Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans) is a common woodland wildflower in mesic woods and floodplain forest. It ranges from Minnesota to New York, south to Oklahoma and Alabama. Bearing clusters of beautiful sky-blue flowers, Jacob's ladder blooms in mid-Spring along with Tiarellas and wild violets. Plants have a light spring-green look and grow in lush clumps, adding to the overall lush look of the spring woods.
Jacob's ladder is so named because the pinnate leaves supposedly resemble a ladder - 'Jacob's Ladder' is an allusion to Jacob's vision in Genesis 28 of a ladder (or stairway, depending on translation) reaching to heaven. The sky-blue flowers may evoke heaven, but the link to the Old Testament reference is definitely an enigma! No one seems to know where the name originally came from.
Jacob's ladder is an excellent medium-height groundcover for part shade - It especially excels in moist, rich soils, and is typically found in rich floodplain woods here in Indiana. Jacob's ladder is one of the few woodland wildflowers that doesn't go dormant in the summer, making it a great backbone plant for a woodland landscape.
Jacob's ladder flowers profusely, yielding nectar and pollen for early season pollinators. Two tiny leafminer moth species larvae feed on the leaves, but they don't cause much damage. The plants never seem to be bothered by rabbits or deer, though we have had rabbits nibble off the flowerheads out of curiosity.
Jacob's ladder is a tough, easy-to-grow plant in mesic woodland situations with slightly acidic to neutral soil. It does well with heavy clay, as long as the soil isn't compacted, but it is especially vigorous in rich loam soils under hardwood forest. Plant Jacob's Ladder 9-12 inches apart for a medium-height groundcover, watering well when first planting. After a few weeks the plants should be established and really don't need any further irrigation.
Our Jacob's Ladder grown in Quart SuperPlug fabric containers are easy to plant and establish quickly. Plants will flower the following spring after planting.
|Common Name:||Jacob's Ladder|
|Botanical Name:||Polemonium reptans|
|USDA Hardiness Zones:||3-8|
|Flower Color:||Sky Blue|
|Bloom Time:||Mid to Late Spring|
|Habit:||Fern-Like Groundcover, Slowly Spreading by Seed and Roots|
|Light Exposure:||Shade to Part Sun; Moist Woodlands and Forest Edges|
|Soil Moisture:||Moist to Average|
|Soil Texture:||Clay Loam to Sandy Loam|
|Soil PH:||Neutral to Slightly Acidic|
|Landscape Uses:||Groundcover, Mass Planting, Naturalizing|
|Benefits:||Fast Growing, Deer Resistant, Rabbit Resistant|
|Ecological Function:||Nectar and Pollen, Larval Food Source, Soil Stabilization|