Like its name suggests, this perennial has soft, fuzzy leaves that feel like you're petting an adorable baby sheep.
The leaves and stems of this plant are covered with a dense layer of tiny white hairs, making them feel silky to the touch and giving them a silvery appearance. This plant is a must for sensory garden settings, and is sure to delight children when encouraged to stroke the soft leaves. While lamb’s ear is most commonly grown for its foliage, it does bloom; some varieties are grown specifically for their prolific blooms.
In addition to the fact that lamb's ear provides so much tactile joy, the silvery foliage also serves as the perfect backdrop for so many other plants. The flower stalks are generally 12-18 inches tall, with small purple, white, red, or pink blooms. The soft hairs on the leaves and stems help to prevent loss of moisture in the plant, making it exceptionally drought tolerant. Plus, the hairs help prevent damage from deer and other creatures snacking on the plant, perhaps because the animals don't enjoy the texture of the leaves.
Lamb's Ear Care Must-Knows
Lamb's ear can withstand poor soil conditions and drought. One thing it will not tolerate, however, is soggy soil. This plant performs best in full-sun conditions, but it can withstand some shade. In shade, the plant will look greener, because it will produce fewer dense hairs.
This plant can be a vigorous grower in the garden, even verging on invasive. Lamb's ear produces creeping stems that root along the soil, creating dense mats of foliage. The roots aren't very dense, so the plants are easy to pull up where you don't want them. However, this spreading habit makes it a good groundcover for full sun or poor soil situations. Lamb's ear also easily seeds itself around, so removing the flower stalks before they go to seed will reduce spreading.
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
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
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.
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
Lamb's Ear Companion Plants
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.
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.
Garden Plans for Lamb's Ear
Nighttime is the right time to enjoy a garden of bright whites, fragrant blooms, and a comfortable seat.
Stately delphiniums are the backbone of this colorful cottage garden plan.
The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"
Create charm and curb appeal in your front yard with this lush, beautiful cottage garden plan.
This colorful rock garden is designed around a couple of very large boulders, but could easily be adapted to any rock garden setting.
Create a burst of fall color in your landscape with this easy-care garden plan.