Virginia, DC & Maryland Native Perennial: Downy Skullcap

Easy, long blooming, cool color!

native perennial downy skullcap in bloom

Downy skullcap (Scutellaria incana) is a really long blooming perennial that thrives in full sun and part shade and can easily grow in dry soils once established. It also grows well in clay soils. It grows 3 to 4 feet high.


Here in the middle of the Chesapeake watershed, downy skullcap begins to bloom in mid-July and still has some blooms in early September.

Once blooms begin to fade and flowers drop, the remaining calyx are architectural and turn from green to brown eventually. Even those create garden interest.

native perennial downy skullcap bee balm

Downy skullcap is so long blooming that it can be planted along side bee balm blooms in July.

native perennial downy skullcap joe pye weed backlit

And it will still be in bloom when joe pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum) comes into flower later in August!

downy skullcap growing in part shade

It does grow in full sun and part shade. In my experience, it remains upright in full sun. The more shade it gets, the more likely stems are to splay out. That said, the floppers can easily be cut back.

The blue to violet flowers of downy skullcap pair well with all the mauves and pink natives blooming during the height of summer in July and August.

Those blue violet flowers would also go well with the many native yellows of July and August.

downy skull cap close-up with a bee

This perennial has become much more widely available in recent years at native plant nurseries and garden centers. Plugs of downy skullcap are available by mail from the Pollen Nation. Please note there is another skullcap called blue skull cap or mad-dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), also a native, but must grow in moist soils. It is often found in wetlands.


Happy gardening.


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