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Jacob's Ladder

Polemonium caeruleum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Polemoniaceae (Jacob's Ladder)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, rocky places, swamps, waterside, woodland.

Blue, 5 petals
Jacob's Ladder displays clusters of small, bell-shaped flowers that boast a charming shade of blue or lavender. The blooms, which appear in late spring to early summer, add a delightful touch to garden borders, meadows, and woodland settings.
Jacob's Ladder produces small, rounded fruits, often referred to as seed capsules. These capsules contain the plant's seeds and contribute to its reproductive cycle. The fruiting stage typically follows the blooming period, and the seeds play a role in the propagation and spread of Jacob's Ladder in its natural habitat.
Jacob's Ladder is characterized by pinnate leaves, arranged in a ladder-like formation along the stem. The leaves are compound, featuring multiple leaflets arranged on opposite sides of the central stem. This distinctive leaf structure contributes to the plant's common name. The green foliage adds to the overall attractiveness of the plant, providing an appealing backdrop for its clusters of blue or lavender flowers.
The flowers of Jacob's Ladder emit a mild and pleasant fragrance. While not overpowering, the subtle scent adds to the overall allure of the plant. The fragrance, though delicate, can contribute to the sensory experience when encountering Jacob's Ladder in gardens, meadows, or woodland settings.
Other Names:
American Great Valerian, Charity, Greek Valerian, Ladder to Heaven, Make-bate.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Polemonium caeruleum, commonly known as Jacob's ladder or Greek valerian, is a perennial flowering plant in the phlox family. It is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It is an herbaceous perennial with a clump-forming habit. The leaves are fern-like, and it produces tall spikes of blue, pink or white flowers in the spring and early summer. The plant is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, including both sun and shade and a variety of soil types. It is often used in gardens and landscaping for its attractive foliage and flowers, and it is also popular as a cut flower. It is relatively low maintenance and can be propagated by seed or by dividing the roots.


Jacob's Ladder, or Polemonium caeruleum, is a beautiful and delicate plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It belongs to the Polemoniaceae family, which includes around 300 species of herbs and shrubs. The plant is named after the biblical story of Jacob's Ladder, where Jacob saw a ladder that connected heaven and earth. The plant's tall stems with delicate, ladder-like leaves are said to resemble the ladder in Jacob's dream.

Appearance and Characteristics

Jacob's Ladder is a hardy, perennial plant that can grow up to 60 cm in height. It has a clump-forming habit and produces a basal rosette of leaves from which the tall, slender stems emerge. The leaves are pinnate, which means they have several small, ladder-like leaflets arranged along the stem, giving them a delicate and intricate appearance. The flowers are bell-shaped and blue-purple in color, and they bloom in late spring or early summer. The plant is also known for its sweet scent, which attracts bees and other pollinators.


Jacob's Ladder is a relatively easy plant to grow and is well-suited to a variety of growing conditions. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade but can tolerate full sun as long as the soil is kept moist. It is best propagated by division or from seed, and it can be planted in the spring or fall.


Jacob's Ladder is primarily grown as an ornamental plant and is often used in cottage gardens and woodland settings. It looks stunning when planted en masse or as a backdrop to other flowering plants. The plant's delicate appearance makes it an excellent choice for border edging or as a container plant. Additionally, the plant is sometimes used in herbal medicine to treat respiratory problems and as a diuretic.


As mentioned, Jacob's Ladder is named after the biblical story of Jacob's dream, where he saw a ladder that connected heaven and earth. In Christianity, the plant is sometimes associated with the idea of a spiritual journey and is said to represent the journey of the soul as it ascends toward God. In other cultures, the plant is associated with inspiration, creativity, and growth.

In conclusion, Jacob's Ladder is a beautiful and fascinating plant that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. Whether grown for its ornamental value or for its symbolic significance, this plant is a true gem in any garden or landscape. Its delicate appearance and sweet scent make it a favorite of gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike.

More Information

Jacob's Ladder has a rich history in folklore and mythology. In addition to its association with the biblical story of Jacob's dream, the plant has been mentioned in various legends and stories throughout history. For example, in Norse mythology, Jacob's Ladder was believed to be the bridge between the mortal world and the realm of the gods. In medieval Europe, the plant was thought to have magical powers and was used in various love potions and spells.

Apart from its cultural significance, Jacob's Ladder has some interesting scientific properties as well. The plant contains several chemical compounds, including saponins, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which have been studied for their potential medicinal properties. Some studies have shown that the plant may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor effects.

However, it's important to note that the plant can also be toxic in large quantities. The alkaloids in the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms if ingested in high doses. Therefore, it's important to exercise caution when handling the plant and to keep it out of reach of children and pets.

In terms of conservation, Jacob's Ladder is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction. However, like many native plant species, it is facing threats from habitat loss and degradation, climate change, and invasive species. Gardeners can help support the conservation of Jacob's Ladder by planting it in their gardens and by using environmentally sustainable gardening practices.

