Jacob's ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) is a clump-forming perennial that earned its common name due to the rung-like arrangement of its pinnate, light green leaves. However, it is the flowers of Jacob's ladder that are the real attraction. The species form and its various cultivars send up clusters of flowers atop long stems in mid to late spring. Most varieties have delicate bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple and lavender, but there are also white, pink, and yellow varieties available, and all attract common pollinators.The bright blue or purple varieties are among the most popular, blooming in clear tones offset by yellow centers.
The delicate foliage and the fluorescent color of the flowers make Jacob's ladder a favorite for shady areas. Direct seed in early spring and it will grow tall and start blooming in mid-spring, sometimes continuing into early summer so you can continuously enjoy these fragrant and wildlife-resistant plants.
Jacob's ladder thrives in USDA Zones 4 to 9, reaching a height of about 30 inches and spread of 2 feet. This woodland-type wildflower grows well in average well-drained soil in shady locations where few flowering plants thrive, provided the soil is kept consistently moist. This can be a slightly temperamental garden plant, reacting badly to soil that is too dry or too wet, or to a climate that is too hot or too humid. Deadheading spent flowers in the spring may prompt a second bloom period.
These plants are easy to grow from seed and they will very easily self-seed and spread in an uncontrolled (but not invasive) fashion in the garden unless the spent flowers are removed before seeds can fall.
Plant Jacob's ladder in loose, rich, well-draining soil that will remain moist but not wet. It is fussier about moisture than about soil pH but does best with a relatively neutral or slightly acidic soil pH.
Jacob's ladder plants that receive regular watering will bloom longer and remain attractive into summer. Water regularly to maintain medium moisture levels but avoid soggy conditions. During dry periods, you may need to water more frequently to keep the plants lush.
Polemonium caeruleum is a long-lived perennial in the right conditions and if it is fed properly. Give the plants a boost in early spring with a dose of balanced fertilizer as the new growth is emerging. Feed them again once the faded flowers have been cut back.
A closely related plant is Pelamonium reptans (creeping Jacob's ladder), a native wildflower of eastern North America. Also known as Greek valerian, creeping Jacob's ladder has a similar appearance to P. caeruleum, but it is somewhat shorter and even more tolerant of cool conditions. It is a short-lived perennial, however, often behaving as a biennial. The native species is rarely planted in gardens, but there are some good cultivated varieties available, including 'Blue Pearl' and 'Brise d'Anjou'. Despite the name, this plant does not spread by creeping rhizomes, but it does spread readily by self-seeding.
In general, Jacob's ladder requires minimal maintenance. Once the flowers finish blooming, cut the flower stalks back to the plant's base to encourage repeat blooms. If the foliage starts to look tattered, it can also be cut back and cleaned up. New growth will replace the trimmed foliage.
Divide mature Jacob's ladder plants every two to four yearsor they will start to die out in the center. They divide most easily and successfully in early spring. Carefully lift and separate the basal rosettes, replant, and water well.
If you already have a Jacob's ladder plant, it will self-seed on its own from seeds dropped from flower heads. You can also collect the seeds to replant elsewhere. Jacob's ladder can be direct seeded in either spring or fall. Loosely cover the seed with soil, then water. Keep the soil moist, and be sure to mark the spot so that you do not disturb it.
To start seed indoors, sow two months before your last frost date if you want to transplant in spring, or sow in mid-summer if you want to transplant in the fall. The seeds take up to a month to germinate and should be kept moist until then. Transplant outdoors in spring just before your last frost date, or in early to mid-fall.
