Culver’s Root ‘Inspiration’

This is the third summer that Culver’s Root ‘Inspiration’ (Veronicastrum virginicum) is growing in the sunny driveway border. In my experience it is an excellent plant if you want something vertical with blue color in early to mid-summer. Even my son’s girlfriend, who fervently hopes that my garden obsession is not hereditary, is enthusiastic about this plant.

Culver's Root 'Inspiration'

I first saw the blue spires of ‘Inspiration’ during a June walk at the Lurie Garden. I was surprised to learn from one of the volunteers that it was Culver’s Root. Culver’s Root is supposed to be white and bloom later in the summer. That Culver’s Root had cultivars was news to me.

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Culver’s Root is native to a wide swath of eastern and central North America. Because ‘Inspiration’ is a cultivar, purists would not consider it a “true” native. In Bringing Nature Home, though, Douglas Talamy comes down in favor of planting cultivars of native plants. For him, the key is that they still have the leaf chemistry to which native insects are adapted.

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In any case, I have seen myself that ‘Inspiration’ is very popular with pollinators.

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Culver’s Root is an easy care plant, not susceptible to bugs or diseases. It wants full sun and moist, moderately fertile soil.

In my garden it has not required supplemental watering once established – except for during extreme drought. The blue spires have been wavy rather than straight, perhaps because the soil is more fertile than is ideal for this plant.

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This plant adds a definite vertical element, growing to 5′ or more. I like the whorled leaves very much, and not just because I like the word “whorled”.

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According to Alan Armitage, this plant was used as an emetic by Native Americans, so keep that in mind if you feel like chewing on it.

Do you grow ‘Inspiration’ or some other form of Culver’s Root in your garden?

54 Comments on “Culver’s Root ‘Inspiration’

  1. Very nice! I can see planting Culver’s Root at some point. Maybe it could replace the Hollyhocks that are susceptible to Japanese beetle damage and didn’t make an appearance this summer. Thanks for the info!

    • You’re welcome. The JBs have arrived, they are chewing on the roses, the cuphea, and even the agastache, but they are leaving the Veronicastrum alone.

  2. Culver’s Root is a great plant! I do grow it, the cultivar called ‘Fascination,’ which is also blue. I had mine in too much shade last year, and it was very floppy. Now it’s in more sun, and standing nice and tall.

  3. Oh! This is my kind of plant, I love its shape and colour as well as the height – adding this to my “must have” list, thanks!

  4. I don’t know this plant, so will have to look into it. It may be suited to my poor well-drained soil in the full sun…?

    • Worth a try. It certainly likes sun. You may have to water it while it is establishing. In poor soil it may just grow shorter.

  5. I like this plant a lot, sadly I think it would need more moisture than my soil provides. Actually I really like most vertical plants and have to work hard to add other forms to the garden.

    • Have you ever considered some of the perennial sunflowers like Helianthus mollis? Or the Ratibidas – yellow coneflower or Mexican hat?

  6. I’m growing the species and, like Alison, I had it in too much shade and it wasn’t doing well. I moved it in the spring to full sun and it’s taken off although it is very thirsty this year. I’m hoping that once it’s established it will be more drought tolerant. It looks like your Inspiration is staked. I think I may have to stake mine next year, too.

    • You’re right, I did have to stake it. I haven’t had to give it any supplemental watering, though, and it is in a raised bed.

  7. Whorled is a fun word! It’s good to know about this plant–always trying to add more verticality in the garden.

  8. Whorled is cool! It’s a nice look. I don’t grow this one but might have to search it out.
    Thanks for making me look up the word emetic 🙂

  9. Culver’s Root is something new for me. Looks nice, the color is pretty. I’ll find it here, what is its botanic name?

  10. It sure adds lovely texture, shape and colour to the garden. And you’ve done a fine job of photographing it.

    • I have never grown the straight species, have never seen it here in nurseries, though I know I can order it online from Prairie Nursery.

  11. The flowers remind me of fireworks.

    I didn’t realize it got so tall – I, too, am adding it to my plant bucket list. It’d be a nice addition to the natural screen I’m trying to install between me and my neighbors.

      • Northwest-ish to southeast-ish. It’s where I have my problem viburnum, Eastern redbud, dwarf lilac, and then the hibiscus, Nepeta ‘Souvenir d’Andrew Chaudron’, and other smaller plants.

      • I just ask because they do want full sun, so if they are planted near taller shrubs you might want to have them face south and west to the extent they can.

  12. I grow Fascination and Lavender Towers. Love both of them. I moved Fascination from a location that I thought was too shady into the sun. Guess I left some roots behind as it’s still growing in the shady spot. Very floppy, though

    • Never heard of ‘Lavender Towers’, Sounds nice. Mine get pretty full sun but still can get a little floppy, as I said earlier, I have to stake them.

  13. We have so few blue options in out sun summer gardens. Can’t believe I don’t recall seeing this beauty in blue. Your son’s girlfriend is such a buzz kill. Tell her I said so,

  14. Oh, I’m going to be looking for this plant! Really it reminds me of one of those Chihuly glass sculptures. Very cool.

  15. I also love them, especially the fasciated flowers I admit. Popular with insects and butterflies and given the Chelsea chop it flowers for ages. Quite thirsty though…

  16. I can see why you like this plant so much! It’s not one I’m familiar with; I checked and it appears it’s not quite hardy for my area. Too bad, because I love it!

  17. Hi Jason, you’ve got a lovely stand of it there, I like the way the flowers twist and spiral round. It looks like it might need a bit of support later in the year though to stop it flopping in heavy wind or rain.

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