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Scutellaria incana – Hoary Skullcap

Hoary skullcap, Scutellaria incana, is also known as downy skullcap. It a native perennial widely adaptable in the garden. Hoary skullcap is often specified as being a sun-loving plant, yet I have seen it flowering beautifully in one of the most challenging garden scenarios possible: heavy shade with dry soil.

hoary skullcap - native plants
Scutellaria incana – hoary skullcap – native perennial gardening.

Hoary skullcap has a relatively long bloom period and is a superb addition to cottage gardens, prairie gardens, and meadows or wildflower gardens.

Hoary skullcap is easy to grow and highly adaptable. Scutellaria incana is a drought tolerant native plant and a good choice for xeric gardens.

Hoary skullcap can grow in conditions ranging from sun to heavy shade and is at home in clay soils. Bloom period ranges from June to September, depending on your garden’s location. I have seen it blooming as early as late May in Georgia. Flowers range from deep purple to light purple and look a bit like restrained versions of foxglove.

If you live in deer-laden woods, watch out, as deer will eat downy skullcap. It is from the mint family (Lamiaceae). Leaves are medium-green and growth habit is somewhat spiky. The flowers are borne on racemes. The square stems are the source of the names hoary or downy skullcap. They are covered with small white hairs (see photos).

downy skullcap
The stems below the flowers have a white sheen – these are the small hairs that are the reason Scutellaria incana has the common names downy skullcap and hoary skullcap.

Scientific name: Scutellaria incana
Common name(s): hoary skullcap, downy skullcap
Plant type: herbaceous perennial
Height: 18″-42″
Native status: Scutellaria incana is native to much of the eastern half of North America.
Winter hardiness:  5-8
Of note: Highly adaptable native plant for the garden. Can withstand drought, heavy clay. Prefers sun but blooms in considerable shade. Prefers soils with acidic pH. Good choice for xeric gardens.
Related Links: Hoary scullcap at Illinois Wildflowers, Scutellaria incana at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center

Scutellaria incana
Downy skullcap in heavy shade