Background: Plants experience severe physiological stress from heavy metal pollution caused by improper discarding of the industrial wastes. Hexavalent chromium [Cr (VI)] is one of the major heavy metal pollutants in India and is present particularly in some regions where Plantago ovata grows to a great extent. This study was aimed at finding the effects of Cr (VI) on P. ovata and manoeuvres of the plant to combat such heavy metal exposure in vitro. Methods: Potassium dichromate was used as a source of Cr (VI) to induce the heavy metal stress. Range of Cr (VI) sublethal doses [0 mM (control), 0.1 mM, 0.3 mM, 0.5 mM, 1 mM, 1.5 mM and1.8 mM] was used to observe its effect on the plant. The seeds of the plant were grown on sucrose-agar media with different concentrations of potassium dichromate, and ten-day old seedlings were then harvested and examined. Results: The germination rate reduced below 50% at 1.9 mM Cr (VI) concentration and thus, 0 mM-1.8 mM concentration ranges were found to be suitable for sublethal dose. Morphological changes namely, reduction of the shoot-root length and multiple root development were caused by Cr (VI) in a dose-dependent manner. The plant showed elevated responses against Cr (VI), up to 1.5 mM (10 days treated) in terms of increasing accumulation of secondary metabolites like polyphenols, chlorophyll content (chlorophyll a, b and total chlorophyll), carotenoids and total antioxidant activity. DPPH radical scavenging activity along with malondialdehyde (MDA) content was not significantly elevated with the increase in Cr (VI) concentration indicating that the lipid peroxidation rate within the tissue was low. Phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) and polyphenol oxidase (PPO) gene expressions were upregulated by 1 mM Cr (VI) concentration, which decreased at higher concentrations. The atomic absorption spectroscopy analysis also showed significant accumulation of Cr (VI) in the shoot and root with an increase in the potassium dichromate concentration. Conclusion: Cr (VI) reduced the shoot-root length and seed germination in a dose-dependent manner. The plant system tried to combat the Cr (VI) stress by upregulating the stress response genes in the phenylpropanoid pathway along with an increase in polyphenol and antioxidant contents, which were evident from the lowering of lipid peroxidation rate and increase in PAL and PPO gene expressions. © 2018 The Author(s).