Jacob's ladder plants are generally problem-free, but there are a few pests and diseases that will attack, particularly if the plants are stressed. The most common problems are sun scorch and insufficient water, which cause the leaf tips to start browning. Other potential problems include:
Rooney-Latham, S. & Bischoff, Joseph. First Report of Powdery Mildew Caused by Podosphaera euphorbiae-hirtae on Euphorbia tithymaloides in California. Plant Disease. 96. 1822, 2012. doi:10.1094/PDIS-05-12-0461-PDN
PLANT FINDER Search For More Plants View My Plant List Plant List Help Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder Polemonium boreale 'Heavenly Habit' Add To My Plant List Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder flowers Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder flowers (Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder) Plant Height: 10 inches Flower Height: 15 inches Spacing: 10 inches Sunlight: Hardiness Zone: 3a Ornamental Features Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder has masses of beautiful spikes of lightly-scented lilac purple star-shaped flowers with white eyes and yellow anthers rising above the foliage from mid spring to mid summer, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its ferny pinnately compound leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. Landscape Attributes Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder is an herbaceous perennial with tall flower stalks held atop a low mound of foliage. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect. This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics. Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder is recommended for the following landscape applications; Mass Planting Rock/Alpine Gardens Border Edging General Garden Use Container Planting Planting & Growing Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder will grow to be about 10 inches tall at maturity extending to 15 inches tall with the flowers, with a spread of 12 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 10 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years. This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation. Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a 'filler' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the larger thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden. Characteristics Applications Ornamental Features Site Map | Site Map XML A NetPS Plant Finder tool
Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder has masses of beautiful spikes of lightly-scented lilac purple star-shaped flowers with white eyes and yellow anthers rising above the foliage from mid spring to mid summer, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its ferny pinnately compound leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.
Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder is an herbaceous perennial with tall flower stalks held atop a low mound of foliage. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.
This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.
Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder will grow to be about 10 inches tall at maturity extending to 15 inches tall with the flowers, with a spread of 12 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 10 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.
Heavenly Habit Jacob's Ladder is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a 'filler' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the larger thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.
Jacob's Ladder is beautiful and hardy. Planted this in shade zone 4 where we lose a lot of shrubs and plants for the cold winters and heaped up snow. Came up beautifully late spring and is flowering throughout June with beautiful soft bluish-purple flowers. Leaves almost appear like ferns. Strikingly beautiful and one of the few plants we can grow here.
I bought several of these in early May. Both the blooms and foliage were stunning. I had to keep them in their containers for several weeks until my new garden bed was prepped and it was ready to be planted. They went through a period of looking floppy and yellow. As soon as I planted them they perked back up and are beautiful again. They get quite a bit of afternoon sun and are still performing wonderfully. I love this plant!
It bought several of these in early May. Both the blooms and foliage were stunning. I had to keep them in their containers for several weeks until my new garden bed was prepped and it was ready to be planted. It went through a period of looking floppy and yellow. As soon as I planted them they perked back up and are beautiful again. They get quite a bit of afternoon sun and are still performing wonderfully. I love this plant!
Jacobs Ladder plant care and propagation that will help you grow a healthy and beautiful plant. The plant is scientifically known as Polemonium caeruleum. Jacobs Ladder is a perennial that produces beautiful flowers during spring. The blooms are produced in clusters and form at the ends of long stems.
Different varieties produce different flower colors. The common ones are lavender and purple; however, you can also find some in yellow, white, and pink. The plant also produces pretty pinnate light green leaves.
There are many varieties and types of Jacobs Ladder. One popular variety of Jacobs Ladder is Bambino Blue. The variety has beautiful very pronounced light blue flowers and they are gorgeous. Other varieties include Album that produces white flowers, Stairway to Heaven which produces blue flowers and Snow Sapphires which produces blue flowers.
However, the soil should be loose and rich. The soil should allow for air movement. If its too compacted plants roots dont do well, they will struggle to find oxygen. In some cases, the plant can get root rot when the soil is too compact.
The most important part of Jacobs Ladder plant care is keeping them moist but not wet. This a tricky balance because the watering frequency will depend on external conditions. During dry months, increase the watering frequency and lower the frequency during wet months.
When properly fertilized, Jacobs Ladder perennial plants can live for extended periods. Give the plants a little bit of complete liquid fertilizer thats very diluted. During the growing season, you can add the fertilizer during early spring. However, during the offseason do not fertilize at all.
