FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Physostegia virginiana ‘Vivid’ is a compact perennial wildflower cultivar. Like the parent species, plants have bold lance shaped leaves. In late summer and early fall, foliage is topped by bright lavender-pink spikey inflorescences. The individual florets are tubular and similar to snapdragons. Plants thrive in sunny gardens with average well drained soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Physostegia virginiana occurs through eastern North America west to Manitoba, North Dakota and Texas. Plants are indigenous to moist or mesic Blackland prairies, limestone glades, woodland edges, moist meadows, thickets, seeps and moist roadside and railroad right-of-ways.
The cultivar ‘Vivid’ is compact with a floriferous nature and deep purplish pink blooms. This is a long blooming variety that often flowers well into autumn.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Physostegia virginiana ‘Vivid’ is an erect tap-rooted perennial with sturdy square stems.
Leaves are lance shaped with widely spaced pointed teeth on the margin. Blades are up to 4” long and 1” wide. They are sessile and smooth with rounded bases and pointed tips.
The stems terminate in showy 10” spike-like flower racemes. Four rows of densely packed florets open from the bottom of the raceme to the top. Tubular florets appear at the bottom of the stalk with pearl-like flower buds above and the youngest green buds at the tip.
The florets are tubular and about 1” long with a broad upper lip and a 3 lobed lower lip. They are bright rosy pink from late summer into autumn for 6 weeks or more and are marked with purple stripes or dots.
After pollination, the calyx inflates to hold brown sharply angled seed.
The diminutive plants grow 2’ tall and spread to 12-18”.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Physostegia virginiana ‘Vivid’ flourishes in sun or part sun with moist or average soil. Plants tolerate clay loam, sandy loam, gravelly soil, alkaline or acid pH, heat and some drought.
This cultivar may grow aggressively in moist rich soil. If space is available, ‘Vivid’ can form spectacular colonies. If space is lacking, some would consider it to be invasive.
‘Vivid’ tolerates some shade but if shade is too dense, plants are likely to flop.
During drought, the lower leaves may turn yellow and defoliate. Plants are generally pest resistant and are not palatable to deer.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden or sunny Meadow. Plants are also used as Cut Flower or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Physostegia virginiana ‘Vivid’ has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings, Rain Gardens and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Physostegia virginiana ‘Vivid’ with Asclepias tuberosa, Carex bicknellii, Echinacea purpurea, Panicum virgatum, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Schizachyrium scoparium or Sorghastrum nutans.
Physostgia virginiana is generally taller with variable flower color but would be a worthy substitute in some situations.
TRIVIA: Flowers are generally pollinated by bumblebees. Other long tongued bees, hummingbirds and the occasional butterfly sip nectar from the flowers.
‘Vivid’ won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
The common name “obedient plant” was bestowed because the individual florets stay in place (at least temporarily) after being are positioned or re-arranged.