided the bush during flowering and the cuttings have taken root very well, but in this case you must cut all the inflorescences off the plant. Remove the bush from the soil and cut off its above-ground part. Next, it is divided into several parts. The divisions should be planted in the same way as seedlings.
In the first weeks of summer, you can try to propagate Physostega by cuttings. Cuttings are taken before the plant flowers and should be 10 to 12 centimeters long. There should be several pairs of buds on each cuttings. For rooting, they are planted in moistened sand, which fill a box or container. Container should be put in a shady place.
Cuttings will winter in a cool place, and with the advent of the spring they will need to be transplanted to the training bed. It will not be possible to plant the cuttings in a permanent place until another year later.
Sufficient distance from the parent plant will produce offshoots with rosettes, and there will be no oppression of the flowers growing next door. They should be dug up and replanted in a shaded area. They should be re-grown for 1 year before being transplanted to a permanent location.
Division of the rhizome is carried out in the autumn. The detached white cuttings are planted in a permanent place. They root very well, but it takes a little longer than rooting the offshoots. Remember that if growing by splitting, rootstock or by grafting, the soil near the plants should be kept slightly damp but not wet at all times.
The second or third year is the most beautiful Phisostegia.
It can be grown for a maximum of 5 years without replanting. Then the shrubs are removed from the soil, divided and planted in new locations. Transplant the Physostega and take care of it during this period in the same way as the initial planting. A transplanted plant needs abundant watering, and experienced gardeners also recommend immediately covering the surface of the plot with a layer of mulch.
Diseases and pests
This plant has a very high resistance to diseases and pests.
However, sometimes aphids may settle on the bush. To do away with this pest, spray the shrub with Biotlin, Antithlin, Actellic or another insecticide designed for this kind of pest.
If water stagnates systematically in the soil, the plant can develop fungal disease. In this case, it should be sprayed with a fungicide as soon as possible.
Fisostegia after flowering
The calyxes at the bottom of the bracts contain large ribbed seeds of black color.
If there is a strong wind, they may fall out on the plot. The seeds are harvested from the last days of August until early October. The seeds should then be left to dry in a well-ventilated, low-humidity room. Dry seeds can be stored.
How to prepare for wintering
In regions and countries with mild climates and warm winters, such as Moldova, Ukraine, southern Russia, for example, Phizostegia can be uncovered for the winter because it is relatively frost-resistant.
However, if this plant is cultivated in a region with frosty winters, it is necessary to prepare it for the winter period. Firstly, the shoots of the shrub should be cut back to a height of 20 to 50 millimeters above ground level. After that, the site should be covered with a thick layer of sawdust, peat, dried leaves, if desired, the bushes can also be covered with lapnik.
Physostegia species and varieties with photos and names
As already mentioned in the beginning of the article, gardeners cultivate only 1 type of such plant - Physostegia virginica, but also its various varieties and hybrids. A detailed description of this species you can find above.
Varieties and hybrids most popular with gardeners:
- Alba. The bushes reach a height of 0.8 meters. The apex dense inflorescences consist of large white flowers.
This is a variegated form. The bushes can reach a height of about 0.9 meters and have shoots that are particularly resistant to lodging. Along the edge of the green leaf plates runs a border of white. The color of the flowers is deep pink.
- Summer Snow. The plant is about 0.9 m tall. The coloration of the leaf plates is green. The snow-white flowers are part of the spike-shaped inflorescences.
- Summer Spire. The bushes reach a height of about 0.9 m. The coloration of the flowers is deep pink and the foliage is green.
The height of the bush does not exceed 0.6 m. The color of the flowers is light pink and the foliage is green.
- Bouquet Rose. The plant can be up to 1.
2 m tall. The flowers are colored deep lilac and the foliage is green.
- Pink Queen. The bush is about 0.7 m tall.
The pink flowers are part of the spike-shaped inflorescences.