Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven'

Common Name: Jacob's ladder 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Lavender blue
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Deer


Best grown in moist, humusy, well-drained soil in part shade. Tolerates full sun in cool summer climates. Although technically rhizomatous, plants do not creep as the common name somewhat erroneously suggests. Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Polemonium reptans, commonly called creeping Jacob's ladder, is a Missouri native wildflower that occurs in rich, moist woods and along streams throughout the State except for the far northeastern counties. Typically grows in a mound to 12" (less frequently to 18") tall. Features light blue, bell-shaped flowers (to 3/4" long) in loose, terminal clusters appearing on sprawling, weak stems in mid to late spring. Pinnately compound leaves with oval leaflets are arranged like the rungs of a ladder (hence the common name). Sometimes also commonly called Greek valerian.

Genus name comes from the Greek name polemonion originally applied to a medicinal plant associated with Polemon of Cappadocia.

Specific epithet means creeping.

'Stairway to Heaven' was discovered in a group of Polemonium reptans seedlings that were growing in a nursery in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was patented by William Cullina who chose it for its longevity and was introduced by the New England Wildflower Society. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ forms a low mound of green leaves with white margins that are tinged with pink in spring or cooler weather. It has pale lavender blue, bell-shaped flowers with white stamens. It grows 1 to 1.5 ft. tall and wide. United States Plant Patent PP#15,187 awarded September 28, 2004.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Best in partially shaded areas of the rock garden, naturalized areas, woodland gardens or native plant gardens.