As if the sky were their goal, the dainty flower heads of the native wildflower thrive like a ladder up deciduous stems. Consequently, the plant genus Jakobsleiter respectively Himmelsleiter was baptized. If the knowledgeable hobby gardener assigns them a sunny, damp spot, Polemoniums express their thanks with light blue, white, violet or lilac-colored flower bells. Among the 20 to 30 species of the Jacob’s ladder genus and its pretty varieties, there are also specialists with a seductive scent or decorative, variegated foliage. The more accurate the choice of location when planting fulfills the wishes of the enchanting spring flower, the easier it is to care for it and sometimes allows another bloom in autumn.


The sun-loving Jacob’s ladder doesn’t like dry soil or a shady location. She strives for an optimal supply of moisture without her roots being permanently in the water. Consequently, it is certainly no exaggeration to state that the precise choice of location accounts for at least half of the way to successful cultivation. Any compromise is made at the expense of magnificent blooms.

  • A sunny to partially shaded position is ideal.
  • Well drained, moist to fresh potting soil.
  • Gladly humus and particularly nutritious.

The majority of the species and varieties of the meadow herb plant also thrive in tubs or balcony boxes with a stunning charm. Commercial potting soil based on compost is a suitable substrate for the Polemonium.


Wild perennials, such as the ladder to heaven, are ideally planted in spring (March/April) or in autumn (September/October). At this point in time, the early young plants either have no leaves or the foliage has already withered and does not give a confidence-inspiring impression. Experienced hobby gardeners, on the other hand, do not let this irritate them. You are aware that a strong root ball is important so that a healthy, vital Jacob’s ladder can develop from it in spring. Autumn planting offers the advantage that the roots have already largely established themselves in the still warm soil when winter arrives. As a result, Polemonium start the new vegetation period with a significant growth advantage compared to the specimens planted in spring.

  • At the designated place, loosen the soil into fine crumbs.
  • Remove all weeds, roots and stones.
  • Place the potted root ball in water until no more air bubbles rise.
  • Create a planting hole that has 1.5 times the volume of the root ball.
  • Enrich the excavation with garden compost and some horn shavings.
  • Plant the now potted Jacob’s ladder and water generously.

A soil that is too sandy is enhanced by the addition of clay. A compacted soil should be given a more permeable consistency with sand. Where there is a risk of waterlogging, it is advisable to lay out a drainage system made of gravel, perlite or small fragments of clay in the planting pit. The optimal planting distance is determined by the growth height of the species or varieties, as these vary noticeably from 20 cm to 80 cm.

Prefer Jacob’s ladder yourself

Hobby gardeners who enjoy raising their new plants themselves do not have to buy them and sow them themselves. This approach is not only cheaper, but ultimately conveys the satisfaction of having cultivated the new perennials in the garden from scratch.

  • Fill seed pots or a seed tray with a peat-sand mixture or seed compost.
  • Distribute the egg-shaped or elliptical seeds and sieve over the substrate as thick as the seeds.
  • Press down with a wooden board and moisten with water from the spray bottle.
  • Cover with glass or cling film and keep in a bright, warm place.

Germination occurs within 2 weeks. During this time, you only have to make sure that the substrate does not dry out. The seedlings are ready for isolation when more leaves form in addition to the two cotyledons. By the time of planting, the ladders to heaven should have rooted their pots well.

Note: Direct sowing is rarely crowned with success. The dangers of weather conditions, pecking birds and voracious snails are too numerous.


After the decision for a qualified location and the planting, the Jacob’s ladder requires little attention from the hobby gardener. Maintenance is limited to the following aspects.

watering and fertilizing

A meadow herb is dependent on an adequate supply of water, because the plant hardly endures a longer period of drought. In terms of nutrient supply, the wild perennial is rather modest.

  • Regular watering is essential.
  • On hot summer days, water mornings and evenings as needed.
  • If possible, don’t water over the blossoms and leaves, but directly to the roots.
  • An organic-mineral starter fertilization in March is well received.
  • In the course of growth, repeatedly spoil the ladder to heaven with compost.

Polemonium in the planter dry out faster than in the bed. The ‘thumb test’ tells you when the next dose of water is required. Since compost can hardly be used as fertilizer in the bucket or balcony box, the use of liquid fertilizer for flowering plants is a good idea. It is important to note that fertilizer preparations are not applied to the dry root ball, but are always poured beforehand.

To cut

With the help of the secateurs, the hobby gardener has a supporting influence on the growth and flowering of his Jacob’s ladder. In this context, a distinction is made between 3 pruning measures, which are carried out in a chronologically sensible sequence during the vegetation period:

If the garden lover takes the time to regularly cut out withered blossoms and leaves from the perennial, this promotes vitality and the willingness to bloom.

