Life Style

Lamb’s Ear: How to Grow and Use It in Your Garden and Home

Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)might already be a familiar plant to you. It grows in many ornamental gardens and is enjoyed for its silvery tones and soft and fuzzy texture. It is such a vigorous grower that it is an ideal plant for filling in an open space or border in just one season.....CONTINUE READING

As a member of the mint, or Lamiaceae, family it has many of the classic properties—square stems, flower spikes, and the ability to spread. It has a lovely fruity aroma that is released when the leaves are brushed against or ruffled by hand. As well as being a wonderful ornamental addition to the garden, it has other uses, too.

Like many members of the mint family, lamb’s ear is really easy to propagate and requires little maintenance. The easiest way to get started is to find a friend who already has their own spread of lamb’s ear. Just give a little tug to a handful of leaves and stems and you will pull out a clump with roots attached. It is a very forgiving plant.

You may also grow this plant from seed as it propagates well this way, too. Start your seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Sprinkle seeds along the surface of damp potting soil and press them in but do not cover them. The seeds need light to germinate. It can take up to 30 days for seeds to germinate, so keep the soil damp throughout this time. You may also direct sow your seeds in the garden after the last frost.

Lamb’s ear is a great perennial ground cover with foliage that stays low—about 8 inches. The flower spikes, however, can reach 12-18 inches tall. It is a cold hardy plant that does well in zones 4-9. It requires a sunny spot in the garden and is drought tolerant making it a good choice for xeriscaping.

Ideally, you have gotten hold of a root division from a friend. Be sure to remove any dead or wilting leaves and even some larger established leaves. Leave the smaller, center leaves intact. If you have more than one start, plant them 18 inches apart in a sunny, well-draining spot in your garden then water them in.

Lamb’s ear does not run as wild as other members of the family. It grows on runners but does not have quite the same reach. Rather, the main issue is its ability to self-seed very well. If you don’t want to see lamb’s ear taking over, be sure to deadhead the flower spikes and make root divisions around the edges of clumps to curb the spread. This gives you a great excuse to share your plant with friends and neighbors or to fill in bare spots in your own garden.

Lamb’s ear is a perennial and will withstand frosts. At the end of the growing season, you can cut your plants right back to the ground. You may also leave it in place to die back naturally, but it can look a little ugly. It really depends on how manicured you prefer your space to be. Note that leaving rotting leaves in place can invite disease, especially in damp conditions. All being well, you should see new growth popping up in the spring.

Lamb’s ear makes a wonderful ground cover and an excellent border plant. Though the plant isn’t usually grown for its flowers, local pollinators are grateful for the attractive purple/pink blooms it produces. That said, flower spikes should be removed regularly if you are looking for vigorous foliage growth.

If flowers are what you are looking for, it should be noted that lamb’s ear does not bloom in its first year. When flowers are produced they should be deadheaded regularly to encourage more blooms. This plant will flower throughout the summer, inviting bees and butterflies.

Lamb’s ear makes a wonderful addition to a sensory or children’s garden due to its irresistible, velvety leaves. Rubbing the leaves not only feels lovely but in doing so a heady floral, fruity aroma is released.

Due to its vigorous growth rate, lamb’s ear can be grown for green mulch. A large spread of lamb’s ear can be cut back in the fall proving you with a significant amount of organic matter that can be used to mulch other plants or added to your compost pile.

As well, lamb’s ear is deer- and rabbit-resistant making it ideal for spots outside of your garden fence.

Lamb’s ear has been used traditionally as nature’s bandage due to its comforting soft texture and antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

This is for informational use only and should not be taken as medical advice. Seek advice from a medical professional before using any herb or plant medicinally.

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