These are one of my favorite herbs on our property. Lamb’s Ear, also known as Stachys byzantina. As you can see, it’s growing a bit un-manicured in a woodsy part of our property right now.
I plan on tying them into a nice flower bed border, but also planting them here and there around the property, hoping to encourage them to go wild and spread where they please.
Many people notice Lamb’s Ear popping up in their gardens and pull it immediately, thinking it’s a weed. Likely, it reemerges right away, as it’s highly resilient.
If you happen to notice Lamb’s Ear on your property, let it be! Not only is it a valuable plant to have in your garden, it offers hundreds of medicinal and culinary purposes as well.
Table of Contents:
|Growing zones||4 to 6|
|Soil pH||neutral (6 to 6.5)|
|Ideal temperature||60 – 70 F (15 – 21 C)|
|Humidity||50% – 60%|
Is Lamb’s Ear Edible?
Yes, wooly lamb’s ear is definitely edible. It tastes like a combination of apples and pineapples, with a delightfully fruity taste.
You can use it in salads or you can chew it, as some cultures have been doing for a long time. You can also make a very pleasant tea by steeping dried leaves in boiling water.
If you want the best flavor, go for freshly picked leaves…
This tea not only tastes great, but can be used to alleviate a variety of conditions. Among them, lamb’s ear can alleviate sore throats. It’s also believed to boost liver and heart health, and to help fight staph infections, and E. coli.
Before you use it in a recipe, you should definitely boil it for 8-10 minutes to soften it a little bit.
Lamb’s Ear Background
Lamb’s ear was originally grown in Turkey, Armenia, and Iran, but is now cultivated around much of the world because of its ornamental, medicinal, and culinary qualities.
It also has antibacterial properties and is even effective against Staphylococcus aureus, the strain of bacteria responsible for various infections like sinus or skin infections. This bacteria is resistant to most antibiotics, so Lamb’s Ear is a godsend in the fight against it.
Used as a natural bandage in medieval times, this plant is super effective at healing wounds. It was one of the most important medicinal herbs to the Anglo-Saxons of early medieval Britain and is native to Europe and the Middle East.
However, it has spread widely to most parts of North America. Although it’s considered invasive, there are a ton of physical benefits to it that most people appreciate.
Mysteriously, some superstitious people even believe that lamb’s ear has the power to heal spiritual and emotional wounds!
This plant has been cultivated all over the world for its ornamental qualities. You might see it marketed by other names, too, including wooly hedgenettle, Stachys lanata or Stachs olympica.
There are several lamb’s ear varieties / cultivars available, including:
- Big Ears: This variety, as you might expect, has leaves up to 25 centimeters long!
- Primrose Heron: This one has pink flowers and its leaves turn yellow in the spring.
- Striped Phantom: Striped Phantom is distinguishable by its variegated leave.
- Silver Carpet: Silver Carpet is a sterile plant that is asexually propagated and has grey leaves.
- Silky Fleece: Silky Fleece produces lilac-colored flowers along with small white wooly foliage. It propagates by seed.
- Sheila Macqueen: This is another sterile variety of lamb’s ear that produces large leaves.
- Cotton boll: Another sterile cultivar, this one is also asexually propagated and doesn’t produce flowering stems.
Commonly grown in children’s gardens, this plant is easy to grow and even more fun to touch! It’s used as an edible plant in a variety of areas, particularly in Brazil, and is known there as lambari. It can be used as a landscaping plant, too, as it’s perfect for edging and creating borders.
A perennial herb, lamb’s ear is covered with tons of gray or white tiny, silky-smooth hairs. The leaves are curved and covered with fur, much like the lamb of an adorable baby lamb!
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is a plant that is commonly grown for its wooly, silver-gray leaves. The leaves are large and heart-shaped, and they are covered in a dense layer of soft, fine hair.
The plant produces small, pink or purplish flowers that bloom in the summertime. It is an evergreen perennial, meaning that it will keep its leaves all year long.
Lamb’s ear is native to the Mediterranean region, but it has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America. It is a relatively low-maintenance plant, and it can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
Lamb’s ear typically reaches a height of 12-18 inches (30-45 cm).
The plant later produces flowering spikes up to 9 inches (22 centimeters) long, each of which has many flowers that crowd together on these spikes.
Lamb’s ear flowers in the late spring and early summer, giving your garden plenty of color at the perfect time of year. As evergreen plants, they tend to die back during exceptionally cold winters but later regenerate from their crowns.
How to Grow Lamb’s Ear
I started them from seed this past Spring, and they’ve already begun to readily multiply. They’re super easy to start from seed (I ordered mine from Horizon Herbs).
Best Location for Lamb’s Ear
You should plant your lamb’s ear seeds in full sun to partial shade. It prefers soil that is well-draining and moderately moist or even somewhat dry. The soil pH should be mostly neutral at about 6 to 6.5. It grows best in zones 4 to 7 but may be able to tolerate some other climates, too.
This plant can grow in just about any soil type, including clay or sand.
