Fun Fall Container Gardening
When visitors come to my garden and see the low growing herbaceous perennial with white fuzzy flowers, they all say the same thing, “I love them!” Indeed, it is easy to fall in love with the soft, furry, grayish white leaves of the Lamb’s Ear, also known as Woolly Betony or Stachys byzantina. It performs well in urban areas because of its groundcover-like form and tolerance for drought, heat, and a variety of soil conditions.
While it is primarily grown for its lightly scented foliage, the flowers are also beneficial insect attractors. Bees and butterflies constantly smother the plant’s tall furry blooms, making it an excellent selection for butterfly and pollinator gardens. Historically, lamb’s ears have been used as toilet paper and bandages, but in modern day times they can be used as a tea. Most significantly, the woolly leaves are a joy for children and function very well in a children’s garden. Plant the perennials near walkways and paths so passers-by can enjoy reaching down to touch the plants lovely softness.
Growing in most any type of soil, lamb’s ears are an excellent solution for a difficult full sun location. Plant where there is good drainage and loosen the soil to increase drainage by adding compost, gravel, and rotted manure where needed. If planting by seed, bury the seed about 1 cm under the soil. Water gently, but regularly, until well established.
Lamb’s ear is both a self-seeder and a creeper, which means a small planting can easily get out of hand and grow to a large colony within a few years. Cut flowers off before seeding to prevent self-sowing. Dig the plants out and share with neighbors to keep the perennial in check. To refresh a planting of lamb’s ears in the late winter or early spring, take a vigorous rake to lamb’s ears plantings, raking directly across the leaves cleaning any dead or browned out foliage.
Shady situations encourage sprawling plants with less flowering and some fungal disease, so the plant is best grown in a sunny location. Lamb’s ears sometimes have problems with the center of the plant dying out, divide every 3 to 4 years to prevent this and encourage new growth. Standing water drops on foliage can scorch holes in the leaves. Flower heads can be spiky and less soft than the leaves, so use gloves when cleaning the plant or cutting back the spent flowers.
Lamb’s ears are the quintessential children’s garden plant; kids love to play with the fuzzy foliage. Lamb’s ears can be a fantastic groundcover for sunny and dry areas where very little seems to grow. Plant with other drought tolerant plants in borders such as short sun flowers, zinnias, marigolds, black-eyed susans, and sedum. Use as an edger in white-themed garden beds.
Shawna Coronado is a successful author, blogger, photographer, and media host who focuses on wellness by teaching green lifestyle living, organic gardening, and anti-inflammatory culinary. Most recently Shawna has written the books, “Grow a Living Wall” and “101 Organic Gardening Hacks”. Shawna campaigns for social and community good – her garden, food, and eco-adventures have been featured in many media venues including television news programming, radio broadcasting, and PBS television. You can learn more about Shawna at www.shawnacoronado.com.
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