How To Grow & Use Wooly Lamb’s Ear

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 flowerbed 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.

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 Staphyloccocus 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 woolly hedgenettle, Stachys lanata or Stachs olympica.

There are several 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 woolly 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!

The plant later produces flowering spikes up to 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).

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 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.

Lamb’s ear is commonly used as a flower border but can also serve as an excellent groundcover. You can start it by 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!

Just plant the seeds about 1/4″ deep in seed starting mix, and keep 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.

lamb's ear uses

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. A frost hardy plant, it produces downy leaves that make it super drought tolerant. Even when water is low and 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.

You do not need to fertilize the plant at all, but you may find that it benefits from a light application of compost each spring.

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.

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.

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 epxnading. 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.

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 ear, 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 to 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’.

The whole plant is medicinal as an alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary.

A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves makes a refreshing beverage, while a weak infusion of the plant can be used as a medicinal eye wash for sties and pinkeye. It is taken internally as a medicinal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart.


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 perfect make-shift bandage.

Wooly Lamb’s Ear causes the blood to clot more quickly and the fuzzy leaves absorb blood easily. It’s a good alternative to store-bought bandages if you’re trying to live a truly off-the-grid lifestyle.

Lamb’s ear is loosely related to Betony (both are Stachys), and is sometimes called woolly betony. Besides the sopping up of blood and use as a dressing, lamb’s ear has also been used as a poultice and has analgesic properties.

It was used either alone, or to help hold in other herbs like comfrey. It was often used in the aftermath of bee or wasp stings, and reduces the swelling from both.

It was used for centuries as a “women’s comfort” for hemorrhoids, menstrual flow, birthing, for nervous tension, and as a skin aid. It’s easy to see that with the invention of Tylenol, gauze, feminine hygiene products, cotton packing, and make up removal pads, the knowledge and use of lamb’s ear for this purpose kind of went out the window. However, now you know you have a natural substitute if everything goes wrong and supplies are not available.

Lamb’s ear has been used as a natural dye for wool. Boiling the leaves in hot water and then adding a mordant, brings out a fabulous, creamy, yellowish beige. Using the bracts (flower spike) instead of the leaves, a light mauve can be attained.

The Chippewa Herald

The leaves of wooly lamb’s ear are perfect as makeshift bandages. Because they are so soft, you won’t mind putting them on your skin -plus, they’re antibacterial, absorbent, antiseptic, and antifungal.

Use them to treat scrapes, buts, burns, insect stings, and bug bites. For an even more powerful effect, combine lamb’s ear with a bit of plantain or yarrow.

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.

Not only is it useful medicinally, but it’s also edible! Some people enjoy Lamb’s Ear fresh in salads or gently steamed as greens. It tastes like a combination of apples and pineapples, with a delightfully fruity taste.

You can also make a very pleasant tea by steeping dried leaves in boiling water. Pick fresh, young leaves for best flavor when consuming.

This tea not only tastes great, but can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Among them, lamb’s ear can treat sore throats, internal bleeding, and even candida overgrowth. It’s also believed to boost liver and heart health and to treat staph infections, E. coli, and other diseases.

Here are some of the other things lamb’s ear can treat:

  • Headache
  • Dropsy
  • Hypertension
  • Dyspepsia
  • Bladders stones
  • Depression
  • Gout
  • Asthma
  • Kidney stones
  • Neuralgia
  • Nephrosis

You can even use Lamb’s Ear for floral arrangements, wraths, 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?

wooly lambs ear pinterest

updated 11/22/2019 by Rebekah White

90 thoughts on “How To Grow & Use Wooly Lamb’s Ear”

  1. I really enjoyed your blog on lamb’s ear! What’s the best way to keep it for year around use as bandages or toilet paper? It doesn’t sound like dehydrating it is an answer. Is freeze drying any better or what would you suggest?

  2. Love your article and how completely you’ve covered everything. I was curious if all the medicinal properties are intact after dehydrating them?

    Thank you for your precious time to provide so many wonderful articles.

    • Try, after you dry this herb, to use for medicine, toast in oven. After it cools, put into coffee bean grinder. You want it to be a really fine powder. From this point you can use how you wish. Just know that by toasting, this or any herb, you now have doubled the strength. This process is called Decarbonization. Or D-carb. My Grandma called it rabbit ear. Guess cause she made to an oil for my earache. Stay Strong To Mother earth you belong. Charlene Strong

      • That is not how Decarboxylation works. (Decarbonization is something completely different).

        Decarbing is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide.
        Only certain active constituents in certain plants have the potential to be Decarbed and these are usually Acids that need to be activated by heat. THC-A convert to THC and CBD-A converts to be CBD by Decarboxylating the plant at a specific temperature.

