Anthyllis vulneraria is commonly called woundwort, lady’s fingers, devil’s claws, or kidney vetch (sometimes spelled as one word, “kidneyvetch”). This herbaceous perennial, which has a bushy growth habit, is alternatively referred to as Anthyllis montana vulneraria. Kidney vetch is a member of the Fabaceae — or legume — botanical family, which makes it distantly related to soybeans, chickpeas, and alfafa. Its genus of flowering shrubs and herbs counts over 200 different species, all of which are famous for attracting an abundance of butterflies and bumblebees. Kidney vetch is guaranteed to liven your garden up!
While this lovely flowering plant is most famous for its medicinal value, its unusually-shaped and wonderfully vibrant colors mean that kidney vetch definitely hold its own as ab ornamental plant, as well. Kidney vetch naturally grows in coastal areas, including around dunes and cliffs, and is a wonderful choice for people who are hoping to create pollinator gardens near the seaside.These flowering plants are prolific spreaders and should not be grown as houseplants, but can thrive in containers outdoors.
About Kidney Vetch
- Anthyllis vulneraria is a herbaceous perennial that produces an abundance of lovely flowers, which protrude from hairy, wool-like, beds in summer. While kidney vetch usually has yellow flowers, some varieties of kidney vetch instead have orange or red blooms — allowing you to create an amazing summery garden palette if you like!
- Kidney vetch is native to much of Europe, including the United Kingdom, where you will easily be able to spot this plant along coastal areas, especially around dunes, coastal cliffs, or open grasslands. It’ll sometimes pop up in rocky areas, growing between clusters of stones, as well. Kidney vetch can be found as far north as Iceland, but its southernmost growing zone extends all the way to Ethiopia. Talk about versatile!
- Despite the fact that kidney vetch is native to Europe and not all that popular in the United States, it can be grown in USDA hardiness zones five through nine without any trouble. By adding kidney vetch to your US garden, you are sure to wow your friends and neighbors!
- The scientific name Anthyllis vulneraria refers to the plant’s long history as a medicinal remedy; vulneraria means “wound healer”. The common name kidney vetch, too, makes reference to this practice, and comes from the fact that it was sometimes used to treat kidney disorders. The roots, leaves, and flowers of the plant can all be used for their healing properties, both to make a tonic that promotes healthy digestion and as topical ointment to encourage small cuts and scrapes to heal more quickly.
- Kidney vetch is extremely pollution-resistant, which makes it an interesting option for people living in busy urban areas.
- As a member of the legume family, kidney vetch also has great potential as a natural fertilizer — Anthyllis vulneraria adds ammonium to the soil. If you have nutrient-poor soil in your garden that is currently unsuitable for many plants, kidney vetch can help you lay the groundwork to create a richer soil where more diverse plant species can thrive!
- Kidney vetch’s roots are home to a unique species of bacteria, called Mesorhizobium metallidurans. This bacterium lives in symbiosis with the plant and contributes to its superpowers.
- While Anthyllis vulneraria is highly resistant to plant diseases and pests, kidney vetch certainly acts as a pollinator magnet! If you add kidney vetch to your garden, you can look forward to seeing a variety of butterflies and bumblebees.
- If you have pets, you will be happy to hear that kidney vetch is not toxic to cats or dogs, nor to birds or livestock.
- Grow kidney vetch in your coastal garden, in container beds, or in rocky zen gardens! If you are looking for a ground cover plant, this enthusiastic spreader can help you with erosion control, too.
Kidney Vetch Features: An Overview
- Anthyllis vulneraria is a herbaceous bushy perennial with delicate, elongated, leaves and unusually pretty flowers that grow in large clusters. Numerous subspecies, hybrids, and variants exist, some of which have unique features. All of them have upright growth habits.
- As long as you are able to provide the right conditions for this plant, kidney vetch can grow to be nearly two feet (half a meter) tall when it matures, something that takes around two years. Most specimens are between two inches (five centimeters) and a foot (40 centimeters) tall. The kidney vetch has an impressive spread — easily taking up three feet (a meter) when mature!
- When grown in the United Kindgom, Anthyllis vulneraria blooms between June and September, during which time you will be able to enjoy its many flower clusters. In the US, it may bloom in early spring, and last through the summer. Every part of the flower is interesting. Its woolly calyx looks like tufts of felt. From there, numerous yellow, orange, red, or even pink petals arise, which have gentle white accents and measure 0.39 to 0.79 inches (10 to 20 millimeters).
- After the bloom subsides, small legumes appear. These are the fruits of the plant.
- Kidney vetch has mellow green, elongated leaves with a silky feel and fuzzy hairs. Some varieties have blue-green leaves. The under sides of the leaves are white in color, and the leaves are semi-evergreen.
- Kidney vetch is a very beginner-friendly garden plant — these beautiful flowering herbs do not need much encouragement to do well, and are adapted to a wide variety of conditions. If you would love to have a beautiful, wild-looking cottage garden but don’t have much time to grow and care for your plants, Anthyllis vulneraria is an excellent choice for you.
