Growing lamb’s ear is a great beginner’s plant for just about any garden setting you can think of. It’s a perfect ground cover that will spread if you want it to. This soft and fuzzy perennial has multiple purposes aside from looking cute. This plant requires full sun but you can also get away with partial shade. It is extremely drought resistant as it can survive in the poorest soil. It actually prefers to be well-drained as lamb’s ear tends to dislike too much water in the soil especially if it’s in a shady area.
You’ll want to plant it at the beginning of springtime about 18 inches apart as this plant can be extremely invasive. Once the velvety leaves feel as if you’re rubbing a lamb’s ear between your fingers, it’s ready for harvesting. Usually around mid spring is the ideal time to pick the leaves. If you let them bloom in summer, it will begin to sprout light purple and pink flowers that reach about 15-18 inches in height. In emergency situations, you can use the leaves for first-aid, and restroom purposes, and can help reduce the swelling from bee stings.
- Latin Name: Stachys byzantina
- Other names: Woolly Hedgenettle
- Native to: Middle East
- Invasiveness: Very Invasive
- Tenderness: Perennial
- Sun: Full Sun/Partial Shade
- Water: Prefers evenly moist or dry soil.
- Soil: Well-draining, evenly moist or dry
- Hardiness Zone: 4-7 (USDA)
- When to plant: Spring
- Spacing: 18 inches apart
- Plant height: H: 12-15 inches W: 12 inches
- Bloom period: Summer
- Time to maturity: Late Spring
- Container friendly: Yes
- Fertilizer: Little to none
- Toxicity: Not Toxic
- Deer Resistant: Yes
- Pest Resistant: Yes
Lamb’s ear tends to thrive in rock gardens as well as providing coverage for large areas of land. Using rich soil will cause it to grow aggressively and should avoid being overwatered. This hardy plant is deer and pest resistant, perfect for the countryside and those that live in rural places. However, you can grow it in a container or pot if you so choose.
As we mentioned, you hardly need to worry about the watering as it prefers dry to evenly moist soil. For lamb’s ear that’s in a container or pot requires very little water. You can check the soil with your fingers first before adding any more than that’s what’s necessary. If you’re using it as a ground cover then you will want to avoid making it too humid, as these plants are susceptible to leaf diseases.
If you want the best results in the foliage of your lamb’s ear, you’ll want to give them full sun. However, it tends to do well in partial shade if that’s all you can provide it. Especially if you’re in a high-desert climate, the partial shade can benefit lamb’s ear in the cooler evening temperatures.
The acidity of the soil for lamb’s ear is about 6.0–6.5 which makes it slightly acidic. Providing too much rich soil can result in unwanted invasiveness. For it to truly thrive, you’ll want to make sure that the soil can drain well from water. Make sure that the soil is either evenly moist or completely dry, making sure as to not overwater the plant.
Lamb’s ear does not require any fertilizing as it tends to be a somewhat aggressive plant when given too much rich soil. However, if you’re wishing to improve the growth of your lamb’s ear, try using a thin layer of compost when first planting at the beginning of spring.
Lamb’s ear is considered to be extremely invasive if not taken care of properly. Given rich soil, this plant will take over a yard in a matter of days. Being a native plant in the Middle East, it is known to survive long droughts and has proven useful because of how abundant the plant is. This is why people usually prefer to plant it as a yard cover for their garden. This plant also does extremely well in rock gardens for its aesthetically attractive foliage.
Growing Lamb’s Ear in containers
This plant can be put in a pot or container since it doesn’t really take much to make this plant happy. Taking some dry soil and using a very small amount of compost to kick start it will do the trick to planting a singular lamb’s ear start. Make sure that you are able to give it at least partial shade to full sun if you plan to do so. Test the soil to see if it’s evenly moist or if it needs a little drink of water.
Care & tips
To produce the best leaves from your lamb’s ear plant, you’ll want to cut the flowers off entirely. The energy spent on building new flowers could be energy spent on making better leaves. The soft, velvety, wool-like foliage is the desired product of the whole plant.
Some common problems with growing lamb’s ear is having too much humidity which causes leaves to become diseased or rotted. This can also attract sowbugs which is a type of pest that loves rotting foliage. Be sure that you are pruning off any dead plant matter that seems pretty obvious. The leaves will tell you the overall health of the plant just by looking and feeling alone.
Propagating Lamb’s Ear
If you have some lamb’s ear growing already you can dig new plants through self-seeding or you can divide lamb’s ear patches in early spring. It’s actually a good idea to divide it every 2-3 years for the best growth. Since it grows outwardly from the center, you’ll notice that it’s time to divide them if they have a dead center. Unless you wish to keep the clumps of lamb’s ear and just remove the dead center. The flowering lamb’s ear should be divided more often than the nonflowering species.
Uses for Lamb’s Ear
Lamb’s ear has an incredible multipurpose because of its very soft and tender leaves. People often use it as a temporary band-aid or wound dressing if nothing else is available at the time. The more common use for lamb’s ear today is for its treatment for wasp and beestings, helping reduce swelling as well as pain. Those that love the outdoors and hiking often find it a helpful thing to wipe with if you forgot to bring your own toilet paper.
History of Lamb’s Ear
This plant was originally found in the Middle East in either Turkey or Iran. It’s known be a part of the Lamiaceae family, which makes it related to mint. The plant was given its name because the leaves look and feel just as if they were an actual lamb’s ear. The soft and wool-like texture of the leaf has provided people with a primitive source of toilet paper, wound dressings, and sometimes brewed in tea. One of nature’s many dependable plants when you’re all out of options for something to heal a cut or go to the bathroom.