Jacobs Ladder plants can live in a wide range of temperatures but they like cool climates even during summer. When grown in hot climates such as warm southern gardens, they can be negatively affected by the heat.
The plant does well in medium humidity levels. However, it doesnt like too much humidity and if its exposed to high levels of humidity it can become susceptible to fungal diseases. Maintaining moderate humidity levels is also an important part of Jacobs Ladder plant care.
The best time to divide the old plants is in early spring which will give them ample time to get established during the growing season. If you dont split up the mature plants when they reach this stage, they will start dying from the center.
The second method of getting new Jacobs Ladder plants is from seeds. If you have a mature Jacobs Ladder plant, it will produce seeds that will drop and self-seed from the flower heads. The seeds dont disperse far from the mother plant.
To ensure the seeds germinate and grow properly, direct seed them and cover them loosely with soil. Water them immediately. The soil should be kept moist throughout. It is also advisable to mark the area where the seeds have been planted to avoid disturbing them.
Jacobs Ladder seeds can also be established indoor. The idea behind establishing them indoor is to have plants ready for transplanting in spring or fall. If you want to transplant in spring, sow the seeds two months before the last frost date. If you want to transplant in fall, sow the seeds in mid-summer.
Although Jacobs Ladder plant care is minimal, they still require minimal maintenance in the form of pruning and deadheading. Deadheading is required after the flowers are done blooming. Simply cut back all the flower stalks at the plants base. Timely deadheading will encourage the plant to produce new blooms.
Pruning is also necessary especially when the plants foliage starts to look unsightly. Prune using clean tools and cut back the foliage. The pruning process helps give the plant a clean look. You shouldnt be concerned with cutting back foliage because new growth will replace any that is removed.
There are no plants that are resistant to all pests and diseases and Jacobs Ladder plants are not either. The plants can be affected by powdery mildew. The plants become more susceptible when grown in high humidity or the leaves are kept wet during watering.
Frequently check the overall general health of your Jacobs Ladder plant. Check the roots and see if your plant has been sitting in water for too long. Frequent checkups will help you identify any problems when they can still be corrected.
The symbolism and associated with Jacobs ladder are coming down. The plant produces leaves that resemble a ladder-like arrangement hence the name. The ladder symbolizes the bridge between heaven and earth where angels ascend and descend. Check this post on 70 Flowers with different meanings.
Jacobs Ladder is one of the gorgeous perennial plants that you should try. It produces beautiful leaves and flowers. If you like perennials, check this post on how to grow clematis flowers or this post on 40 perennials flowers and plants.
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Jacobs ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) is a popular choice for beginning gardeners due to its hardiness and easy care instructions as well as its beautiful light blue to dark purple flowers. Jacobs ladder is a relatively pest-resistant and low maintenance plant.
Though known primarily for its colorful blooms, Jacobs ladder actually gets its name from the shape of its leaves. The plant forms a clump of tightly packed leaf stems, which each contain tiny leaflets. These leaflets rise along the stem somewhat like a ladder, and the full name is a reference to the ladder in Jacobs Biblical dream. This leaf formation is known as a pinnate and is relatively uncommon among flowering plants.
The first word of the official botanical name, polemonium, comes from the from the Greek name for the plant, polemonion, which is a reference to the Greek philosopher Polemos of Cappadocia. In Latin, the species name simply means most handsome, a title the flowering perennial has certainly earned. The genus name of Jacobs ladder is attributed to several namesakes, including King Polemon of Pontus and an early philosopher from Athens of the same name. The Greek word polemos also means war. A Roman scholar by the name of Pliny the Elder wrote that the name Polemonium caeruleum originally came from the war created by the rivalry between two kings who both claimed that they were the first to discover the Jacobs ladder plants medical value. The Native American name for Jacobs ladder translates to smells like a pine which doesnt describe the scent of the flowers themselves, but their roots.
