The overall habit and neat appearance of Jacob's Ladder should make it a welcome addition to any shade or partially shaded garden. Photo: Trish Beckjord
While the flowers of this lovely spring woodland native may be done blooming, that is no reason to not continue to appreciate it in the garden. Unlike many spring bloomers, the compound leaves of this low, mounding native will continue to look good through the summer if good soil moisture is maintained. It is not drought tolerant and will go dormant in the summer in dry conditions.
Jacob’s Ladder is a native of Illinois woodlands and shaded streambanks. Being so, its preference is for a mesic loam soil with good organic matter such as would develop with the accumulation and breakdown of leaf litter.
This species grows no taller than about 18” and mixes well with other spring wildflowers such as Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) and sedges such as Curly-styled Sedge (Carex rosea) or Straight-styled Sedge (Carex radiata). The plant produces loose panicles of attractive blue to lavender flowers in late spring for 2-3 weeks. It reproduces by seed but is not an aggressive spreader. Consider massing this in areas of the shade garden.
As an early bloomer, Jacob’s Ladder is an important spring wildflower for a variety of pollinators that include a number of bee species, flies and beetles. It is also visited by skippers, butterflies and moths. Nectar production is minimal; most visits by these many pollinators are to feed on and gather pollen. One mining bee, Andrena polemonii, feeds only on this plant.
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