A Turtlehead Tutorial

Turtlehead, Chelone spp., is one of the great flowers of the late summer garden.  Flowers are either pink or white and are shaped like, you guessed it, a turtle’s head.

Turtlehead is a great pollinator plant, adding a tapestry of color and flight to the garden. The plant must have an impish streak too because of its constriction around the mouth of the flower.  Bumble bees can find it a tight fit to get inside and are quite entertaining to watch as they wiggle their way in.

Turtlehead is a native plant and is found primarily in wetlands and moist areas. It has one of the longest flowering periods of any of the native flowers, starting in mid-July and extending into September.

Turtlehead likes moist soils and prefers 3 or more hours of direct sunlight daily. The glossy dark green leaves are handsome and disease-free.  Plants range from 2 to 4 feet in height which makes them a good fit for the middle of the flower border. The plant expands over time, eventually growing to be 3 feet across.

Include this late summer bloomer in your garden and enjoy the parade of pollinators!

turtlehead plant

Kathleen Cue
Horticulture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension

Kathleen serves as a Horticulture Program Coordinator. She educates people on making smart plant choices to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides in their landscape which has a positive impact on air, water, soil and environmental quality, property values and people’s pocketbooks. She provides leadership and coordination of the NE Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties Master Gardener volunteer programs: the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau, and “Ask the Master Gardener” Consultations.


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