Whenever I visit the old family farm in Iowa, I always like to walk through the woods to observe what is growing in this driftless part of the Midwest. The driftless part of the Midwest is a small section of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin that was spared by the glaciers, giving it a ragged and jagged landscape. Limestone caves, cliffs, outcroppings, and centuries of hardwood forest is what covered much of the land – not prairie grass. So, you really get to see some unique plants (Shooting star, Columbine) that may be plentiful locally, but aren’t found again for hundreds of miles.
On one of these little ‘walks’, I noticed a wildflower blooming all over the place. I could not identify it, nor had I seen it before. I could tell from the flower that it appeared to be related to lobelia, or some other tubular flowering genus. But I just couldn’t quite figure it out.
It wasn’t overly showy, but looked kind of cool. Although I thought that from the look of the blooms they were getting a bit too much shade. However, after lots of research, I finally identified this flower as American Germander. American Germander is a perennial flower that is approximately 2-3′ tall and erect. When blooming the tapered spike of flowers is somewhat showy. I’ve come to learn that this plant is not specific to the edge of hardwood forests, and can in fact grow anywhere that doesn’t experience drought and receives at least a few hours of sun per day.
American Germander Facts
- The range of American Germander is Native to most of North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean
- American Germander is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae
- Hardy in USDA zones 4-9. Check your USDA zone here
- Is often listed as a difficult plant to control in agriculture
- An important plant for pollinators, considering its long bloom time
- American Germander was used medicinally by Native Americans. Primarily as a healing ointment by soaking leaves in water for sores.
Scientific Name of American Germander
The Scientific Name of Canadian Germander is Teucrium canadense
Canadian Germanader will grow up to 3′ (1 m) tall depending on conditions. The spread is generally 18″-36″ (50-100 cm).
Stalk / Stem
The central stalk will be erect and strong. Since this is a member of the mint family of plants, the stalk will be square, or at least have 4 distinct angles on its cross section.
Leaves of American Germander are quite large being roughly 2″ wide by 5″ long (5 cm x 12 cm). The shape will be lanceolate and noticeably veined. The edges or margins will be serrated or saw-toothed. Up the stalk, leaves will be opposite (paired).
At the top of the stalk, there will be a spike of flowers that is 1-5″ long. The spike will be tapered, and have tons of small, tiny tubular flowers with a prominent lower lip. The lower lip makes for easy access by pollinators, to crawl up the tube and access the nectar/pollen I’ve mainly observed the color to be mostly white, with a hint of lavender.
The flowers will bloom for approximately 6 weeks, making American Germander one of the longer blooming perennials. After blooming, a capsule will form at each flower and will contain several seeds.
As a member of the mint family, Canadian Germander will have rhizomatous and fibrous roots allowing the plant to form colonies. So, if you see one plant there are likely many more nearby!
American Germander will grow best in full sun or partial shade, and moist to medium conditions. The plant is tough and hardy in regards to moist conditions with poor clay soil, but cannot take a drought.
Natural Habitat of Canadian Germanader
I’ve observed this plant growing along the edge of hardwood forests, particularly where it can receive morning and afternoon shade. The shade allows the soil to retain moisture, making a perfect condition for growing this plant.
How to care for American Germander
If you plant Canadian Germander in the conditions that it prefers it will not require any special care. However, if you are trying to grow this in a flower garden, be ready to pull unwanted plants! Or, use an in-ground pot to contain the spread!
If grown in a ‘wild’ area, American Germander will require no maintenance. In a flower garden, pulling unwanted plants or containing the spread should be considered the primary maintenance.
How to Establish American Germander from Seed
Growing American Germnader from seed is pretty easy. The tiny seeds require light to germinate as well as 60 days cold moist stratification. So, winter sowing is probably the best method for growing some flowers.
But, collect seed from dried seed heads in the late summer/early fall. Then, just sprinkle seed in a disturbed area, or on top of the soil in a pot. Press the seeds firmly into the top, and put the pot somewhere where it will receive morning sun.
This would be a great plant for a rain garden, as long as you don’t mind it spreading. Or, just plant it in some old 3 gallon pots with the bottom cut out of it. Then the rhizomes won’t spread much.
Canadian Germanader will be visited by bumblebees, honey bees, leaf-cutter bees, and many more. There are other pollinators that will visit including skipper butterflies and pollinating flies.
Pests and diseases
Rabbits and Deer leave this plant alone due to the strong taste of the leaves. But it can be affected negatively by powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is more common in moist environments, which American Germander prefers. So, make sure there is ample airflow to prevent this fungus.
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