First White Turtlehead Blooms
So not every bloom in the garden is yellow. For instance, I’ve got a single White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) blooming in the Front Island Bed. This is my second effort to grow White Turtlehead, and I hope this time it settles in for the long haul.
White Turtlehead is not an easy plant to find, either in the wild or commercially (I ordered mine from Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin). Its cousin Pink Turtlehead (C. lyonii) is much easier to find in garden centers. Perhaps it is easier to grow. However, I much prefer the white-flowering species.
White Turtlehead is about 4 feet tall in our garden, upright and without need of staking (so far, at least). It likes full to part sun and lots of moisture. If it lasts, it will spread by rhizomes to make a nice clump.
It is native from New England through the Great Lakes region, as well as in parts of the Upper South.
This year our White Turtlehead has just one central stem. I’m hoping for more next year. It is growing cheek by jowl with Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). You can confuse the leaves of the Swamp Milkweed and the White Turtlehead. Those of the Turtlehead are narrower and still a bright green, while the Swamp Milkweed is starting to turn maroon red.
Allegedly, White Turtlehead flowers look like a turtle’s head, hence the name. To me they look more like snake heads, especially the way they seem to be sticking their tongues out.
White Turtlehead is one of very few host plants for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly. I’ve never seen a Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, and growing White Turtlehead should improve my odds of seeing one.
Do you have any experience growing this plant?
Never heard of it, even though it comes from New England. Good luck!
Sorry not one I’ve ever heard of.
Most likely not a plant that would adapt well in Italy.
I like the look of your new Turtlehead, I have never heard of it but hope it brings in those butterflies you mention.
Hi Jason. I grew it quite successfully at my previous house in part to mostly shade (better for it in the south, where I live) and a constantly moist site. Mine flopped all over the place, though. At my new house I grow it in much drier soil in more sun (no choice, I’m afraid). It has never really taken off in that spot, unfortunately. And still no sign of the Baltimore Checkerspot!
Unfortunately I have found that if you plant it (whatever it might be), they will not necessarily come. But at least you’ve improved the odds.
I have only grown the pink one. I don’t remember ever seeing a white turtlehead. It is pretty. I can see why you like it. I hope you get some Checerspots.
I thought the pink one is a little too intensely pink for me.
Nope, but I sure do like your photos. 🙂
I had the pink variety Hot Lips but it only lived a few seasons.
I haven’t tried the pink species.
I grew up in Maine on a gloriously “unimproved” property. A stand of this turtlehead grew in a sunny spot next to the outflow of a small stream, in mucky consistently moist soil. I think sun and moisture are the keys to success. I’ve grown the pink form as well. It is far less picky about growing conditions. I found it to be pretty vigorous, bordering on thuggish. But a beautiful thug!
Nice to hear there are big stands of this to be found in the wild, at least in some locations.
I had the pink first and it’s filled in and solid bloomer in semi shade moist soil
I had to find a new spot for my white , tree roots keep soil to dry so moved it last month
Zone 6 Illinois
Hope it does well for you. Let me know next summer!
I grow a pink one that asks for absolutely nothing.
The whites seem to be having a bad year here. I haven’t seen a single bloom.
I guess the whites are more finicky. I just really like the look of them. Also not sure if the pink is also a host plant for the Checkerspots.
I like the white turtlehead, can’t quite decide if the closeup looks like a turtle’s head. Sounds as though the white variety need special attention.
Yeah, which is a pretty good argument against it. I still wanna see if I can make it work.
I think that Plant Delights had them for a while. I did not look into them because I was busy trying to procure yuccas at the time.
Definitely not what you would plant as a companion for Yuccas.
Well, no . . . but they have all sorts of weird plants for many different kinds of gardens all jumbled together in the same catalogue.
This is funny…I just checked your blog last night and saw the pictures of the Turtleheads but wasn’t going to comment as I’d never seen them before (although I have heard of them somehow). Then on the way to pick up some friends about 10 miles away, I’m pretty sure I saw a group of them growing in a ditch along the road! Beautiful plants! Funny though that they only grew in that one patch…I’ve never seen them anywhere else, and I always keep a lookout for interesting plants along the road.
I think they are pretty rare. Maybe you should go back later and get some seed.
I love your white turtlehead. Years ago I tried the pink one (not having the white one as a choice), but could never get it established.
I’ve thought of doing a list of all the plants that didn’t get established in my garden, but I’m afraid of how long it would be.
We had a huge patch growing in a wet spot in a farm field. I dug some up and moved them to a similar location — and have never seen either again.
That’s sad. I hope it doesn’t mean they really don’t adapt well to gardens.
What a beautiful plant, new to me!xxx
It’s a bit uncommon.
I just came across a small population growing along a trail. I was so pleased to see it. I hope you are successful with yours. I wouldn’t have thought to try, but I do have a rain garden that thinks it is a pond every year for part of the season. I believe the checkerspot is a species that Doug Taron is endeavoring to restore to the wild with a breeding program.
Which means I’m unlikely to see them any time soon … but still. Can’t hurt to try.
No, it sure can’t. I really admire your garden. I wish my woodland garden was next to your garden, instead of being sandwiched by chemicalized lawns. Still, we do what we can, don’t we?
Yeah, my immediate neighbors aren’t too bad. They do bring in landscapers on occasion to “treat” their lawns. However, their lawns are full of violets and other “weeds” (my fault, in part), which I take as a good sign.
That is a good sign. You are having an influence, sounds like.