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Chelone glabra (turtlehead)

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Technical sheet - Chelone
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Chelone glabra


Spikes of elegant white flowers top shiny green foliage in late summer and early fall. Grows best in moist meadows, stream banks, and swamps. Favorite breeding site for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.

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2-4 Feet


1-3 Feet


18 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8

turtlehead Interesting Notes

The white or blush pink snapdragon-like flowers of Chelone glabra add a marvelous late summer charm to the garden when few other plants are blooming. Flowers are borne in upright, terminal spikes atop plants that ultimately reach 3-4’ tall. Turtlehead grows well in rich, moist soil that ranges from neutral to slightly acid and thrives in part shade to full sun as long as there is adequate moisture. Turtlehead makes an excellent accent specimen in the naturalistic garden or along streams. The foliage is deer resistant and is an important food and breeding source for butterflies.  Conoclinium coelestinumLobelia siphiliticaActaea racemosa, and Osmunda regalis make excellent garden companions. - Mt. Cuba Center

Chelone (rhymes with "baloney") was a nymph in Greek mythology who insulted the gods by ridiculing or not attending (versions vary) the marriage of Zeus to Hera. The gods punished her by turning her into a turtle.

Chelone glabra Growing and Maintenance Tips

Best grown in moist to wet, rich, humusy soils in part shade. Appreciates a good composted leaf mulch, particularly in sunny areas. Consider pinching back the stem ends in spring to reduce mature plant height, especially if growing plants in strongly shaded areas where they are more likely to need some support. In optimum environments, however, staking is usually not required.

Good Substitutions

turtlehead Chelone obliqua Tiny Tortuga™ 'Armitpp02'
turtlehead Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Horticultural Plug
Landscape Plug™
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Green Infrastructure
Bioretention/Rain Garden
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated