Snakehead, Leaning Shield Flower, Miesmaulchen or Chelone obliqua – the profusely flowering perennial has numerous names. Whatever you call it, the marsh plant is always a pretty eye-catcher when cared for properly. Whether you want it to grow along the pond edge or thrive in the flower bed, there are a few factors that are critical to snakehead cultivation. Because the Chelone obliqua only forgives mistakes in care for a short time and only to a limited extent. If you want to enjoy the plant for a long time, you have to pay attention to a few things. Nevertheless, the Miesmäulchen is easily suitable for inexperienced hobby gardeners.


For the snakehead, the sunnier it is, the wetter it must be. The wetter it is, the lighter it needs to be. So if the Chelone obliqua is on the bank of the garden pond, right next to a watercourse or above high groundwater, it must not be overshadowed. On the other hand, it should be a little drier at a location in the light shade.

In addition, the size must be taken into account. At 60 cm to 120 cm, the snakehead is not a giant, but it can multiply profusely by forming runners and self-seeding. If you don’t want the pussy mouth to be everywhere in your garden, you should put a stop to it. Root barriers, lawn edges and partially buried buckets are suitable for this. If this is not taken into account, it must be weeded or divided annually. However, the Chelone obliqua is ideal for bare areas that are to be populated.


The ideal substrate for the snakehead is moist, rich in humus and nutrients and has a neutral pH. However, slightly basic or acidic values ​​do not bother the Crooked Shield Flower either. High-quality potting soil enriched with well-rotted compost is suitable for this. Appropriate garden soil can of course also be used.
If the soil tends to dry out, clay or clay powder can be mixed in. Also suitable are:

  • Coarse grain diatomaceous earth or kieselguhr
  • Coconut fiber
  • perlite or expanded clay

These additions also prevent compaction of the soil.

Note: Peat also stores a lot of water and is therefore basically useful. It should be noted, however, that this is anything but environmentally friendly.


The snakehead can be planted in spring, around April to May. Since the Chelone obliqua is very robust against cold, they usually do not bother later frosts.
The only thing to note is that it must be kept moist at first. However, watering is only done on frost-free days.

Culture in the bucket

Due to its limited height, the snakehead is also ideal as a container plant. The maintenance required here is only slightly greater than for a location in a bed or on a body of water.

The following applies: the larger the bucket, the less work. If the Chelone obliqua has a large amount of substrate available, it does not have to be watered as often and is more robust even in winter. A layer of mulch, coarse gravel or stones is recommended for additional protection against evaporation and insulation. This is applied as thickly as possible to the substrate and thus also reduces weed pressure. The formation of foothills is also reduced. This is good for at least postponing necessary divisions or pot changes.

Apart from this measure and preventing drying out, nothing has to be considered when cultivating in a bucket. With sufficient moisture, the plant can stand in the blazing sun and on the south side. Even heavy rain or wind have nothing to do with it.


Depending on the light conditions and the nature of the soil, watering the snakehead will require more or less effort. On the other hand, it should be noted that the earth must be wetter when the sun is strong and temperatures are high than when it is mild in the light shade. The substrate must never dry out, which the Chelone obliqua quickly acknowledges with brown leaves. Depending on the weather, the intolerance to a lack of water also leads to the death of the plant within a very short time. Temporary waterlogging, on the other hand, has little effect on the shield flower.
If you want to reduce the risk of this, apply a layer of mulch to the soil. This measure reduces evaporation. A location directly on the water is also recommended.

Tip: Soft water is ideal for watering the snake head, but hard tap water will not harm it if the soil is acidic.


In the first year and in fresh soil, additional fertilization of the snake head can be dispensed with. From the second year, the supply of nutrients makes sense. Suitable fertilizers for the Chelone obliqua are:

  • Compost
  • Untreated pond water
  • nettle manure
  • Liquid fertilizer

Natural remedies in particular are ideal for the pussies. They are inexpensive and require little effort, and they do not pollute the substrate or the environment. For example, it is sufficient to use nettle manure once a month from April to September or to hook some compost into the surface of the earth in spring. If you have a pond filter or clean the water, you can even use silt and algae as fertilizer for the snake head. However, only if no chemicals are used here.

If the decision is made to use a commercially available complete fertilizer for flowering plants, this should be added to the irrigation water every two to four weeks during the growth phase.


The snakehead does not need a topiary, but it makes sense to cut it back after flowering or in spring for visual reasons.

This can be done in a radical way. The old shoots should be cut off to just above the ground.
When choosing the timing, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider. If you prune the Chelone obliqua right after flowering has peaked, around September, this will prevent self-seeding. However, the pussy mouth can still be a decorative eye-catcher in the garden well into winter and serve as food for bees. If you cut the shield flower early, you have to do without it. If the measure is not taken until early spring, before the first sprouting occurs, self-sowing is likely. But the snake head is longer than garden ornaments. In addition, it can also store energy later in the year. The result is vigorous growth and often stronger flowering.


The snakehead actually takes over the propagation by itself. On the one hand, it forms offshoots that can be left on the mother plant or separated. Second, the flowers self-seed when given the opportunity.

Hobby gardeners can also use both options to propagate the plant in a targeted manner. For propagation via foothills, the young shoots are first allowed to grow around the mother plant. At a size of 20 cm, they can be separated from the adult Chelone obliqua by turning a spade and then relocated. The right time for this is late spring.

Propagation via Mismäuelchen seeds is just as easy. The best way to do this is to leave the flowers on the plant over the winter or remove them in early winter. When the fruiting bodies open, the fine seeds can be shaken out with little effort. They are sown in the desired location in late spring. The seeds are light germinators. They are therefore not covered with substrate at all, but only pressed onto the moist soil. They also need temperatures of at least 20 °C for germination. It can therefore make sense to bring it forward at home. For successful germination and vigorous growth, the seed should always be kept moist and placed as brightly as possible.
Planting the young plants outdoors is best done when the temperature here is at least 18 °C. A size of 15 cm to 20 cm is also optimal.


The American snake head is very robust against cold. Planted freely in the garden, winter protection is not necessary for it. It only becomes problematic at temperatures below -25 °C.
If it is cultivated in a bucket, it is sufficient to place it in a sheltered area in mild winters. In harsher climates, you should insulate the planter at least a little. To do this, the bucket is placed on a pallet or styrofoam and wrapped with garden fleece.

Even during the winter, the substrate must not dry out completely. If necessary, it should therefore be watered sparingly on frost-free days. However, the plant must not be fertilized.

Tip: If you want to avoid the expense of insulation, you can also overwinter the snakehead in the dark and in an unheated room in the house.

repotting and converting

Relocating the snake head is only necessary if the location is unsuitable. If the conditions here are right and there is at least occasional fertilization, the plant will thrive without any problems in the long run.

In the tub culture, the substrate should be changed every two to three years, even with good care and nutrient supply. Here the earth simply uses up faster. In addition, due to the vigorous growth and the formation of runners, more space or a reduction of the Chelone obliqua is needed. If you don’t want to or can’t switch to a larger bucket, you should cut off runners every time you change the substrate. The easiest way to do this is to remove all of the soil from the roots first. Completely removing the substrate and rinsing off the roots are also useful precautionary measures. Any existing pests and germs are eliminated with this measure. The risk of damage and infection is therefore reduced.

Typical pests, diseases and care mistakes

The snakehead is robust and resistant to diseases and pests. Not even snails are interested in the Chelone obliqua.

Basically, the perennial can only become dangerous if there are serious care mistakes. Typical mistakes in shield flower culture include:

  • A dark but wet location
  • Blazing sun on dry ground
  • Insufficient humidity
  • Nutrient-poor substrate
  • Persistent waterlogging

If you choose the location carefully, keep the soil moist but avoid moisture and fertilize sufficiently, you can enjoy the pussy mouth for a long time.

Caution: bee pasture

Although the snake head is not poisonous, it is a bee pasture. Allergy sufferers should therefore not plant the Chelone obliqua too close to doors, windows or heavily frequented areas in the garden. For natural and animal-friendly gardens, however, the plant is a wonderful enrichment.

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