If you are looking for an easy-to-grow, eye-catching evergreen plant, you should check out Stachys Byzantina. Also known as Stachys Lanata, Stachys Olympica, Woolly Hedgenettle, or Lamb’s Ear, this plant stands out due to its unusual foliage. Its leaves are densely covered with silky grey or silver-white hairs.
Thanks to its unique-looking foliage, this plant is a great way to add some texture and diversity to your garden. It can be used in borders, in rock gardens, as an edger, or even as a ground cover for small areas. It is quite hardy in temperate climates, but it can be a bit finicky in warm and humid environments. Other than that, it is quite easy to grow and it will provide many benefits for your garden.
About Stachys Byzantina
- Lamb’s ear belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. It is native to southwestern Asia, being particularly popular in Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. Nonetheless, it has been naturalized in most parts of the world up to the point where it became invasive in some parts of Europe and North America.
- This plant is popularly referred to as Lamb’s Ear due to the shape and texture of its leaves which resemble furry lamb ears.
- Because of its resilience and its ability to grow very fast, many people consider this plant a weed and pull it out as soon as it appears in their gardens. While it may be invasive in some parts of North America, Lamb’s Ear is not a weed and it can have a great aesthetic value, while also serving other purposes.
- Lamb’s Ear is edible. It can be eaten raw in salads or steamed like greens. When eaten raw or steamed, it has a fruity taste that resembles a mixture of apples and pineapples. It can also be battered and deep-fried. Sprinkle some lemon juice over it and it makes for a great fish replacement. Dry leaves can also be used for making tea.
- Not only is this plant edible, but it has numerous medicinal properties. Lamb ear’s tea is great for boosting the heart and the liver’s health. It is also good for treating internal bleeding, sore throat, candida, E.coli, staph infections, and several other diseases.
- In medieval times, Lamb’s Ear was one of the best treatments for wounds. It has great antibacterial properties and is extremely efficient against Staphyloccocus aureus. This is a dangerous bacteria that causes many infections but is resistant to most antibiotics. Lamb’s ear also has antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. All these properties, make it a great natural bandage for wounds.
- Stachys Byzantina is also a great plant to have if you want to encourage a healthy ecosystem in your garden. Thanks to the texture of its leaves, this plant is deer resistant. It repels other minor pests as well. On the other hand, it attracts numerous beneficial pollinators like hummingbirds and bees. Some species of bees use the furry leaves of Lamb’s Ear plants to make nests. Its fuzz also attracts condensed water which small insects drink.
- This plant also has some strong pigments and it is often used for dying wool. Boiling the leaves creates a creamy beige and using the flowers will create a pastel mauve.
Stachys Byzantina Features: An Overview
- This plant features tall stems which resemble spikes. The stems are often branched and they feature a few reduced leaves. The stems reach a medium height of 40 cm, but larger specimens can reach a top height of 80 cm. It takes about 2-5 years to fully mature and reach its top height.
- As far as its spread goes, a mature Lamb’s Ear plant can reach a top spread of 1 meter. You can place younger plants closer together and space them out when needed.
- Lamb’s ear leaves are thick, leathery, and slightly. They are covered on both sides with silky hairs. The hairs are grey on the top surface of the leaves and whiter on the undersides. The leaves are about 5-10 cm long and they are arranged oppositely. The petioles are semiamplexicaul, meaning that half of them are wrapped around the stem. The largest leaves are the basal ones, whereas the smallest leaves are the ones found on flowering stems.
- While the Lamb’s Ear plant is evergreen, in colder climates its foliage can deteriorate during winter. It can even die back but new growth will eventually appear on the crowns.
- Lamb’s Ear flowers in late spring or early summer, depending on the weather. The flowers are light purple. They appear in whorls over a long spike-like stem. The flower whorl is similar to a cluster, but it is composed of more elements. The flowers have no pedicels.
- There are various cultivars that you can try. They differ in size as well as flowering frequency. The most popular cultivars are Big Ears, Cotton Boll, Primrose Heron, Striped Phantom, Silver Carpet, Sheila Macqueen, and Silky Fleece. Primrose Heron is particularly popular due to its yellow leaves and pink flowers.
Growing Stachys Byzantina
Because Lamb’s Ear is very easy to grow, it is one of the best plants for beginner gardeners. It is a popular choice for children’s gardens. Children enjoy growing this plant because of its unique appearance and because its leaves are fun to touch.
This plant prefers full sun, but it grows well in partial shade as well. Its sunlight needs depend greatly on the climate. It usually needs more shade in warmer climates. However, it is very hardy in all conditions, even in the frost of drought. It rarely droops and it maintains its evergreen appearance in most conditions.
This plant grows in two phases. First, it develops horizontally, creating a soft mattress that will act as mulch. Once it grows, it won’t require much pruning. However, regularly removing spent flowers will prolong the life of the plant.
Planting Stachys Byzantina
This Herbaceous perennial needs dry to medium-moist soils. Good drainage is essential. It grows better in slightly acidic soil with an average pH of 6.0–6.5. It doesn’t grow well in rich soil, so don’t add any additional fertilizer to the soil. However, some compost will be very well received.
When planting Lamb’s Ear, you should dig some holes as deep as the containers of the young plants that you buy, but slightly wider. If you are replanting after a division, plant the divided sections at the same height at which they were initially growing. Space the plants 30 cm apart to prevent overcrowding.
Watering Stachys Byzantina
It is essential to be careful when watering this plant because its only weakness is high humidity. In hot and humid summers it can develop root rot and leaf diseases. Its leaves are delicate because of their textured surface that attracts humidity. If you are growing it in containers, it is best to avoid watering it from above. Instead, put water in a plant saucer and leave the container there so the plant can extract as much moisture as it needs. You can also direct the water at the base of the plant.
Stachys Byzantina needs about 3 cm of water per week, but watering needs can differ based on the local climate. Try to water it when you feel like the soil around its roots dries out. The best time to water it is in the morning, so that excess water can evaporate throughout the day. This will minimize the risk of leaf diseases.
Propagating Stachys Byzantina
You can propagate Lamb’s Ear through seeds, division or rooted sections. Propagate by seed in containers in autumn or spring and propagate by division only in spring.
To grow from seed, sow the seeds in late winter, about 8 weeks before the last estimated frost. While the seeds are not particularly fussy, you will have the best results if you use a starter tray and good starter soil. Press the seeds into the soil without covering them and then spray them until the soil is moderately moist. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. The germination period lasts about a month. Transplant the seeds outdoors in the spring. Pinch back the young plants before the transplantation process to ensure compact growth.
As far as division goes, you will probably need to do this every 3 to 4 years. It’s best to start this process in early spring before new growth appears. Simply lift the plants from the soil and divide them into clumps. Old growth can be removed if it has a woody appearance. Plant the divided plants about 30 m apart. This will multiply your plants, while also thinning out overcrowded growth.
No matter how you look at it, growing Stachys Byzantina a.k.a Lamb’s Ear in your garden brings you nothing but advantages. It is good for the garden ecosystem, it repels many pests, it has medicinal properties and it has a unique appearance.
You can use Lamb’s Ear for borders, gravel gardens, or flower beds but also floral arrangements. It is a great way to add texture to your garden. It also makes for a great groundcover or an underplanting for shrubs and roses. It can even be turned into festive wreaths and due to its ability to retain fragrance when dried, it is great for making potpourris.
Are you growing Lamb’s Ear? Share your experience in the comment section!