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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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Part Sun, Sun
From 6 inches to 3 feet
1 to 4 feet wide, depending on variety
garden plans for Lamb's-ears
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
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