How To Grow & Use Wooly Lamb’s Ear
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.
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.
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?