There are two different types of Jacobs ladder: one common to gardening and one that grows in the wild. The wild one, Polemonium reptans, is considered a threatened species in some states. Therefore, growing it at home is discouraged as a way to keep gardeners from taking cuttings from wild plants to add to their collections. Polemonium caeruleum, also known as Greek valerian, was developed specifically for growing in the garden and is available in many different shades, sizes, and varieties. Here are a few of our favorites.
Polemonium Snow and Sapphires: Similar to the popular Brise dAnjou variety but hardier and more resistant to pests, the Snow and Sapphires variety is a no-brainer choice. The Snow and Sapphires plant shows off variegated leaves with bright blue flowers. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8, this variety grows to 24 to 30 inches in height.
Polemonium Album: Clusters of white bell-shaped flowers with long yellow stamens sit atop mid-green foliage. The Album variety is a wonderful standout flower for late spring and early summer blooms and is hardy in zones 3 through 8.
Polemonium Stairway to Heaven: Bright blue flower clusters sit atop variegated leaves that tend to blush pink in cooler weather conditions. The pink tint really brings the plant to life in zones 4 through 8. Stairway to heaven reaches only 12 to 24 inches in height.
Polemonium Bambino Blue: The Bambino Blue variety is sure to catch the eye of passersby because of its beautiful light blue flowerhead and big yellow central eye with elongated stamens. One of the most compact varieties, Bambino Blue is hardy in zones 3 to 9.
Polemonium Bressingham Purple: The Bressingham Purple variety tops out at two feet, with violet-blue flowers and brightly variegated foliage that forms clumps that range from one foot to a foot and a half wide. The foliage sets this variety apart from others with similar colors. Bressingham purple is hardy in zones 4 to 8.
Polemonium Boreale: This dwarf variety only grows as high as three inches to one foot. In late spring, it produces small purple or blue flowers. Native to areas near the Arctic circle, this smaller variety is hardy from zones 3 to 9 and flowers in late spring.
Jacobs ladder is a woodland perennial that generally prefers a shady to semi-shady spot, as the leaves tend to scorch and burn with too much direct sunlight exposure. Jacobs ladder thrives in soil that is rich in organic material and a consistently moist but not soggy environment, especially while it is establishing its root system. Once the roots are established, the plant is actually quite resistant to drought.
Moist soil doesnt mean boggy, though. The soil where you grow Jacobs ladder needs to be well-drained and never fully wet, as this flower will not live long in standing water. The plant is much more fussy about moisture conditions in the soil than it is regarding pH, but the best results will be seen in a loose, rich soil with a pH balance between 6.2 and 7.0, a nearly neutral range, which makes it a great planting companion for a ton of different springtime flowers.
Once you have located a spot that is suitable to the needs of Jacobs ladder and gotten the plants adjusted to their new homes, there are very few flowers that are easier to grow. Varieties with dark to mid-green leaves can handle more sunlight than varieties with variegated foliage.
Plant division is the recommended method for planting Jacobs Ladder, but you can have great results growing from seed as well. After all danger of frost has passed, sow the tiny brown seeds directly into the ground. Sprinkle some light soil over the seeds, and keep them moist until you start to see sprouts. Seeds tend to germinate very quickly and should be thinned until one plant stands every 18 inches or so. If youre planting from seed, you can expect to see a fine burst of foliage on the first year of growth, but you may not see any blooms until the second year.
Jacobs ladder care is simple to say the least. After blooming, the stems may become a bit leggy and could benefit from some light trimming. After a few years, some foliage will start to become discolored or unsightly. Simply trim away all unbecoming leaves, and you will start to see new growth sprout up almost immediately. Deadhead after the first blooms appear in late spring.
Division is the only laborious bit of care that gardeners may choose to invest in their Jacobs ladder plants, and it should be undertaken in the early spring each year, just as new growth starts to take place. At this point, carefully dig around the plant and remove the entire thing, roots and all, from the earth. The rosettes must then be separated by tearing the roots apart and replanting each plant separately. This is also a great time to add a bunch of organic material into the soil for the new blooming season. Water the divided transplants well, and keep them moist for a few weeks to give them ample time to recover from the shock and adjust to their new plots.