- Anthyllis vulneraria, also called the “common” kidney vetch, has fresh green leaves and yellow flowers. Why not grow this plant alongside the variety Anthyllis Vulneraria Coccinea, which has the exact same care requirements but produces striking yellow flowers and has blue-green leaves? You could also add Anthyllis vulneraria colorata, some of which have deep crimson blooms that look especially gorgeous against the backdrop of the white calyx.
Growing Kidney Vetch
Kidney vetch is not at all difficult to grow and care for. These plants should ideally be placed in a south-facing or west-facing location where they can receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. If you can only provide partial shade, in which the plant would be able to get four hours of sunlight, you can still successfully grow kidney vetch in your garden.
They are well-adapted to a variety of temperature conditions, though, tolerating the colder and wetter English summers and cooler winters as well as Mediterranean conditions. As you’ll know from the fact that kidney vetch is quite abundant in Iceland, these plants are frost hardy.
Soil-wise, Anthyllis vulneraria is rather undemanding — because these flowering plants don’t like perpetually soggy conditions, the only non-negotiable condition you need to be able to meet to successfully grow kidney vetch in your garden is that the soil be well-draining. Other than that, though, kidney vetch tolerates almost anything. This plant will grow in sandy, rocky, loamy, chalky, or even clay soil, and the soil can be extremely poor in nutrients — kidney vetch will naturally contribute to creating a richer soil. Anthyllis vulneraria does not need a particular pH level and can grow in acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil. If you would prefer to grow kidney vetch in a container, that is possible too; it just needs to be deep enough to support the plant’s root system.
- Country/Region Of Manufacture:United States, Perennial:HARDY / LONG LASTING
- Country Of Manufacture:United States, Patternname: 1000
- Plant Name:Anthyllis Seeds
- Country/Region Of Manufacture:United States, Perennial:HARDY / LONG LASTING
- Country Of Manufacture:United States
- Plant Name:Anthyllis Seeds
Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The rest of this section will be music to the lazy gardener’s ears. Kidney vetch does not need to be fed fertilizer — as you’ll easily be able to see if you live in a coastal region in Europe and you love hiking, these plants thrive as wildflowers without getting any care from anyone but the pollinators that come to visit it. Kidney vetch is surprisingly resistant to almost all plant diseases and pests, perhaps in part due to the bacteria it lives in symbiosis with. If you add Anthyllis vulneraria to your garden, you won’t need to prune the plant. Finally, while kidney vetch certainly grows abundantly, it is not considered invasive and will not drown out any of your other plants.
Despite the fact that Anthyllis vulneraria is extremely easy to grow and take care of, it rewards gardeners with so many different gifts that stretch well beyond its beauty. Kidney vetch will help with erosion control, fill your garden with numerous butterflies and bees, and even — if you are into herbal medicine — serve as an ingredient for herbal remedies that support a healthy digestive system and speed up wound healing times.
Watering Kidney Vetch
Kidney vetch is a surprising drought tolerant plant, and if you live in an area that receives ample rainfall, you will not need to practice supplemental watering to continue to enjoy healthy and strong Anthyllis vulneraria bushes that flower abundantly. If you have extremely hot and dry summers, and it has not rained in a good while to the point where the soil is completely dry, you can occasionally give your kidney vetch a deep watering if you like; the plant will appreciate this, but will almost certainly survive even if you don’t.
It is important to avoid overwatering your kidney vetch, because despite the fact that Anthyllis vulneraria is very resistant to fungal infections, there is always a risk of root rot if you create conditions wherein the plant sits in soggy soil for prolonged periods of time.
Propagating Kidney Vetch
If you would like to add kidney vetch to your garden and don’t know anybody who is already growing it, you can find their seeds online — and we’d like to recommend that you choose several different variants, so that you end up with yellow, orange, and red flowers!
Gardeners who would like to start a new kidney vetch indoors can do so in the late winter to early spring, a few months before you are expecting the last frost in your area. Those who would like to sow kidney vetch straight in the garden should do so in the late fall. In either scenario, the steps to take are nearly identical. Simply press your Anthyllis vulneraria seeds into the ground, mist them to provide some moisture, and wait for the seeds to germinate. This process can take between two weeks and a month. If you are starting your kidney vetch seeds indoors, choose a sandy and perlite potting mix. Note that some people recommend soaking Anthyllis vulneraria seeds for a night before sowing them indoors.
It is also possible to propagate kidney vetch through cuttings, which should be taken in the late summer. To do so, simply take a four to six inch (10 to 15 centimeter) length from your kidney vetch, looking for the presence of nodes. Use a sterilized pruning tool, and then dip your cutting in a rooting hormone powder, taking care to shake off any excess. Plant the cutting in a pot prepared with a sandy and perlite soil, water it very gently, and wait for roots to take hold. Once your cutting has taken root, which you can check by gently tugging on the base of the cutting, it will be ready to transplant to your garden, or to give as a gift!
Anthyllis vulneraria is an extremely hardy plant that can succeed in many different conditions, even in poor and polluted soil types that would quickly cause trouble for other plants — and when you look at their amazing flowers, it is almost difficult to believe that such a beautiful plant can be so low-maintenance. Whether you are looking for plants for your new rock garden, have a sloping coastal garden, or would like to add colorful flowers to your butterfly garden, kidney vetch is suitable for almost anyone!