Lamb’s ear is commonly used as a flower border but can also serve as an excellent ground cover. You can start it with seeds or you can dig up other plants that were created via self-seeding and divide them in the spring. You can even use them in rock gardens!
Preparing the Soil for Planting
Remove any existing vegetation, such as grass or weeds.
Next, the soil should be loosened so that roots can easily penetrate it. This can be done with a shovel or a tiller. The soil should then be amended with compost or other organic matter. This will help to improve its drainage and aeration while also providing essential nutrients.
Finally, the soil should be firm but not compacted so that plant roots have room to spread out.
Just plant the seeds about 1/4″ deep in the seed starting mix, and keep them moist and away from direct sunlight until the seedlings emerge. Once they’ve popped up through the soil, make sure they get plenty of light for at least 6-8 hours a day.
If you’re planting started plants, space them at least a foot or so apart so they have room to sprawl. You don’t need to fertilize prior to planting, but it doesn’t hurt to add a bit of compost.
Water them as needed when you see the soil getting dry. (I suggest setting the pot, which should have drain holes in the bottom, in a container of water to absorb moisture as needed instead of watering from the top.)
Lamb’s ear is a super tolerant plant. It’s actually distantly related to mint, which is why it is so hardy and such a vigorous grower.
Growth Stages of Lamb’s Ear
A frost-hardy plant, it produces downy leaves that make it super drought tolerant. Even when water is low and the sunlight is intense, this plant will rarely droop.
Lamb’s ear has two phases of growth – in the first, it will grow horizontally and produce a cushiony mattress. In the second stage, it will send up stalks and flowers in spikes. It is truly a self-mulching plant!
The spikes will grow to up to 18 inches tall, with the rest of the plant spreading out about one foot wide, much closer to the ground. The blooms are usually light purple.
They can tolerate drought conditions as well as poor soil quality, but they don’t do well with standing water. Make sure wherever you plant them has excellent drainage.)
Caring for Lamb’s Ear
Once the plants have developed, you have to keep an eye out for rotting in humid conditions. Mulching underneath the leaves can help prevent this and other moisture-related diseases and fungi from developing.
Here are a few more tips to help you care for this plant.
Lamb’s ear is a tough, drought-tolerant plant that doesn’t require much care. In fact, you don’t need to fertilize it at all. However, you may find that it benefits from a light application of compost each spring.
This will help the plant to break down any organic matter in the soil and release nutrients into the root zone. Composting also helps to improve drainage and aeration in the soil, both of which are important for healthy plant growth.
If you do choose to fertilize your lamb’s ear, be sure to use a low-nitrogen fertilizer so that you don’t accidentally encourage too much leaf growth. Too much foliage can make the plant susceptible to disease and pests.
Lamb’s ear is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of temperature and humidity levels. However, it thrives in conditions that are slightly cooler and more humid than average. An ideal temperature for lamb’s ear is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of 50-60%.
If the temperature gets too hot or the humidity level gets too low, the plant will start to wilt and the leaves will turn brown. In extreme conditions, the plant may die.
However, as long as the conditions are not too severe, lamb’s ear will usually recover once they are corrected. Again, this is one of the toughest plants out there!
Though it is relatively low-maintenance, proper watering is essential to keeping this plant healthy. Lamb’s ear does not tolerate overhead sprinklers, as the water can damage the leaves.
Instead, water should be applied at the base of the plant, taking care not to wet the leaves. It is also important to allow the soil to dry out somewhat between waterings, as too much moisture can lead to root rot.
Provide your plant with at least one to two inches of water per week when you first plant, but then know that it is mostly drought-tolerant and can fend for itself.
When they have several sets of “true” leaves, they’re ready to be transplanted into a semi-shady to sunny spot of your choice. When planting, space your seedlings about a foot apart. Above is a picture of my seedlings on transplanting day.
They do nicely in containers, or in any well-draining soil. Actually, we have pretty hard red clay here, and they’ve adapted just fine when amended with compost.
Since we have hot, humid summers, I planted my lamb’s ear at the edge of the woods, in a semi-shady spot to prevent wilting. My plants haven’t flowered yet; I wonder if they may be a non-flowering variety.
If and when your plants DO flower, you should clip off any dead flower heads. Healthy flowers attract bees as well as other pollinators, and also give off a pleasant, pineapple-like scent.
This plant spreads rapidly via underground runners, and can quickly become invasive if not properly controlled. For this reason, it is important to prune lamb’s ear regularly. Otherwise, the plant will quickly overrun the garden bed.
Lamb’s ear can be pruned in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Cut back the plant by one-third to one-half its height to encourage bushiness.
Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged leaves, as well as any leaves that are growing inwards towards the center of the plant. Pruning lamb’s ear will keep it looking tidy and under control, and will help prevent it from taking over your garden.
The plant can be propagated by seed, division, or root cuttings. Seed propagation is the most common method, but it can take up to two years for lamb’s ear to bloom from seed.
For faster results, propagate lamb’s ear by division in spring or fall. To propagate by root cuttings, take 4-inch cuttings from the tips of the roots in late winter or early spring and plant them immediately.