        If you ‘Toast’ certain plants, all you will be doing is destroying a lot of active constituents that are necessary for the medicinal use of the plant. Some active constituents are so fragile, even drying the plant will destroy them so the plant should always be used fresh in any preparation.

        When it comes to herbal medicine, there is no ‘onesize fits all’ way of doing things. Each and every plant needs to be looked at individually.

        • Hello Emma.
          You seem to know a lot about how natural herbs work for medicine. Where would I go to find proper information. I I was taught some by my grandparents . I have allways wanted to know more. Not sure where to go for the truth.
          Don’t know who all seems this but any Good information will be appreciated.
          Thank you
          Thank you Kendra for this article and others you have published. You seem to be very truth right and knowledgeable.

  3. Hi ~ I live in WI and have had a Lamb’s Ear plant for 5 years. Every year I notice black spots on the leaves and now on the flower buds. It seems to be getting worse. Was wondering if it’s a pest or due to a wet spring. Is there something I can do? Otherwise I really love the plant.
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    • She said in the article above to mulch under them to cut down on the humidity and to pull the diseased leaves before it spreads

  4. I bought a lamb’s ear this spring. I love it, but it gets very “thirsty” in the pot I have it in. I live in Alabama and am wondering if I may transplant it in the yard in the fall. I never knew these are the same as those I see wild everywhere! My son used to use it if he had an emergency bathroom in the woods. I will now dig every one I see up!!!

    • I have found here in Alabama the plant does best with morning shade, full sun after noon, in my yard. Very hot and humid here. Plant needs some shade to keep from color washing out and stugging to survive. Moist location also helps.

  5. I have some that are over 6 feet tall (including seed head). They grow in over 100 degree heat.
    How can you tell the difference between lambs ear and mullein?
    Thanks for all this great info about their foraging use.

    • That sounds like mullein. It grows a very tall stalk with yellow flowers on it. Lamb’s Ear doesn’t grow nearly that tall. My Lamb’s Ear has purple flowers. Mullein is great to use for coughs. 🙂

      • Had a chronic cough after a bout with pneumonia. Started dosing with Mullein tea. Cough is gone and almost all congestion. Mullein most definitely works great for cough. BTW, I sometimes get carried away when I find something that works. I brewed it very strong and drank too much. It caused pretty severe constipation for short time. Completely my own fault…I have no trouble when dosing sensibly. Just a warning to anyone like me who thinks. If it good, then dosing more will make it better! Not!

    • Muellin has a tall.. 4-5′ stalk in center with small yellow flowers up it..My Mom was 1/2 Cherokee she used it medical. Muellin is a herb my husband takes for COPD 2 caps twice a day! He has had walking pneumonia twice and I gave him 9 caps in am and 9 caps in pm for several days and he was well..

  6. 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.

  7. I have a small patch of Lambs Ear I just replanted because it was in to much shade. This year it’s doing much better. I was surprised how much one can use this plant for, I will be trying some suggestions. Very informative, thank you.

  8. Live in Texas and I want to transplant to another part in yard. Is now a good time to transplant? They have survived 10+years to date.

    • Have to do is break off a part of the plant close to the ground where there is route come stemming off of the limb take that put it in water wait for the route to continue to grow when there is significant amount of Route then you can take and Transplant directly into the soil do not water the leaves as they will yellow

  9. Tx so much for the info on these plants. Love the softness and even more so now that I know they have many uses. Will grow more of them!

  10. I have a small patch of Lambs Ear I just replanted because it was in to much shade. This year it’s doing much better. I was surprised how much one can use this plant for, I will be trying some suggestions. Very informative, thank you.

  11. Hello all
    Strange this beautiful plant literally popped up in my yard by my hos tis ? Not spelled correct!it’s taken me weeks to figure out what this is, now at about 4 ft tall I am wagering it’s a
    Lambs ear???!
    Beautiful and ready to bloom,
    Butt I never put it there, I’ve lived here 6 yrs now it’s never been there
    Anyone no if they grow wild??
    Thanks for the support..
    I love my lambs ear more now to mounts got medical use..

    • That actually sounds like it may be a mullein plant. Which is also a good medicinal herb which has great respiratory health properties.

    • Once the plant grows tall it “blooms”. It looks the size of a cattail. But it’s soft, green & has tiny purple little flowers. These pollinate and the small seedlings can be carried by wind anywhere. Which maybe how your plant started.

      • If you were being sarcastic your comment was hilarious. If you weren’t; those were actual ears from lambs (the kind with four legs)

    • The Lamb’s Earth does grow wild. I’m in Mississippi, and it is all in the woods where there is very, very little sun. Very beautiful plants, growing around other wild plants.

  12. I am happy to see all the information you have gathered in one place! I love herbs and do have lambs ear growing in my herbal garden. I harvest the leaves throughout the growing season, but never left them to flower. With the info you have presented, I’ll let them flower this year! Thank you!

