Chelone Species, Purple Turtlehead, Red Turtlehead, Rose Turtlehead, Shellflower

Chelone obliqua

Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Chelone (kay-LOH-nee) (Info)
Species: obliqua (oh-BLIK-wuh) (Info)
Synonym:Chelone latifolia



Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade




Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:


Medium Purple

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Juneau, Alaska

Brookfield, Connecticut

Ledyard, Connecticut

Dallas, Georgia

Des Plaines, Illinois

Fairfield, Illinois

Mount Prospect, Illinois

Newburgh, Indiana

Pacific Junction, Iowa

Ewing, Kentucky

Brunswick, Maine

Falmouth, Maine

South Berwick, Maine

Chicopee, Massachusetts

Norfolk, Massachusetts

Marquette, Michigan

Ely, Minnesota

Kasota, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Barrington, New Hampshire

Jamesburg, New Jersey

Rockaway, New Jersey

Buffalo, New York

Croton On Hudson, New York

Hampton Bays, New York

Norwood, New York

Davidson, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Fargo, North Dakota


West Linn, Oregon

Coopersburg, Pennsylvania

Sumter, South Carolina

Knoxville, Tennessee

Lenoir City, Tennessee

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Essex Junction, Vermont

Alexandria, Virginia

Buchanan, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia

Pembroke, Virginia

Madison, Wisconsin

Wild Rose, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Sep 3, 2013, Tammiesmith from Brunswick, ME wrote:

I just identified a plant in my yard as the Purple Turtlehead. It is so beautiful.. watching the bees trying to get into each flower is hilarious... We live in Brunswick Maine and I have never seen one of these before!


On Feb 1, 2010, kimberlykronsch from Upper Peninsula, MI (Zone 5a) wrote:

We have this flourishing in Marquette, MI. It is the "Hot Lips" variety. Attempting to start from seed as of yesterday. Full Moon.


On Oct 11, 2007, ifonly from Brookfield, CT wrote:

bought three plants a year ago - planted within 5ish feet of each other .. two plants're taller and thinner, one shorter and bushier.

all three in full sun in a pretty dry area - attracted as much to the pretty, dark green leaves as to the flowers. flowers last a long time. planted with aconitum/monkshood, as they bloom together. added shasta daisy Becky close by because it does too.

not bad, if i do say so myself!


On Oct 8, 2007, palewildwoodflower from Alexandria, VA wrote:

Beautiful plant, but having a hard time keeping the leaves from turning black. Finally realized my soil is alkaline rich and needs acid. Going to take care of that today and hope it flourishes soon. Also, planted another species (I think), the common name 'Hot Lips'. Hmm. Going to look that one up.


On Jan 28, 2007, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

Some sources say that Turtlehead species are the only larval host for the Maryland State insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot, but at least one gardener reported that she saw the caterpillars feeding on the leaves of nearby Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red". Be that as it may, the Baltimore Checkerspot is declining in Maryland and was last seen in Howard County in 1997. Two major reasons for this could be 1) habitats for the Turtlehead are disappearing thanks to development and 2) deer love having Turtlehead on their menu.

So, I hope anyone reading this who may have a moist, sunny or partially shaded spot will consider planting a Turtlehead, and visit the Butterfly Forum on DG for how-to and inspiration on making a butterfly garden.

Details of G... read more


On Aug 28, 2005, JerseyBoy from Rockaway, NJ (Zone 6a) wrote:

I planted two of the turtlehead plants two years ago. Did fine until now. They are about 24-36 inches high now, and this year I'm seeing the leaves turning dark brown and crispy to the touch!! I can't seem to find out what's going on! I live in New Jersey, 07866, zone 6..The plants get about 3 hours of sun each day.
I'm wondering if they are not getting enough water?



On Aug 18, 2005, lourspolaire from Delray Beach, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I got my chelone obliqua as a freshly divided, wilted, 2-stalk, sorry-looking specimen in 4-inch pot in May 2002 at a church garage sale for 25 cents. I planted it in full sun and didn't worry about it It didn't do much that first year, but it did manage to flower.

Now, the chelone obliqua patch is about 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep and we don't count the stalks any more. Mine reaches 4 feet in height. It produces large quantities of seeds, which I gladly give away to friends and fellow gardeners. The plant doesn't seem subject to infestations or diseases. I haven't had to divide it yet; I'll let nature run its course.


On Nov 7, 2003, ohmysweetpjs from Brookeville, MD wrote:

Beautiful plant! Not only is it beautiful, easy to grow and fast but it's a butterfly host plant. I think the Baltimore Checkerspot but I don't really remember... no painted lady.. maybe.

I sowed the seed in mid summer and it grew and bloomed in almost no time and I still have blooms in the fall.

I'm not sure whether or not I have the chelone depicted here because mine doesn't have a solid color, but is a terra cotta mix of pink, orange and yellow.


On Sep 24, 2003, Phaltyme from Garden City, MI (Zone 6b) wrote:

I am in southeastern Michigan, near Ann Arbor, and I have a huge clump, quite old, and now I'm finding them all over my yard. As far as I can tell, they aren't fussy about conditions, mine are in full sun, not especially moist either. They don't seem to be bothered by pests which is a big plus for me.

I also have a white one but it is struggling and isn't nearly as pretty as the pink. I originally saw Turtlehead growing by the AuSable River near Oscoda but bought my plants (different times) at the Friends of the Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan.


On Sep 23, 2003, taramark from (Zone 4a) wrote:

This plant grows in Zone 4, too.


On Jul 9, 2003, Birdsall from Holland, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

I am almost positive that this plant grew well in upper New York State when I was growing up. It required almost no care.

Now that I am in Michigan, I hope I can grow it here, too.


On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Best grown in moist to wet, rich, humusy soils in full sun to part shade. Appreciates a good composted leaf mulch, particularly in full sun 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.


On Aug 13, 2001, midwestsnowbird wrote:

Chelone obliqua has deep pink flowers late summer to fall. Reaches 2-3 feet tall and half as wide. It may need staking if planted in a shady area. Pinch back in early summer to make bushier and produce more flowers.


On Apr 9, 2001, MsBatt from Florence, AL (Zone 7a) wrote:

While most chelone top out at 3' or so, there is one type with white flowers tipped in purplish-pink which can reach six feet or more, if given adequate water, soil, and sun. I have seen that growing wild in northern Alabama.


On Nov 2, 2000, jody from MD &, VA (Zone 7b) wrote:

There are 6 species to this genus. The flowers resemble turtle heads or snapdragons in appearance. Leaves are toothed, broad, opposite and about 6" long. They are cultivated best along streams or ponds but are happy in any moist, rich soil. Part sun/part shade. They grow to about 3' tall and bloom in late summer to early autumn. Flowers are pink/rose and there is a white variety as well. Hardy to zones 6-9. (Although the plant I bought came from a division in zone 4 that has been happily thriving for a few years!)