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How To Grow & Use Wooly Lamb’s Ear

>28 October 2012
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lamb's ear plant herb herbal uses

These are one of my favorite herbs on our property. Lamb’s Ear, also known as Stachys byzantina. As you can see, it’s growing a bit un-manicured in a woodsy part of our property right now. I plan on tying them into a nice flowerbed border, but also planting them here and there around the property, hoping to encourage them to go wild and spread where they please.

I started them from seed this past Spring, and they’ve already begun to readily multiply. They’re super easy to start from seed (I ordered mine from Horizon Herbs). Just plant them about 1/4″ deep in seed starting mix, and keep moist and away from direct sunlight until the seedlings emerge. Once they’ve popped up through the soil, make sure they get plenty of light for at least 6-8 hours a day.

lamb's ear uses

Water them as needed when you see the soil getting dry. (I suggest setting the pot, which should have drain holes in the bottom, in a container of water to absorb moisture as needed instead of watering from the top.) When they have several sets of “true” leaves, they’re ready to be transplanted into a semi-shady to sunny spot of your choice. When planting, space your seedlings about a foot apart. Above is a picture of my seedlings on transplanting day.

They do nicely in containers, or in any well-draining soil. Actually, we have pretty hard red clay here, and they’ve adapted just fine when amended with compost. Since we have hot, humid summers, I planted my lamb’s ear at the edge of the woods, in a semi-shady spot to prevent wilting. My plants haven’t flowered yet; I wonder if they may be a non-flowering variety.

Lamb’s ear grows in zones 4-9, and will be happy to come back even bigger year after year. The plants will multiply; to keep them controlled, thin them as needed by dividing the crowns with a sharp shovel to transplant. They’re drought tolerant, deer resistant, and super easy to grow.

If you’ve never felt a leaf from this furry, silvery seafoam plant, imagine stroking a super soft puppy ear, or more appropriately, a baby lamb’s ear, and you get the picture. Whenever I take a stroll through my yard and happen upon a cluster of Lamb’s ear, I’m always compelled to pluck off a plump leaf and rub it against my cheek. And smile. It’s just so stinking soft! Kids especially love to “pet” these plants.

Lamb’s Ear makes a handsome border to any walkway or flowerbed. But it’s also handy medicinally as well. Herbalists sometimes refer to it as ‘wooly woundwort’.

The whole plant is medicinal as an alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves makes a refreshing beverage, while a weak infusion of the plant can be used as a medicinal eye wash for sties and pinkeye. It is taken internally as a medicinal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart. -Wikipedia

For centuries, hunters and soldiers have used Lamb’s Ear leaves as a field dressing for injuries. With its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and super absorbent properties, it makes a perfect make-shift bandage.

Lamb’s ear is loosely related to Betony (both are Stachys), and is sometimes called woolly betony. Besides the sopping up of blood and use as a dressing, lamb’s ear has also been used as a poultice and has analgesic properties.

It was used either alone, or to help hold in other herbs like comfrey. It was often used in the aftermath of bee or wasp stings, and reduces the swelling from both.

It was used for centuries as a “women’s comfort” for hemorrhoids, menstrual flow, birthing, for nervous tension, and as a skin aid. It’s easy to see that with the invention of Tylenol, gauze, feminine hygiene products, cotton packing, and make up removal pads, the knowledge and use of lamb’s ear for this purpose kind of went out the window. However, now you know you have a natural substitute if everything goes wrong and supplies are not available.

Lamb’s ear has been used as a natural dye for wool. Boiling the leaves in hot water and then adding a mordant, brings out a fabulous, creamy, yellowish beige. Using the bracts (flower spike) instead of the leaves, a light mauve can be attained.

- The Chippewa Herald

It has also been said that Lamb’s Ear was used as the first toilet tissue!

Not only is it useful medicinally, but it’s also edible! Some people enjoy Lamb’s Ear fresh in salads or gently steamed as greens. You can also make a very pleasant tea by steeping dried leaves in boiling water. Pick fresh, young leaves for best flavor when consuming.

With so many uses for this beautiful plant, we’d better plant a ton!!

Do you have Lamb’s Ear growing around your home? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

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29 Comments »

  • ashlee said:

    OK, I am planting a whole bed of that next year!

  • Jeanine Hanson said:

    I always grew these for their appearance, but never knew they had so many uses. Thanks for the information!