Though it is usually not an issue, larger varieties of Jacobs ladder can eventually start to droop or become leggy, and can benefit from staking. Judge for yourself whether you want a more upright plant or dont mind them bowing a bit. Staking is recommended especially in if your plants are in an area where theyll be exposed to lots of high-speed winds.
Jacobs ladder is resistant to most insect infestations and diseases. Its also deer and rabbit resistant, so you dont have to worry about nibbling wildlife snacking on your blooms. Sun scorch is actually the most common problem with the flowers foliage, as some mistakenly plant it in a location with insufficient afternoon shade. Too little water can also cause the leaves to brown at the tips. Possible issues gardeners occasionally encounter include leafminers, slugs, leaf pot, and powdery mildew.
Jacobs ladder starts to bloom around the same time as many other flowers. Therefore, alliums, bleeding heart, and Brunnera are wonderful companion flowers for it in the flower bedand their colors are also very complementary. The dainty, airy branches of Jacobs ladder plants are a nice textural contrast to the more substantial leaves of Brunnera. Hosta is another excellent companion plant, as its leaves may still be unfurling as Jacobs ladder starts to produce its first buds in late spring.
Check out this video for an in-depth guide on how to grow Jacobs ladder: This video from Garden Time TV features Jacobs ladder, a springtime favorite in the Pacific Northwest: This video contains detailed care instructions for dwarf varieties of Jacobs ladder: This short video gives you a close-up view of Jacobs ladder, in showy blue:
Sources: Angelfire covers Jacobs Ladder Better Homes & Gardens covers Jacobs Ladder Gardeners Path covers Jacobs Ladder: Regal Shade-Blooming Perennial The Garden Helper covers Polemonium Gardening Know How covers Growing Jacobs Ladder HomeGuide SFGate covers How to Care for a Jacobs Ladder Plant The Spruce covers Growing Spring Blooming Jacobs Ladder
There are two species of Jacobs ladder plant that are commonly found in the garden. The first, Polemonium reptans, is native to the northeastern quadrant of the United States and is considered a threatened species in some states. Environmental care of Jacobs ladder includes discouraging gardeners from taking plants from the wild for transplant. Instead, try growing Jacobs ladder Polemonium caeruleum, the species developed for the garden, which is rarely found growing in the wild.
One of the best features of the Jacobs ladder plant is its foliage. The plant forms a clump of densely packed leaf stems each bearing tiny leaflets, almost fern-like in appearance, that rise along the stem like the ladder of the Biblical dream of Jacob. This ladder formation is known as pinnate.
Each plant grows from 1 to 3 feet (30 to 91 cm.) high with a spread of 1 1/2 to 2 feet (46 to 61 cm.) wide. Loose clusters of flowers hang like bells from the long stems and come in white, pink, blue or yellow depending on the cultivar. Once established, growing Jacobs ladder requires very little except for occasional trimming. Jacobs ladder plants are, therefore, an excellent addition to the low maintenance garden.
As always, before we talk about how to grow and plant Jacobs ladder, we need to look at the conditions it naturally prefers. The Jacobs ladder plant is a woodland perennial that prefers a shady to semi-shady spot for growing. Jacobs ladder leaves tend to scorch with too much heat or sun.
It grows best in soils that are rich in organic materials and likes a moist, but not soggy environment. That being said, one of the pleasures of this garden addition is that it tolerates drought once its root system is firmly entrenched. It is also deer resistant and isnt prone to disease or insect infestation.
Sometimes, especially in older plants, the foliage can become brown and tattered looking. Trim out all unsightly foliage and new growth will begin almost immediately. Trimming Jacobs ladder plants and the occasional foliar feeding is all thats needed for the yearly care of Jacobs ladder in the garden.