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Two Striking Natives for August Blooms

Chesapeake summers peak in August and a cool shady spot can be a sought after garden space.  These two natives shine in partial shade.

Turtlehead (Chelone Glabra) flowers are said to resemble turtleheads, hence the name. If you see that great.  If not, that’s ok too. Turtleheads have white or pink blooms, grow on sturdy stems and don’t seem to need staking. They bloom well in shady spots if in moist soil. Turtleheads naturally grow along side water.  If you keep them moist, turtleheads don’t have to be at the water’s edge or in a rain garden. They are frequently grown in gardens with neither.  Turtleheads are a bit unusual and when planted in a mass, are pretty hard to miss.

The white turtlehead provides food for the larva of the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly. The pink brightens shady spots but is reported to be less attractive to the Checkerspot butterflies.


Cardinal flowers are striking, growing on tall stems of 3 to 4 feet.  Flowers are red (Lobelia cardinalis), blue (Lobelia siphilitica), or pink (Lobelia speciosa).  When happy, meaning the right combination of moist soil, part shade and dappled sun, they are carefree.  They self seed and form rosettes which bloom the following year. Like the turtlehead, they are a bit more unusual and when massed, look exuberant.  We grew these several times with poor results, poor as in the plant does not return the following year.  When these plants are happy, though, you will know it. They spread and need virtually nothing from you.

Please note there are hundreds of types of lobelia including annuals.  These are native perennial lobelias.

Looking for something off the beaten path in August?  Turtleheads and Cardinals might just be it.  The Mt. Cuba Center, sage of all things native in the Mid-Atlantic, suggests growing these two perennials together as they like the same conditions.

More Information:

For information from the Lady Bird Johnson WIldflower Center about turtleheads, click here.

For a list of other names turtlehead is said to resemble from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, click here.

For photos of the red cardinal flower, click here.



We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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