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Lamb's Ear - Stachys Byzantina

The genus name, Stachys is Greek for “an ear of grain,” referring to the shape of the flower stalks.
Byzantina, the species name, refers to the its Middle Eastern origin.

I’ve enjoyed the grey/white accent of Lambs Ear in my flower borders for at least 22 years, especially in the spring to offset masses of green.

An eye-catcher that get lots of positive review from visitors to my gardens is especially loved bykids because of its velvety soft fuzzy texture. (Like a lamb’s ear.)

It has never tried to take over and has never been difficult to pull out. It’s easy to start a new piece should you want to move it around. Just pull up a piece with a root on it and plant it elsewhere.

Be warned there are folks who find it invasive, but I am not one of them.  As with any plant, being aware of its characteristics make it easier to deal with:

*Although its a sun lover, it may not look its best when hot is combined with humid. It can wilt and go moldy, especially with a lot of rain.

*Thrives in almost any soil that is well drained.

* As the plant grows it spreads outward from the center and creates a “bald” or dead spot in the center.  It can take on somewhat of  a “moldy” look when this happens.  I find that cutting the stalks helps these characteristics to not be so pronounced.

* Stalks with their inconspicuous pink/lavendar flowers reach 1 to 2 feet in height, but the rest of the plant is 6 to 8 inches high.

* It can reseed prolifically. (It never did for me — even before I started cutting the stalks.)

I do enjoy the stalks when they first start coming in the spring and especially love the way the bees swarm to them.  But my initial joy is short lived. I cut them to the ground to insure the plant maintains a neater, fuller look. (I attend to this casually when I happen to be in the area doing something else.)

At one time I considered getting a large leafed variety named “Helen von Stein” that does not send up stalks and stays in a neat clump.  After learning how to make mine do almost the same thing, I never ordered.

Of interest to organic rose growers might be the fact that Lambs Ear is a host plant for the Mealybug Destroyer which also preys on thrips.  Thrips are a common pest problem for rose growers and having a natural predator close by would be beneficial.

Interesting that the genus of Lambs Ear was long ago used for bandages — obviously because of it’s softness.  Additional  benefit was derived from other species of the genus that have antiseptic properties. The liquid from their leaves would seep into the wounds from the applied leaf-bandage helping to heal cuts, burns, scrapes and boils.

If you have kids or grand-kids they will delight in Lamb’s Ear. Give it a try.  It’s a nice perennial.

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5 comments to Lamb’s Ear – Stachys Byzantina

  • Charlotte Hundley

    Theresa,
    I must share this comment from our great grandson through his grandma, Jane. They live in Seattle and were cutting a flower bouquet for his father for Father’s Day. Landon is four years old. He cut a piece of lambs ear, touched and rubbed it and said “this is cozy”. From now on, I’ll think of lambs ear as cozy.
    What a beautiful cat!
    Charlotte

  • Theresa

    Thanks for sharing this, Charlotte. Kids have such a great way to say things.
    And yes, it is a beautiful cat! Belongs to a good friend of mine. ; – )

    Best,
    Theresa

  • Ann

    What a great cat. We know who rules the lambs ears!

  • Wendy

    So, you always cut down the lambs ear and never let it flower?
    I have lamb’s ear in my perennial garden, planted by previous owner at least 15 years ago, and it was small and “Cute”. It never flowered or grew taller than about 8 inches. I moved it 2 years ago and now it is thriving! It is over 2 feet tall with little purple flowers. It was a fabulous backdrop at the back of my garden until it started drooping.
    Now it is not nearly as striking, with it falling all over.
    Do you know if it should be staked? Also, at the end of this summer, should I cut it all back?
    Thanks for any tips.

  • Theresa

    Hi Wendy,

    Glad you found a spot in your perennial garden that the lamb’s ear loved. As you know it can be quite lovely when in bloom. I cut mind whenever it’s practical and convenient. If I overlook it for a while, it grows and flowers — and I enjoy it that way also. My friend — whose lamb’s ear is shown in the picture with the cat, never cuts her’s. Cutting lambs ear is really matter of taste rather than necessity.

    As you said, it is not so striking when it starts to droop. Lamb’s ear is something that I would not stake. If you had dozens of stalks it would get very complicated, not to mention ruining the carefree look of lamb’s ear.

    It doesn’t like extremely wet weather and it doesn’t like extremely dry weather. (Like most things.) So it won’t look it’s best in those conditions and varies from year to year with weather conditions.

    I would at least cut mine back if it started looking poorly whether at the end of summer or not.

    Lambs ear — especially in conditions that it likes — is pretty tough. You can do just about anything you want. It won’t object.

    Just enjoy it!
    Theresa

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