In addition to its traditional uses in herbal medicine, Jacob's Ladder has also been studied for its potential therapeutic effects in modern medicine. For example, a study published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2011 found that an extract of the plant's roots had anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects in animal models of arthritis.

Another study published in the journal Planta Medica in 2010 found that the plant's flavonoids had antioxidant and neuroprotective effects in a cell culture model of Parkinson's disease. These findings suggest that Jacob's Ladder may have potential as a natural remedy for these and other conditions, although more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans.

Aside from its medicinal properties, Jacob's Ladder also has some practical uses in the garden. The plant's delicate appearance and sweet scent make it a popular choice for cut flower arrangements, and it can also be used as a natural dye for textiles.

Finally, Jacob's Ladder is also a popular subject for artists and photographers. Its intricate leaves and beautiful flowers make it a fascinating and visually striking subject, and it has been featured in numerous works of art throughout history.

Jacob's Ladder is also known for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. In China, the plant is called "dou kui" and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, cough, and digestive problems. According to traditional Chinese medicine, Jacob's Ladder has a cooling and moistening effect on the body, which makes it useful for treating conditions associated with excess heat and dryness.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Jacob's Ladder has also been used in culinary applications. The young leaves and shoots of the plant are edible and can be used in salads or as a cooked vegetable. The flowers of the plant are also edible and can be used to garnish dishes or made into tea.

Jacob's Ladder is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soil types and conditions. It prefers well-drained soil and partial shade, but can also tolerate full sun or heavy shade. The plant typically blooms in late spring or early summer, producing clusters of delicate blue or purple flowers that resemble a ladder.

Jacob's Ladder is also a popular plant for attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the garden. Its flowers are rich in nectar and pollen, making it a valuable food source for these important insects.

If you're interested in growing Jacob's Ladder in your own garden, there are several varieties available that vary in size, color, and growth habit. Some popular cultivars include 'Stairway to Heaven', which has variegated leaves, and 'Brise d'Anjou', which has pink flowers. When planting Jacob's Ladder, be sure to give it plenty of space to grow, as the plant can reach up to two feet in height and can spread out up to 18 inches.

Overall, Jacob's Ladder is a beautiful and versatile plant that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether grown for its medicinal properties, culinary uses, or ornamental value, this plant is a wonderful addition to any garden or landscape.

30 Facts About Jacob's Ladder

  1. Scientific Name: Jacob's Ladder is commonly known as Polemonium caeruleum.
  2. Native Habitat: It is native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia.
  3. Common Names: Other names include Greek valerian, Charity, and Sky Pilot.
  4. Appearance: Jacob's Ladder features clusters of small, bell-shaped blue flowers.
  5. Leaf Structure: The plant has pinnate leaves, arranged like the rungs of a ladder, hence the name.
  6. Hardiness: It is a hardy perennial plant that can withstand colder temperatures.
  7. Growing Conditions: Prefers well-drained soil and partial shade, but can tolerate full sun.
  8. Height: Typically grows to a height of 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm).
  9. Blooming Period: Flowers typically bloom in late spring to early summer.
  10. Attracts Pollinators: Jacob's Ladder is attractive to bees and butterflies.
  11. Cultural Significance: In folklore, the plant is associated with superstitions and medicinal properties.
  12. Medicinal Uses: Traditionally used for respiratory issues and as a diuretic.
  13. Perennial Growth: Returns each year, with some varieties having a spreading habit.
  14. Variety Colors: Flower colors can range from blue to lavender and white.
  15. Hybrid Cultivars: There are cultivated varieties with varying flower forms and colors.
  16. Garden Borders: Often used as an ornamental plant in garden borders.
  17. Low Maintenance: Generally low-maintenance and easy to grow.
  18. Adaptable Soil: Can tolerate a range of soil types but prefers slightly acidic to neutral.
  19. Symbolism: The plant symbolizes peace and comfort in the language of flowers.
  20. Culinary Use: While not commonly consumed, some varieties are edible and used in salads.
  21. Propagation: Can be propagated by seeds or division of clumps.
  22. Drought Tolerance: Displays some drought tolerance once established.
  23. Fragrance: Some varieties emit a mild fragrance, adding to their allure.
  24. Cottage Garden Favorite: Often found in cottage-style gardens for its charming appearance.
  25. Fertilization: Typically does not require heavy fertilization.
  26. Pest Resistance: Generally resistant to common garden pests.
  27. Container Gardening: Suitable for container gardening in appropriate-sized pots.
  28. Landscape Uses: Effective in rock gardens, woodland gardens, and naturalized settings.
  29. Symbol of Remembrance: In some cultures, it is planted as a remembrance flower.
  30. Landscape Association: May be paired with other spring-blooming perennials for a vibrant display.


Jacob's Ladder filmed near Ravenstonedale in Cumbria on the 16th June 2023.


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