Chelone Plant Growing & Care Guide for Gardeners

In this Gardener's HQ guide, we'll explore cultivating Chelone plants in your garden, indoor spaces, and other settings.

Snake Head, Turtle Head, & Balmony: Cultivation & Garden Use

The Chelone plant is a hardy perennial.

It grows in height from 90 cm to 1.8 m, and flowers in late summer with white or pink flowers atop stiff stems.

Its height makes it an ideal plant for growing at the back of borders.

Common names for this plant include Snake head, Balmony, and Turtle head.

Chelone glabra
Chelone glabra by Superior National Forest.

chelone obliqua
Chelone obliqua (Purple Turtleheads) by John B.

Chelone Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Snake Head, Turtle Head, Balmony.
Family: Plantaginaceae.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 36 to 72 inches (90 to 180 cm).
Native: Northern America.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9.
Flowers: Towards the end of summer.
Flower Details: White, pink. Flowers have a similar shape to that of turtles.
Foliage: Herbaceous. Dark green. Opposite. Simple. Oblong. Toothed.
Sow Outside: Seeds: Cover. Following the last frost. Spacing 8 to 14 inches (20 to 35 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: two weeks to two months. Temperature 60 to 65°F (16 to 18°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost or in autumn.
Requirements: Full sunlight or light shade. Soil pH 5.0 to 7.0. Rich soil, moist soil. Chelone is best grown in an area that has good air flow in order to prevent mildew. Regular watering. Light spring and autumn leaf mold mulch. Cut back to the ground once flowering has completed. Propagate: by taking cuttings in the spring or summer. Or by dividing at the beginning of spring in cold areas, or autumn in warmer areas.
Miscellaneous: Food plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly; sawflies; and Flea beatles. The plant is also attractive to deer. Many uses in traditional medicine.

How to Grow Chelone plants such as Snake head

If planning to grow Snake head / Chelone outdoors, then it should be sown on the surface and lightly covered after the last frost of Spring.

Plants should grow in a sunny or partially shaded area of the garden that has a rich and moist soil of pH 5 to 7.

When starting indoors then the process should start about 7 or 8 weeks before they are to be put out; they can be transplanted either in the early spring or the autumn.

Seedlings typically take about two to seven weeks to germinate at about 15 degrees Centigrade.

The seedlings should be planted out with a spacing of about 20 to 30cm.

Caring for Chelone in the Garden

Once growing, Chelone plants should be watered regularly; following flowering they should be cut down to the ground.

If more plants are required then cuttings can be taken in the late spring or summer.

Common Questions

How many members does the Chelone genus have?

The Chelone genus consists of about four species.

Do members of Chelone make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Absolutely! Chelone species are hardy perennials that provide late-summer color and attract butterflies, making them an excellent addition to any garden.

Which Chelone species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most commonly cultivated species is Chelone obliqua, also known as Pink Turtlehead, due to its attractive flowers.

Are members of the Chelone plant genus fragrant?

While Chelone plants are not particularly known for their fragrance, their vibrant flowers and foliage more than compensate for this.

What is the perfect location to grow Chelone?

Chelone prefers partially shaded locations with moist, well-drained soil, making them perfect for woodland or waterside gardens.

Is Chelone invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, Chelone species are not considered invasive in the USA.

How do I remove Chelone plants from my garden?

If you need to remove Chelone, simply dig up the entire plant ensuring to get as much of the root system as possible to prevent regrowth.


The Chelone genus, commonly known as Turtlehead, belongs to the Plantaginaceae family and is native to North America. These perennial plants are recognized for their hooded, snapdragon-like flowers that bloom in summer and autumn, resembling the head of a turtle.

To cultivate Chelone, plant them in a sunny to partially shaded location with moist, well-drained soil. They can be grown from seeds or by division. Regular watering is necessary, as they prefer consistently moist conditions. They are often used in wet gardens or along water edges.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Chelone plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ Plantaginaceae growing guides: How to grow Purple Bell Vine and Veronica plants.