Sunday, September 9, 2012

Great Perennial for Fall: Chelone lyonii - Turtlehead 'Hotlips'

This is a great perennial for fall. It has nice glossy leaves, responds to pinching or browsing by deer with the development of additional axial flower buds. It likes moisture, but once established can tolerate some drought. It grows well in sand, loam, or clay and will even bloom in some shade. It does best with full sun and adequate moisture with pinching 2-3 times in May and June.

It can be propagated from cutting taken mid-May through June, which if rooted may even bloom the same fall. It can also be divided. It is more difficult to grow from seed, although it can be done. Growing from seed is difficult because of the variable maturity of seed, sterility of seed, and late maturation of seed, and the need for stratification. Fertilized ovules and sterile seed look very similar. It is a good choice for winter sowing. My preferred method is tip cutting with rooting hormone in May because of the near 100% success rate.

The native which does not have the same glossy leaves as this selection, nor is it as clump forming or long blooming, seems even more sterile than the selected cultivar; however, it is just as easy to cultivate from cuttings.


  1. I had some white Chelone glabra, which was also very nice. Sadly, it could not compete with its neighbors, and so is no more.

    By the way, I got the penstemon seeds - thanks!

  2. You're welcome! Glabra is nice, but it just can't compete. The lyonii has thicker, stronger stems and never flops. The leaves are dark and glossy and very pretty even when not in bloom. It almost seems like it has more alleles like the tetraploid daylilies, but I know it doesn't as the glabra and lyonii seem to be able to pollinate one another.