Pests and Diseases
The plants don’t normally attract a lot of pests, except in damp, humid weather. Humidity can cause the foliage to become diseased, which can attract sowbugs. Remove dead or diseased leaves to prevent these (as well as other!) pests.
Thinning and Controlling Lamb’s Ear in Later Years
Lamb’s ear grows in zones 4-7, and will be happy to come back even bigger year after year. The plants will multiply; to keep them controlled, thin them as needed by dividing the crowns with a sharp shovel to transplant.
Wherever you plant them, make sure you are comfortable with them expanding. They can be somewhat invasive and will create dense mats even in undesirable soil.
You might need to thin it every two or three years.
If you are reading this and haven’t planted lamb’s ear yet, I recommend selecting a location that you don’t mind becoming inundated with these plants – you’re going to have plenty on your hands so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
Even if you choose not to divide it because it’s growing out of control, it’s a good idea to, at the very least, prune your plants. This can help prevent your flower stalks from becoming too tall and gangly.
If you think they look a little awkward, just cut them off. Otherwise, just divide your plants every four years or so, or leave them be if you want to maintain large, sprawling clumps.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned, they’re drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant (most herbivores find the ultra-soft leaves unpalatable). It’s also resistant to rabbits. They are also super easy to grow.
How to Overwinter Lamb’s Ear
While some delicate annuals and herbs must be brought indoors, hardy perennials can often withstand the cold weather if they are properly protected.
One of these hardy plants is lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), a low-growing evergreen with soft, furry leaves. If you live in a frost-free climate, you can simply leave your lamb’s ear plants in the ground.
However, if frost is expected, it’s best to take measures to protect this ground cover plant. The easiest way to do this is to mulch heavily around the plants before the first frost.
You can use any type of mulch, such as straw, pine needles, or even shredded cardboard. Just make sure that the mulch is several inches thick and extends at least 12 inches away from the plant’s crown.
With proper care, your lamb’s ear plants should survive the winter and provide you with beautiful foliage for years to come.
Though lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is grown mostly for its soft, velvety leaves, this perennial also produces wooly flower spikes in late spring and early summer.
The flowers are typically a pale lavender color, but they can also be pink, white or even red. If you want your lamb’s ear to bloom, there are a few things you can do to encourage flower production.
First, make sure the plant is getting enough sunlight. Lamb’s ear prefers full sun to partial shade, so if it’s growing in too much shade, it may not produce many flowers.
Second, water regularly during the growing season to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Third, fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer to promote blooming.
Finally, wait until the proper bloom time. This herbaceous perennial typically only blooms once summer is in full swing, and once it has reached its mature size.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) are two popular types of plants often used in landscaping. Both plants have silvery-gray leaves, but that is where the similarity ends.
Mullein is an upright plant that can grow up to six feet tall, while lamb’s ear is a low-growing groundcover that only reaches about eight inches in height. Mullein has large, showy flowers that bloom in the summer, while lamb’s ear does not produce any flowers.
Finally, mullein is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, while lamb’s ear is more delicate and needs to be protected from direct sun and extreme heat. When choosing between these two plants, it is important to consider your specific needs and preferences.
When grown indoors, lamb’s ear will reach a height of about 12 inches. If you live in a colder climate, you can place the plant near a south-facing window to ensure that it receives enough light.
Uses for Lamb’s Ear
If you’ve never felt a leaf from this furry, silvery seafoam plant, imagine stroking a super soft puppy ear, or more appropriately, a baby lamb’s ear, and you get the picture.
Whenever I take a stroll through my yard and happen upon a cluster of Lamb’s ears, I’m always compelled to pluck off a plump leaf and rub it against my cheek. And smile. It’s just so stinking soft! Kids especially love to “pet” these plants.
This plant creates a gorgeous and verdant carpet in the garden, with a layer of tiny white hairs. The kids love to walk through the lamb’s ear and pet the leaves!
Lamb’s Ear makes a handsome border for any walkway or flowerbed. In addition to its lush foliage, it also produces lovely blooms.
This plant grows up to three feet tall and up to four feet wide, and can produce flowers in colors like pink, purple, red, and even white. This plant attracts birds and makes a good cut flower as well.
But it’s also handy medicinally as well. Herbalists sometimes refer to it as wooly woundwort.
For centuries, hunters and soldiers have used Lamb’s Ear leaves as a field dressing for injuries. With its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and super absorbent properties, it makes a very good make-shift bandage.
This plant gets blood to clot quicker, while its leaves absorb some of the blood. Because they are so soft, you won’t mind putting them on your skin -plus, they’re antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal.
It’s a good alternative to store-bought bandages if you don’t have any (say, in a survival situation)…
For an even more powerful effect, combine lamb’s ear with a bit of plantain or yarrow. It works great for bee stings.
It has also been said that Lamb’s Ear was used as the first toilet tissue! Remember that the next time you head out on a backwoods camping trip.
You can even use Lamb’s Ear for floral arrangements, wreaths, and potpourris. With so many uses for this beautiful plant, we’d better plant a ton!!
Do you have Lamb’s Ear growing around your home? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.