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Polemonium reptans

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Plant types and subtypes: Perennials

Light Requirements: part-sun, part-shade, shade

Water Use: low

Soil Moisture: moist

Soil Description: acid, neutral, rich, loam

Height: 6"-16"

Bloom Time: April, May

Bloom Color: lavender, blue

Leaf Color: green

Hardiness Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7

Additional Tags: attracts bees, deer resistant, mounding, naturalizing, rock garden plant, shade garden plant, stream margin plant, woodland plant

Polemonium reptans (Jacob's ladder)
  • Polemonium reptans (Jacob's ladder)
  • Polemonium reptans (Jacob's ladder)
  • Polemonium reptans (Jacob's ladder)
  • Polemonium reptans (Jacob's ladder)

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Description

Polemonium reptans

Also known as:

Jacob's ladder

,

creeping Jacob's ladder

,

Greek valerian

Scientific Synonyms:

Description

Polemonium reptans is a sprawling, low-growing deciduous perennial that forms 12" to 18" tall masses. 1/2" blue bell-shaped flowers are borne in loose, terminal clusters and float just above the foliage. Small, oval leaflets are arranged like the rungs of a ladder (hence one of its common names is Jacob's ladder) and give the plant a delicate, fern-like appearance.

Cultivation

Although the specific epithet "reptans" describes this species as a creeper, it is somewhat of a misnomer: this plant spreads vegetatively via a rhizomatous root system and does not actually creep as do stoloniferous plants. Its native range includes moist, rich, circumneutral soil in humusy woodlands and along streams. Filtered light is best, but Polemonium reptans will tolerate full sun in cooler climates. It will self seed freely under optimum conditions. It is very easy to grow, and low maintenance. When planted in groups, it will quickly form an effective ground cover. New foliage emerges very early in the growing season: late February to early March. Although not evergreen, this is an excellent alternative to the overused, exotic invasive Vinca minor (periwinkle). The blooming period may vary from April to May, and lasts about 3 weeks. Zones 4-7

Propagation

Propagate from seed or root division after flowering.

Additional Notes

Polemonium reptans is an early pollen source for many of our native bees. Herbivores, including rabbits stay away from it, and it is about as deer resistant as a plant can be. This species can survive drought conditions by going dormant, and will produce new foliage as the conditions become more favorable. The leaf arrangement of Jacob's ladder gave this plant its common name. It is a reference to Jacob's vision of a ladder to heaven in the Book of Genesis.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV

USDA Endangered Status:

  • Endangered: NJ
  • Threatened: MI

Classification

Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Asteridae
Order Solanales
Family Polemoniaceae Phlox family
Genus Polemonium Jacob's ladder
Species Polemonium reptans Jacob's ladder