Mystery Skullcaps

Here in North Texas most gardeners are familiar with the ubiquitous Cherry skullcap, scutellaria suffrutescens. It’s such a popular ornamental here that it’s also known as Texas skullcap or Pink Texas skullcap.

As of this writing, I have two Cherry Skullcaps adorning my front yard. The second, I believe was a division from the main plant which is now about 8 years old. Both plants took a long time to bounce back from the hack job I performed but are doing quite well nowadays.

I also have a Violet Cloud or Dark Violet skullcap. I suspect I’ve had both types at one time and they both performed similarly, very robust and heat tolerant. They also reached a monstrous size given that they were planted atop driplines, nowhere near the 1×1 foot advertised height and width. I’ve killed one after moving it to a different bed. The current specimen is about 2 years old.

I have since added 3 species of scutellaria currently thriving in my backyard beds.

Scutellaria resinosa Smoky Hills: a heat loving plant that could likely be useful in xeriscaping. It prefers dry conditions and is situated on a west facing wall where it survives the brutal summer sun.

Scutellaria wrightii: a woody skullcap similar in appearance to Dark Violet, with which it shares a bed. I would almost consider them identical in bloom and behavior were it not for the shrubby, sprawl of scutellaria wrightii. But it’s only a year old and may need time to catch up with it’s neighbor.

Scutellaria ovata: heartleaf skullcap is an herbaceous perennial and said to prefer part shade. However in my experience it can take full sun with average watering. It spreads via rhizomes and thrives quite happily on the driplines where they are planted. Almost invasive if left unchecked, but easy to yank out as needed.

Then I count two more mystery skullcaps in my garden that I have trouble identifying. I suspect they are suffrutescens hybrids of some kind.

The lavender-blue flowered skullcap shares the habit of Cherry and Dark Violet.

The second skullcap is finer leafed, much more ground hugging–staying well under 10 inches in height. It puts out a profusion of yellow cream flowers especially in spring. It makes for a very tidy border or edging plant and seems to colonize along driplines. It’s been labeled in local nurseries as white skullcap, but I think yellow is more accurate.

Due to their performance here in North Texas skullcaps are a great addition to the gardeners palette. I have added a few more species of scutellaria to my wishlist in hopes of increasing the variety of ornamentals in my garden.