Jacob’s Ladder

Photo of Jacob's ladder plant showing leaves and flowers
Scientific Name
Polemonium reptans
Polemoniaceae (phloxes)

A low, weak-stemmed, often sprawling, herbaceous perennial. Flowers in loose terminal clusters, bell-shaped, ¾ inch long, 5-lobed, with short tubes, light blue to blue lavender. Stamens 5, with white anthers; style tip divided into three parts. Blooms April–June. Leaves alternate, pinnately (“feather”) compound with smooth, ovate, opposite leaflets. The basal leaves are on long petioles.


Height: to 15 inches.

Where To Find

Statewide, except for the far northeastern counties.

Usually found in moist, wooded bottomlands, near streams, or at the bases of slopes and in wooded valleys. Jacob’s ladder is a good native plant for flower gardens; it prefers rich, medium-moist soil and partial shade. Make sure you obtain plants from an ethical native wildflower nursery, and not from the wild.

This colorful flower also offers the gardener interesting, ladderlike leaves. The foliage gave it its common name, directly or indirectly referencing the story from Genesis 28.10-17: “And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.”

Many types of bees are attracted to the nectar and pollen, and so are butterflies, skippers, moths, and flies.

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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!