Simple, undemanding, but excellent garden value – here are the Jacob’s Ladders all lined up. If you want to know a little bit more about where they sit in the Plant Kingdom then click below.

Ericales
Polemonium 'Stairway to Heaven'

Polemonium ‘Stairway to Heaven’

  • Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Bright creamy margined fern-like foliage that emerges in Spring strongly pink tinged, remaining pink edged for some time. Flowers come later and are a clear pale sky blue produced in a long succession on lax stems. A most attractive and stable variegated Jacobs Ladder. New introduction.
Polemonium 'Lambrook Mauve'

Polemonium ‘Lambrook Mauve’

  • Polemonium ‘Lambrook Mauve’  is a beautiful short growing Jacob’s Ladder with fine filigree foliage and an abundance of mauve flowers, enhanced by the darker stems. Every shoot that emerges divides and divides with terminal flowers appearing on every branch. If you keep cutting back spent flowering shoots, this Jacob’s Ladder will go on and flowering for months in a lovely warm lavender tone. Excellent at the edge of any bed. best in sun
Polemonium brandegeei 'Bressingham Purple'

Polemonium brandegeei ‘Bressingham Purple’

  • Polemonium brandegeei ‘Bressingham Purple’ is a beautiful strong growing Jacob’s Ladder with fine filigree foliage, tinted purple and surmounted by an abundance of cobalt-blue flowers. Excellent cultivar best in sun. 30cm. Colour stronger in cooler weather
Polemonium yezoense 'Purple Rain Strain'

Polemonium yezoense ‘Purple Rain Strain’

  • Beautiful Jacob’s Ladder with fine filigree foliage, tinted purple and surmounted by an abundance of cobalt-blue flowers. Polemonium yezoense var. hidakanum ‘Purple Rain’ is excellent at the edge of any bed. Grows best in sun. 50cm. The colour of the foliage is stronger in cooler weather and in brighter locations. Cut the spent flower stems hard back to rejuvenate the plant and enjoy a second flush of flowers. Avoid very dry locations which will leave the plants more vulnerable to mildew.

 

Polemonium

Polemoniums have a bit of a reputation as Cinderella plants – easily overlooked and ubiquitous. There are, however, one or two gems amongst their ranks. Plants such as Polemonium ‘Lambrook Mauve’ will flower and flower for months and Polemonium ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has the most lovely foliage to boot.

They can be short lived if not divided every few years and grow best in sun in any reasonable soil providing they are not kept too dry. Both Polemonium caeruleum and Polemonium reptans grow in damp grassland in the wild. Polemoniums, with the exception of P.viscosum are good with chalk. Too dry a soil can allow mildew to creep in .

Polemoniums are colloquially the Jacobs ladders, a reference to the ladder to heaven dreamt of by Jacob on his flight from his brother Esau. It comes from the stacked leaflets arranged like the treads of a staircase, but also, being a biblical reference suggests a plant long cultivated in gardens.

Polemoniums have some small herbal history. They were previously called Greek Valerian, a complete misnomer, but probably another reference to the divided leaf, being somewhat similar to true Valerian. It has been said that the plant is also attractive to Cats in a similar way to valerian. Polemonium was not greatly used, but I do note that the active ingredients were extracted in whisky, which no doubt increased its efficacy greatly !

The American, Polemonium reptans been more used for complaints from Scrophula to Snake Bites, in all cases inducing copious perspiration and earning it the name Sweatroot.

Polemonium derives from the Greek ‘polemos’= war, though the connection is obscure and isn’t recorded, or possibly from the Greek Philosopher Polemon. The name is ancient, having been used by Dioscorides.

Polemonium caeruleum – Greek Valerian, Jacob’s ladder, Charity, Sky Pilot

Polemonium reptans – Abscess Root, American Greek Valerian, Blue Bells, False Jacob’s Ladder, Sweatroot