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Lamb's Ear

Stachys

With its soft, fuzzy leaves reminiscent of a lamb’s ear, this plant creates a lush carpet in any garden. The dense layer of tiny white hairs makes the plant extremely silky and pleasing to the touch—making the plant great for sensory garden settings and for children to play with. While lamb’s ear is most commonly grown for its fuzzy leaves, it does bloom; some species are grown specifically for their prolific blooms.

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Light:

Part Sun, Sun

Type:

Height:

From 6 inches to 3 feet

Width:

1 to 4 feet wide, depending on variety

Flower Color:

Foliage Color:

Seasonal Features:

Zones:

4-9

Propagation

Fuzzy Foliage

The densely fuzzy leaves make lamb's ear a favorite among gardeners. But there is more to this plant than just the joy of the touch. The silvery foliage on lamb's ear serve as a great backdrop to so many other plants. The white hairs on the leaves do more than create a nice pop of color—they also help to prevent loss of moisture in the plant, making it exceptionally drought tolerant. The hairs also help prevent damage from herbivores snacking on the plant, as they find the soft leaves generally unpalatable.

Lamb's Ear Care Must-Knows

Lamb's ear can withstand poor soil conditions and weather the toughest of droughts. One thing it will not tolerate, however, is standing water.

Lamb's ear performs best in full-sun conditions, but it can withstand shade. In shade, the plant will look greener, as it will not produce dense hairs. Flower stalks on traditional lamb's ear are generally 12-18 inches tall, with small purple, white, red, or pink blooms. Flower stalks also are covered in the woolly hairs found on the leaves.

Lamb's ear can be a vigorous grower in the garden. If you're trying to keep lamb's ear contained to a small space, be mindful—the plants can take over and verge on invasive. The plants produce creeping stems that root along the soil, creating dense mats of foliage. While it can be a hassle, this trait also makes the plant a good groundcover in full sun or tricky soil situations. Producing more of these plants is easy to do because of its ease of rooting. Simply dig up small clumps of the plant and relocate.

Lesser-Known Lamb's Ear

A very close relative to the common lamb's ear is the betony plant. While lamb's ear is grown primarily for its foliage, betony is grown for its showy bloom stalks. The foliage of these plants is generally a medium green and usually crinkled. Flowers bloom in early summer and can last for several weeks. They actually more closely resemble their more distant relative, salvia, than they do the common lamb's ear.

More Varieties of Lamb's Ear

Betony

Stachys officinalis, also called wood betony or bishop's wort, was used by ancient healers for nearly everything from curing coughs to deworming. Today it is grown mostly to draw pollinators to the garden. The plant's attractive flowers are reddish purple and lure bees. Mature plants grow to about 2 feet tall. Zones 4-8

Big betony

Stachys macrantha bears purple flowers from early summer to fall on 2-foot stems. Zones 5-7

'Big Ears' lamb's-ears

Stachys officinalis 'Big Ears', also sold as 'Helene von Stein', is named for its extra-large fuzzy silver leaves. It seldom blooms so requires little deadheading. Mature plants grow 8-10 inches tall. Zones 3-10

'Hummelo' betony

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' lights up the perennial garden with spikes of purple blooms in midsummer. Even when not in bloom, the mounded green foliage is quite attractive. Plants grow 18-24 inches tall in bloom. It is also called alpine lamb's ears. Zones 4-8

Lamb's-ears

Stachys byzantina has silvery, felted, 6-inch-long leaves that make a soft mat. In early summer, stems bloom bearing cerise-magenta flowers. It grows 18 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 4-8.

'Rosea' betony

Stachys officinalis 'Rosea' is a lighter pink version of common wood betony. It has the same pollinator-attracting qualities, providing a summer-long display of spires of small pink flowers above compact clumped foliage. Mature plants grow to about 2 feet tall. Zones 4-8

'Saharan Pink' betony

Stachys monieri 'Saharan Pink' is a petite version of 'Hummelo' betony with two-tone pink flowers. It grows just 1 foot tall in bloom, with a spread of about 8 inches. Deadhead spent flowers to prevent the plant from self-seeding. Zones 4-8

Plant Lamb's Ears With:

Black-Eyed Susan
Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Tall varieties look especially appropriate among shrubs. Add black-eyed Susan to wildflower meadows or native plant gardens for a naturalized look. Average soil is sufficient, but it should be able to hold moisture fairly well.
Daylily
Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in numerous colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant. The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry several buds on each scape so bloom time is long—especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous. Shown above: 'Little Grapette' daylily
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