  • The flowering period of polemonium is noticeably lengthened.
  • Undesirable self-sowing is effectively prevented.
  • Cutting out contributes to maintaining the purity of the variety.

Remount pruning
Immediately after flowering, the hobby gardener cuts the Jacob’s ladder back to 5 cm or 10 cm. At the same time, it removes all visibly diseased leaves. In the next step, he carries out an additional fertilization, which corresponds to the start fertilization in spring, after he has previously watered the ladder to heaven thoroughly. The effort should be worth it:

  • If all other general conditions are right, a second bloom will appear in autumn.
  • A perennial that was previously suffering is now sprouting up fresh and healthy.

Post- flowering pruning
One last time before the winter break, the wild perennial is radically pruned to just above ground level. It is thus prepared for the cold season and does not require any further protective measures. Only if self-sowing is desired is pruning done in late winter on a frost-free day.

  • The service life is extended by years.
  • Self-sowing is subject to targeted control.
  • An effective prophylaxis against fungal diseases and wilt symptoms.

The extent to which the busy hobby gardener considers cutting out and remounting is up to him to decide. Of course, he should not do without pruning after flowering, because otherwise the Jacob’s ladder will prove to be very short-lived.


In contrast to Jacob’s ladders in the bed, the perennial in bucket culture requires winter protection. In the narrow space of a planter, there is a risk that the root ball will freeze through even in light permafrost. Moving to a frost-free winter quarters effectively prevents such misery. Alternatively, it is advisable to place the bucket or flower box on an insulating base, such as wood or polystyrene. A warm cover made of bubble wrap, jute or garden fleece protects against icy winds. At the same time, a thick layer of leaves or straw serves as a warm blanket for the root ball.

Given the early budding, any winter protection should be removed when temperatures are consistently around 0° Celsius and above. Otherwise, condensation will form quickly, especially under the intense winter sun, which will lead to the formation of rot.

Tip: Watering the moisture-loving Jacob’s ladder a little on frost-free days in winter with little snow prevents it from drying out. In the frozen ground, the roots rarely get enough water on their own.


The most common form of propagation for Polemonium is by division. At the latest after 2 to 3 years it is advisable to rejuvenate the Jacob’s ladder in this way.

  • The gardener digs up the mother plant just before the new shoots.
  • With a knife or spade, he divides the root ball into the smallest possible pieces.
  • Each piece of plant has at least 2 shoots.

The experienced gardener does not miss this opportunity and removes a possibly bald center as well as all diseased and dried-up root pieces. At the same time, the ladder to heaven experiences a rejuvenation, which is reflected in a long lifespan and an explicit willingness to flower. The perennials obtained in this way are immediately planted in the new location, watered well and cultivated like adult specimens.

Note: Experience has shown that small plant segments sprout much more quickly and vigorously after division than larger pieces.

Attractive species and varieties

In view of the beautiful species and magnificent varieties, the Jacob’s ladder makes the creative hobby gardener spoiled for choice. The following list gives an insight into the diversity of this likeable plant genus.

Jacob’s ladder – ladder to heaven (Polemonium caeruleum)
Unfortunately, this native classic with sky-blue flowers only rarely thrives in the wild. The Jacob’s ladder is all the more indispensable in a private ornamental garden, along a stream or in a cottage garden.

  • Growth height 60 cm to 80 cm.
  • Flowering from June to July

Pink Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium Hybride ‘Lambrook Mauve’)
A floriferous variety with lilac bell-shaped flowers above feathery, rich green leaves. With a bit of luck, a targeted post-flowering cut will support a second flowering in September.

  • Growth height 20 cm to 50 cm.
  • Flowering in May and September.

Himmelsleiter ‘Firmament’ (Polemonium reptans ‘Firmament’)
If the garden lover wants a flowering ground cover, this variety is the reliable choice. Thanks to the underground rhizomes, ‘Firmament’ slowly but surely covers the bed with light blue flowers.

  • Growth height 20 cm to 40 cm.
  • Flowering from May to June.

White-colored Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’)
This variety presents a striking appearance with blue flowers over variegated leaves and also accepts a shady location.

  • Growth height 30 cm to 40 cm.
  • Early flowering from April to May.

Even in the castle gardens of the Middle Ages, the Jacob’s ladder heralded the beautiful season with a cheerful blaze of colour. To this day, the meadow herb spreads the charming serenity of a tried-and-tested wildflower in cottage gardens, at the edge of the garden pond and in perennial beds. As long as it is provided with sufficient water, nutrients and sunlight and the ladder to heaven receives its autumn pruning, it dresses in a new, easy-care bloom every year.

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