Heartleaf Skullcap OR.

Heartleaf Skullcap OR.

Heartleaf Skullcap

Heart-leaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata*) of the Mint (Lamiaceae) family is one of 11 skullcaps** found in Arkansas that have blue to purple, two-lipped tubular flowers. Heart-leaf skullcap occurs from Texas and Minnesota east to the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, as far north as Pennsylvania. In Arkansas, it occurs throughout much of the state except lowlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and West Gulf Coastal Plain. The genus name is from Latin for “small dish,” alluding to the depression of the fruiting calyx. The specific epithet is Latin for “oval” in reference to shape of the floral bracts. “Skullcap” refers to the shape of the upper portion of the calyx, which drops off with fruit maturity. Preferred habitat is open woodlands with dry to mesic, rocky soils as well in more sunny disturbed places such as rights-of-way and logged areas.


Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) romps through my garden with greater vigor each year. Belonging to the mint family, it spreads with abandon, and yet it never seems a thug because it’s so easy to pull out and dies back in summer to let other plants have their turn. This lovely groundcover for spring color is native to central Texas and indeed much of the U.S., and I’m surprised it’s not more widely available.Heartleaf skullcap (lower foreground) grows well in dry part shade and dappled shade. Deer have avoided it in my front garden, no doubt because of the hairy, oily texture of the leaves. Because it dies back when it gets hot, plant a summer star behind it, to take the stage when the skullcap exits the scene; Turk’s cap or Salvia guaranitica would be two good choices.Continuing the series A Seasonal Look, I’m profiling Heartleaf Skullcap’s growth cycle in Austin, Texas. This plant enjoys a wide native range, growing from “Maryland to Minnesota and southward to South Carolina, eastern and central Texas and Mexico” according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center’s page on Heartleaf Skullcap. I’ve grown this plant for about a decade.

The Jewels will grow and bloom, then die back with the first freeze. By then, the Heartleaf will materialize from its roots, in preparation of its bloom cycle. It will flourish during the cool seasons, then decline in summer and once I decide it’s time, sometime next summer, I’ll pull up the Heartleaf Skullcap so that the Jewels can do their thing. With that seasonal sharing and interplay between the growth cycles of two plants, there is usually something interesting happening in the garden.Personally, I don’t find the maintenance onerous. Mostly, that work occurs during our most pleasant time of the year (October-May), though I’m usually still weeding it out in June and it’s a touch toasty in Austin by that time. But let’s face it: weeding is a gardening thing–an expected chore. If you’re looking for a completely maintenance-free plant, Heartleaf Skullcap is probably not for you and your garden. If you don’t mind it taking over an area and there are no worries about what it will do to other plants, then Heartleaf could be a great addition for your gardens. I’d caution against that because most gardeners want a variety of plants thriving throughout the seasons. You don’t want Heartleaf Skullcap to significantly delay smaller, winter-dormant and late season perennials because it’s loitering in the garden past its welcome. For a successful perennial garden, preservation of the integrity of all plants is the goal. It’s mandatory to control an aggressive plant to ensure showtime for all. (Source: mygardenersays.com)



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