  • Lynn said:

    I have grown these before but never knew about all the medicinal qualities. I think I’ll try to get some more growing

  • Rachel K. Thompson said:

    I am so inspired!!!! I cannot wait to grow some!!!!

  • emily A said:

    I loved this stuff when I was a kid! I had no idea that it was medicinal! Thanks so much for enlightening us!!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Glad to be able to help, Emily!

  • SJ Smith said:

    I just KNEW this plant had some good uses. Thankyou for sharing how to propogate it. I have one huge clump. It is very drought tolerant. I always thought it would make good TP, if things ever got that bad…. but now I know so much more about this beautiful plant. Thankyou again!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    I’m glad to hear you have some growing, SJ!! That’s great! Now you can start dividing it up and spreading it around to have even more :)

  • Libby@Everything's Coming Up Green said:

    I never knew. I loved it as a kid because it was so soft, but had no idea it was anything more than ornamental!

  • lisa murano said:

    Thanks for this article! I have some of these growing in 1 of my beds and thought of them as ornamental. I saved the seeds today, I’ll be planting them in the front yard this spring! The deer demolish everything up there! I can’t wait to finally have something pretty there. Medicinal and deer resistant….who knew!
    Thanks!
    ~L

  • SchemaByte said:

    Great post, I’ll share it out. Thanks.

    You had me at “the first toilet tissue”. :)

  • Dorothy Jordan said:

    This article was so great and right on time for me. I had been searching online trying to fine the name for my plant for some time. Yesterday was my lucky day, not only found the name, but so many uses. I am so into natural healing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you,
    DJ

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    So glad I could help, Dorothy!!

  • Steffanie said:

    I love your blog and I love Lambs ear too! It’s my favorite herb in our very little homestead. I just finished reading your what to grow in shade post and wanted to let you know I had good success with Lambs Ear in shade. We are in zone 9 and now I have them in full sun but I have been propagating to shadier spots because they stay soft and luscious all summer in shady spots and tend to get leggy in full sun in zone 9. I can’t wait to read more of your blog.

  • Elise said:

    thank you so much! God has so many wonders in store for us and we know so little about them!

  • erin f. said:

    Thank you for the information on Lambs ear, How about dogs, chickens and rabbits digesting them as they roam through some of my gardens

  • Marlene Bertrand said:

    The house I moved into has a lot of Wooly Lamb’s Ear growing all over the place. I was wondering about them and what they could be used for. Thank you for sharing so much information about them. I think I’ll try drying them and using them as a tea.

  • TM said:

    I heard rabbits don’t like lambs ears, so won’t eat them.

  • jo n said:

    Over the past several years I have become to dislike lamb’s ear immensely. Now I am rethinking this plant because of the properties it has.

  • pam said:

    . I have a big pile of lambs ear and didn’t know what the purpose was for them other than they were unique, mine are about two feet tall and a spread of about eight feet long, they have pretty purple blooms on the top, my question is where does the seeds come from? Is it the flower after it dries up? We got ours wwith the root already on it from another person. TThanks for the info!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Pam,

    The seeds come from the flowers, once they’ve dried up. :)

  • Paula said:

    Just got the first plant this weekend. I had never heard of lamb’s ear. I love the way it feels and it’s good to know that it has medicinal properties. I definitely will get it planted soon.

  • niki said:

    I too had no idea about the wide range of uses for this pretty little plant. I am definitely going to find my self some and plant it in my borders to view, to eat and caress. I love sensory gardens. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    We love Lamb’s Ear, Niki. I hope you can get a bunch planted!

  • Mia said:

    Hi just got lam ear yesterday and I did not know what to do with it and didn’t know it had so many uses. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    You’re so welcome, Mia! I hope you can put it to good use.

  • Mia said:

    It grew and I an gonna plant it in another pot my lambs ear likes shade a lot better than sun it has 14 big full grown leafs

  • Lynn said:

    I am just now finding this post from 2 years ago. I was wondering if there is a difference between Wooly Lambs Ear and just Lambs Ear. My son said he had read that the Wooly Lambs Ear could not be bought as a plant, only by seed. I have seen Lambs Ear for sale in many places around my area. I live in north MS near Memphis. If they are the same thing, then I am in luck!!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Lynn,

    It’s usually the same thing, some people just call it Lamb’s Ear. You can buy the plants. I’ve seen them for sale at local nurseries. They transplant well. :)

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