  13. I have these little guys popping up in my flower beds at my new rental. It’s so interesting that this little plant has so many uses. Thank you so much for the info.

    I am New to gardening and want to dig some up to give to friends any tips?

    They seem to be covering the whole flower bed areas with some peonies. I want to thin them out other then around the edges and plant a new Sun loving selection of plants.

    • Amanda,
      You can easily dig up the Lamb’s Ear and transplant it. Just be sure to dig it up by the roots, don’t shake the dirt off, then plant it at the same depth in a fresh spot with good soil.

      • Last year, in Fall, I cut down the flower spikes that were then brown and dry, and tossed them on my potting table. This spring, guess what… New lambs ears were growing under my potting table ?

  14. So cool! I stopped at a garage sale today and the lady and I clicked really well, she gave me a lambs ear and thanked me for the conversation. Now I’m wanting to line my rock beds with them! I just want to snuggle this little plant!

  15. Just wanted to say that Lambs Ear is good for hemmorids. Just was the leaves good and burst them and apply to the area. You will see a big difference in days.

  16. Hi, I bought my lambs ear a few weeks ago and planted it in an indoor planter. The leaves have started turning yellow and kind of wilty. What am I doing wrong?

  17. I live in Tucson, AZ and would like to grow this plant. I don’t have a large yard so was thinking of using a pot or pots. Would you suggest bringing it in when it gets too hot – as in over 100? What suggestions to you have for growing it here.

    Thank you

    • Katrina,

      It seems to be very heat tolerant, at least as far as I can tell. Sometimes we have over 100* summer days, and our Lamb’s Ear has always thrived. I think it would be fine. And yes, you can plant it in pots.

      • this is a drought tolerant plant. some people only grow it for the foliage but bees love the flowers. it will produce a lot of seeds so you will most likely end up with hundreds of babies.

  18. I love the scent the flowers give off. I am wondering if it is possible to make scented oil or water from them as you would lavender or violets?

  19. I am just now finding this post from 2 years ago. I was wondering if there is a difference between Wooly Lambs Ear and just Lambs Ear. My son said he had read that the Wooly Lambs Ear could not be bought as a plant, only by seed. I have seen Lambs Ear for sale in many places around my area. I live in north MS near Memphis. If they are the same thing, then I am in luck!!!

  20. Hi just got lam ear yesterday and I did not know what to do with it and didn’t know it had so many uses. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!

  21. I too had no idea about the wide range of uses for this pretty little plant. I am definitely going to find my self some and plant it in my borders to view, to eat and caress. I love sensory gardens. Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Just got the first plant this weekend. I had never heard of lamb’s ear. I love the way it feels and it’s good to know that it has medicinal properties. I definitely will get it planted soon.

  23. . I have a big pile of lambs ear and didn’t know what the purpose was for them other than they were unique, mine are about two feet tall and a spread of about eight feet long, they have pretty purple blooms on the top, my question is where does the seeds come from? Is it the flower after it dries up? We got ours wwith the root already on it from another person. TThanks for the info!

  24. Over the past several years I have become to dislike lamb’s ear immensely. Now I am rethinking this plant because of the properties it has.

    • I have a rabbit in my yard and he stayed away from the lambs ears … until winter when everything else was dead and then he started in on them. They are very resilient and keep putting up new growth after the rabbit eats them down.

  25. The house I moved into has a lot of Wooly Lamb’s Ear growing all over the place. I was wondering about them and what they could be used for. Thank you for sharing so much information about them. I think I’ll try drying them and using them as a tea.

  26. Thank you for the information on Lambs ear, How about dogs, chickens and rabbits digesting them as they roam through some of my gardens

    • Yes he does. I believe there are so many plants and other things out there that could help and heal us if we only knew what they were.

  27. I love your blog and I love Lambs ear too! It’s my favorite herb in our very little homestead. I just finished reading your what to grow in shade post and wanted to let you know I had good success with Lambs Ear in shade. We are in zone 9 and now I have them in full sun but I have been propagating to shadier spots because they stay soft and luscious all summer in shady spots and tend to get leggy in full sun in zone 9. I can’t wait to read more of your blog.

  28. This article was so great and right on time for me. I had been searching online trying to fine the name for my plant for some time. Yesterday was my lucky day, not only found the name, but so many uses. I am so into natural healing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you,

  29. Thanks for this article! I have some of these growing in 1 of my beds and thought of them as ornamental. I saved the seeds today, I’ll be planting them in the front yard this spring! The deer demolish everything up there! I can’t wait to finally have something pretty there. Medicinal and deer resistant….who knew!

  30. I just KNEW this plant had some good uses. Thankyou for sharing how to propogate it. I have one huge clump. It is very drought tolerant. I always thought it would make good TP, if things ever got that bad…. but now I know so much more about this beautiful plant. Thankyou again!


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