Culver’s root – planting, care and tips

Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

The long-lived Culver’s root is an impressive perennial for the prairie garden. Here are tips on planting and care.

Profile of culver’s root:

Scientific name: Veronicastrum virginicum

Plant family: figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

Other names: Culver’s-root, Culverphysic, Culver’s physic, Bowman’s root, black root

Sowing time: between March and April

Planting time: spring or autumn

Flowering period: July to September

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutritious, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, stand-alone, group planting, pond planting, borders, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-37 °C / -35 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of culver’s root

Plant order, origin and occurrence of culver’s root

The Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum, is native to the eastern United States and around southeastern Canada. It is assigned to the genus Veronicastrum and belongs to the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). The assignment to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) is botanically outdated and no longer valid today. In the garden center, the Bowman’s root, which comes from eastern North America, is still often offered as “Veronica virginica”.

Characteristics of culver’s root

Plant

Culver’s root is a giant among the flowering perennials with a height of one to two meters (40 to 80 in). The plant grows in clusters, is perennial and hardy. Culver’s root resembles a chandelier with long flower spikes in full bloom.

The Latin specific epithet virginicum means “of Virginia” and refers to a historical definition that covers the entire eastern United States and southeastern Canada. The name “Culvers Root” derives from a Dr. Culver, who was a pioneer physician in the 18th century who used the plants bitter roots for laxative purposes.

Leaves

The leaves of the Culver’s roo tare lanceolate and sawed on the edge. They stand lively around the high stem in groups of three to seven.

Blossoms

Culver’s root has larger inflorescences than the classic Veronica species: They can be up to 30 centimeters (12 in) long and have numerous flowers that are blue, white or pink, depending on the variety. It also clearly towers over the perennials of the genus Veronica with its height of up to two meters (80 in). The elongated, throat-shaped single flowers are arranged radially around the stem and protrude almost horizontally. Bumblebees in particular love the late flowers of Bowman’s root, which open from July to September.

Fruit

The seed heads of the Bowman’s root are just as decorative as the flowers and remain as a structure-giving eye-catcher well into winter.

Flower of Culver's root
Flower of Culver’s root

Culver’s root – cultivation and care

Location

Culver’s root is suitable for beds in full sun, such as the prairie garden, but also for the edge of wood or water. Shady locations have a negative impact on flowering and stability. Waterlogging must be avoided in winter.

Soil

Culver’s root thrives best in moist, nutrient-rich soil with a neutral pH value. It does not grow optimally in the wrong place, which is shown above all by the fact that it is less stable and only develops few flowers.

Planting

When planting, keep a sufficient planting distance of about 90 centimeters (3 ft.). Depending on the size of the plants, one to three perennials are planted per square meter (10 sq ft). In the first few years, the Culver’s root often grows only moderately. As soon as it has established itself, however, it is an extremely easy-care and long-lived flowering plant.

Care

Culver’s root is one of the most easy-care plants in the garden despite its enormous size. Large specimens need a support in locations exposed to the wind and plenty of compost as fertilizer in spring and autumn. Cut off faded parts regularly. If you cut back the first bloom immediately after it has faded, in early summer, by a third of the stem length and then fertilize and water the plants well, you can look forward to a second flowering.

Dividing

In spring or after flowering, the perennial can easily be divided and the individual parts of the plant can be used elsewhere in the garden.

Propagation

Usually Culver’s root is propagated by division. The pure species Veronicastrum virginicum and some varieties can also be propagated by sowing between March and April.

Diseases and pests

Bowman’s root is not endangered by snails and is otherwise extremely resistant to diseases and pests.

Wintering

Culver’s root is hardy down to -37 °C / -35 °F. There are no additional measures necessary for wintering.

Leaves of Culver's root
Leaves of Culver’s root

Use in the garden

The steeply rising pillars of the Culver’s root can alternate with rather loose growth forms such as those of meadowsweet or catnip or the star-shaped flowers of the phlox. Veronicastrum virginicum also has a great effect next to tall autumn grasses. Coneflower and sneezeweed add a splash of color to the plant. The tall form of the Bowman’s root prize gives the bed structure and makes it a great eye-catcher. It stands best in the sunny bed background or in the prairie garden, where it can stretch out its long spikes. The large panicles of flowers also look good in bouquets of cut flowers.

Varieties

  • The ‘Lavender Tower’ is an excellent variety because it is rich in flowers and vital. At 1.5 meters (60 in), it is one of the medium-sized varieties
  • Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ grows up to 170 centimeters (68 in) high and its flower panicles hang over slightly
  • The variety ‘Adoration’ inspires between July and August with its lush, pink flowers. It is up to 1.60 meters (64 in) high
  • As a universally applicable background plant, the white Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Alba’ comes into its own in every combination of plants
  • The dwarf among the varieties is ‘Diana’, which also has a white flower. It is only about one meter (40 in) high, but shows very long, beautiful flower spikes between July and September

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