Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder)
The only thing better than an elegant and bright spring bloomer is one that provides season-long foliage interest long after flowers have faded for the year. Polemonium (po-le-MOH-nee-um), or Jacob’s Ladder, of the Jacob’s Ladder or Phlox family, Polemoniaceae, is a lovely spring-blooming perennial native to eastern North America and Europe, with the native Polemonium reptans found right here in Minnesota.
Two species of Polemonium are typically used in the landscape: the native Polemonium reptans and its cultivars, and Polemonium caeruleum cultivars. Polemonium reptans, also known as spreading Jacob’s Ladder, is a North American native plant with numerous cultivars, such as the gorgeous ‘Stairway to Heaven’ with soft blue flowers and broad, pale green foliage with cream variegation, and ‘Touch of Class,’ with delicate blue and purple flowers and variegated leaf margins. Cultivars of this species take on a sprawling habit, generally having a lower, more spreading appearance with reclining stems. Polemonium caeruleum, also known as Blue Jacob’s Ladder, is a more upright, slightly larger, narrow-leaved species native to Europe. Many cultivars of Blue Jacob's Ladder are available including ‘Brise d’Anjou,’ with striking deep green, narrow foliage with creamy white margins and deep blue flowers.
Blooming from mid-spring through early summer with fresh foliage throughout the season, Jacob’s Ladder produces panicles of soft blue, five-petaled, tubular flowers atop erect or arching stems, depending on species. Polemonium are an excellent deer and rabbit resistant garden addition, preferring moist, well-drained soil, though they will tolerate clay soil in the absence of standing water. Growing 18-24” round, Jacob’s Ladder thrives in part to full sun conditions, often taking on a pink hue in bright sun, and tolerates dappled shade conditions. Perfect in low perennial borders or planted as a cheery woodland garden addition, Polemonium are a delight throughout the growing season.