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July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Chelone, Turtlehead

Chelone 'Hot Lips' at Shady Gardens
A cute little plant in my garden has the funny common name of Turtlehead. Chelone has pretty flowers that do resemble the head of a turtle. Legend has it that Chelone was a nymph in Greek mythology who insulted the gods by either ridiculing or not attending the marriage of Zeus to Hera. The gods punished her by turning her into a turtle.

Chelone is a perennial plant found growing wild in the Northeastern United States. Bloom spikes develop in late summer into early fall. This plant grows best in evenly moist soil. It is most often found growing in moist meadows, swamps, and along stream banks. 

Chelone is an important food source for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly which loves to breed among the plants.

When happy, Chelone will grow up to 4 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. Foliage is a deep dark green. 

Chelone is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8, so can be grown in most of the United States. 

Chelone has few requirements, but it does need soil that is moist to wet and rich with humus. 

Light requirements are easy to provide, as chelone grows well in partial shade or full sun. In full sun, it definitely needs plenty of moisture. Mulch well, especially when growing in full sun. I suggest shredded leaves as the optimal mulch material.

Chelone is great as a wetland plant, bog plant, or along the edge of a pond, but also grows well in containers as long as you do not allow the soil to become dry.

Additional Features:
  • Deer do not eat chelone
  • Attracts multitudes of pollinators
  • Good cut flower
*Chelone foliage dies back to the ground for winter dormancy in late September or early October, so mark the spot where planted to prevent accidental damage to the plant during your winter gardening chores.

Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead – White Blooms appearing in August and September atop bright green foliage.

Chelone Lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ – Bright rose-pink blooms August – September atop deep green foliage.