Jacob Ladder Plant Care Growing Polemonium

January 26, 2023 0 Comments

At one time, the Jacob’s ladder plant was called the “charity plant”, although it should not be confused with the Mahonia species which also has this common name. It is also called “Greek valerian”, although it is not valerian. Still confused?

You shouldn’t be. Jacob’s Ladder got its general name from the ladder-like or pinnate structure of the leaf. And in the spring and early summer it grows slender stems, on which clusters of bell-shaped flowers hang.

A shade-loving variety, it originated abroad, but is now often found in the United States in horticulture. It is such an easy plant to grow that it can even be considered slightly invasive if it is in the right environment! However, it can also be maintained and kept on its beds.

All about Jacob’s Ladder Plant

With its origins in the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, the Jacob’s ladder plant is a wonderful addition to any garden. This is largely why it is naturalized in multiple environments around the world today!

Jacob’s ladder is native to meadows, forests and meadows, this shade-loving species got its name from its pinnate leaves that resemble the spurs of a ladder. It is an excellent low-maintenance plant that is often grown as a deer-resistant flower in many gardens.

There are two species that have the same name. The one we are focusing on today, Polemonium caeruleum, is the cultivated variety that can be found in your local garden center. Optimized for growing in the garden, it is a very desirable burst of color in shady places.

A related species, Polemonium reptans, is called the “false Jacob’s ladder” or “creeping Jacob’s ladder”. Native to the northeastern United States, it is considered an endangered wild plant in some states. It is not ideal in a garden due to its tendency to be very leggy.

The foliage can be full, bright green and lush, or it can have other colors. Examples of variegated varieties are “Stairway to Heaven”, which has cream-colored foliage, or “Bressingham Purple”, which has dark green foliage streaked with dark purple.

Jacob’s ladder blooms in spring and early summer, often at the same time as allium species and the bleeding heart plant. The bell-shaped flowers hang in clusters at the end of their flower stems and can vary in color from sapphire to pink, yellow, purple or white.

Jacob’s Ladder plant care

Easy to grow, it is suitable for novice gardeners in a wide variety of locations in the United States and Europe. When it comes to flowering plants, this is a good starting choice!

Light and Temperature

Although I would not consider it a low-light plant, Jacob’s ladder prefers less light. It likes to grow in shaded or semi-shaded areas, especially since it can develop sunburn if it is too exposed to direct sunlight.

Now there are cultivars that are much more tolerant of direct sunlight than others. Green and leafy varieties are often more tolerant than varieties with variegated leaves.

It can be difficult to find the right light balance to promote flowering without damaging the leaves of the plant. If this is your situation, it is better to opt for a healthy plant with dominant foliage rather than trying to grow for abundant flowering. It will bloom, only a little less.

Water and Humidity

This plant prefers uniformly moist soil conditions, but it does not tolerate stagnant water. It is important that you choose a well-drained soil to ensure that it does not piss around the plant.

In general, the frequency of watering should be measured by the development of the plant. As a shade-tolerant species, there is a little less evaporation than if it was directly exposed to the sun all day, which means that your watering frequency varies depending on the lighting it receives.

Aim for consistency

Your plant is somewhat adaptable and can actually be quite drought resistant once the roots are firmly established. It may need additional watering during the warmer months of the year, but otherwise consistency is the key.

Moisture can become a concern for Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), as it is prone to powdery mildew. Avoid wetting the leaves directly as much as possible and ensure good air circulation around your plant.


Mix a good amount of compost in your flower bed before planting to promote growth. Make sure that the soil is still well drained so that stagnant water does not accumulate, as it can cause root rot. Avoid or modify poor or clay soils.

Although pH does not seem to be a common problem for this plant, it is usually better to look for a neutral range for all the other plants that you decide to associate.


If you apply a layer of compost around your plant several times a year, you probably don’t need fertilizer at all!

However, if you choose to use a separate fertilizer, aim for an early spring feeding with a balanced fertilizer. This promotes new growth. Feed again as soon as the flowers have wilted and the flower stems are cut to try to encourage new flowering.


You can propagate with the seed of Jacob’s ladder, or do it by division. Cuttings can also work, but fail more often than they succeed.

Seeds should be sown directly into the ground after the peril of spring frosts has passed. Cover them with a light dusting of earth and keep them moist until the seedlings appear. Thin at 18″ intervals. Your plants produce a lot of foliage in their first year and may not bloom until the following years.

If you wish, you can allow your plant to sow, as it will easily sow its area. It returns in a much denser distribution over time, and you can divide the plants after.


You don’t need to prune for a serious reason. The pruning of Jacob’s ladder is particularly aesthetic in nature!

If your plant is starting to get a little leggy, you may want to reduce the overgrowth to keep it more even and visually appealing.

Older plants may develop brown or worn, ragged foliage in the after summer months. You can simply prune all the damaged material so that the plant can fill up with new shoots again.


Most parasites don’t seem to care, but there are a few. ailments are also not very common, but can occur. Here are some tips to help you in matter of problems!

As mentioned earlier, too much direct sunlight can burn the foliage. It is not a bad idea to test the future location of your plant by placing a pot in the place where you are considering a permanent placement, and see how it goes there. If it’s good, plant!

Too little water can brown the tops of the leaves and make them crispy. Although it is surprisingly drought tolerant once established, young plants often experience this problem when they are underwater. Stay consistent in the humidity of your soil.

When the summer heat reaches its peak, you may notice that the foliage on your plant becomes less attractive. This is especially true if you grow in a warmer climate than Zone 8. By the end of summer, it can be long and brown, which requires light pruning.


There are a very limited number of pests that seem to strike this plant. In fact, it is resistant to deer and tends to be generally resistant to pests! But there are a few things that can make it acceptable.

Minors can come to visit. These tiny pests chew lines through the leaves of your plant, and although the leaves are smaller than other types of foliage, this does not prevent them from making a quick meal on your plant.

With this, it can be difficult to wipe them off. However, you can choose to initially repel them by regularly spraying neem oil on all leaf surfaces to keep the pests away. The introduction of beneficial nematodes into your soil can help finish the mature pupa.

Some fungal leaf spot conditions may persist in wetter conditions. Although these usually don’t finish your plant, they can make it difficult for the plant to produce chlorophyll, which can slow down growth. Use Monterey Liqui-Cop or another copper fungicide on these.

In general, the most common ailment of the Jacob’s scale is powdery mildew. This is also caused by moisture or the accumulation of moisture on the leaves and causing the right conditions for the growth of fungi. Neem oil is an excellent way to treat this ailment and prevent its further development.

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