Chelone Information – Care and Maintenance

Basic information about Chelone.  Includes Origin, Growing & Cultivation, Common Pests & Diseases, Interesting Facts & Uses,  and Garden Design Tips.

Chelone Origin

Chelone obliqua

The botanical genus name, Chelone, comes from a Greek myth about a forest nymph who insulted the gods.  Her punishment was to be turned into a turtle.

The common name, ‘Turtlehead’ is also derived from the fact the flower looks like the head of a turtle!

All four species in this genus are native to Eastern North America.

Growing and Cultivation

Chelone prefers partial shade to full sun, with moist, wet, or even boggy soils.  Will even tolerate heavy clay soils!  A native to woodlands, it thrives in more wooded settings and naturalizes readily.

Deadhead promptly to extend the blooming season.

Common Pests and Diseases


Chelone ‘Hot Lips’ by W. Atlee

This plant is susceptible to powdery mildew, rusts, and fungal leaf spots.  To minimize the chances of disease and damage, leave plenty of air flow space around stems.

They can also see visits from slugs and snails – a homemade or commercial slug and snail bait or preventative can be applied.

Chelone is both deer and rabbit-resistant; they prefer not to eat it.

Interesting Facts and Uses

Being a native to woodlands in North America, Chelone is a popular choice for environmentally friendly native gardens, especially in boggy, clay areas.

This plant is used extensively in natural/alternative medicine for indigestion, intestinal complaints, appetite stimulation, and deworming.

Garden Design Tips

chelone in_garden_mxk3
Chelone in a garden setting. By MXK3

Chelone’s distinctive flower shape adds a particular texture to the garden.  In shades of white, pink, red, and purple, they add a spike of (turtle-head-shaped!) color to shady areas.

At one to three feet tall, they are best situated in the middle to back of a planting bed or border.


To purchase Chelone varieties, please visit our Shade Companion Plants Page.