How to Grow Lamb’s Ear Plant

Have you ever wondered how to add a touch of softness and beauty to your garden? Lamb’s ear, with its velvety, silver-green foliage, is an excellent choice. Known for its unique texture and appearance, this perennial plant not only adds visual interest but also serves as an easy-to-care-for ground cover.

Lamb’s ear is prized for its soft, woolly leaves that resemble the texture of a lamb’s ear, making it a favorite among gardeners and children alike. This hardy plant is drought-tolerant and thrives in well-drained soil, making it ideal for rock gardens, borders, and even as a charming filler in mixed beds.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, lamb’s ear also offers practical benefits. It can help suppress weeds, thanks to its dense growth habit, and is relatively pest-resistant. Whether you’re looking to create a calming garden retreat or simply want a plant that thrives with minimal maintenance, lamb’s ear is a versatile option.

In this guide, we’ll explore the outstanding features of lamb’s ear and provide you with everything you need to know to grow and care for this charming plant.

Lamb's Ear
Lamb’s Ear
Botanical Name Stachys byzantina
Common name Lamb’s ears, woolly betony
Family Lamiaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Height 12–18 in. tall, 12-36 in. wide
Sunlight Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moist, well-draining
Flower Color Purple
Flowering Season Spring, summer
Habitat Middle East

 

Propagation

From Seeds

Start a couple of months before the last spring frost.

Fill pots with potting soil, press the seeds into the surface without covering them, and space them 6 inches apart. Keep the pots in a warm spot or on a heating mat at around 70°F (21°C).

Germination takes up to four weeks. Keep the soil moist and provide bright, indirect light.

Once seedlings appear, harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over a week or two before planting them in the garden.

Propagating Lamb’s Ear from Seeds
Propagating Lamb’s Ear from Seeds

 

Division

The quickest and most effective way to propagate lamb’s ear is through division. This method is best done in the spring.

Start by lifting the entire plant and its root ball from the ground. Using your hands or a sharp knife, gently separate the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each section has healthy roots.

Plant these divisions immediately in well-draining soil, spacing them at least 18 inches apart to allow for growth.

Water the newly planted sections thoroughly and keep the soil moist for the first couple of weeks. After they establish, you can water sparingly unless there’s no rainfall.

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Propagating From Division
Propagating From Division

 

Growing Lamb’s Ear

Preparation

Choose your favorite types of lamb’s ear that you love. Here are some popular varieties:

  • ‘Big Ears’ or ‘Helen von Stein’: Known for its large leaves, this popular variety can go years without blooming and has relatively good disease resistance.
  • Silver Carpet’: This cultivar rarely flowers and stays short, making it an excellent ground cover. Its dense, silver-gray foliage adds a soft texture to garden beds and pathways.
  • ‘Cotton Ball’: This variety features compact growth with white, cotton-like flower spikes that appear in summer.
  • ‘Primrose Heron’: Known for its yellowish-green new foliage that matures to silvery-gray, this variety provides a distinctive color variation. It adds a unique charm to garden settings with its changing leaf colors.
Types of Lamb's Ear
Types of Lamb’s Ear

Use a well-draining, sterile seed-starting mix for the best results. Check that the soil pH is slightly alkaline to neutral, ideally between 6.0 and 7.5.

Prepare seed trays or small pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

 

Grow Lamb’s Ear from Seeds

Begin sowing seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil and lightly press them in without covering them, as they require light for germination. Space the seeds about 1-2 inches apart to allow for proper growth.

Mist the soil lightly with water to keep it consistently moist but not soggy. Place the seed trays under grow lights or in a bright, sunny window to provide the necessary light exposure.

Maintain a temperature of 70-75°F (21-24°C) for optimal germination. Expect the seeds to germinate within 10-20 days.

Once the seedlings have developed two true leaves, thin them to 3-4 inches apart. Gradually acclimate the seedlings to outdoor conditions over 7-10 days.

After the danger of frost has passed, transplant the seedlings outdoors, spacing them 12-18 inches apart in well-drained soil.

Advice: Lamb’s ear pairs well with black-eyed susan and daylily, providing contrasting textures and helping to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

Growing Lamb's Ear
Growing Lamb’s Ear

 

Care for Lamb’s Ear

Here are main requirements for planting lamb’s ear successfully:

  • Amend the soil with compost to enhance fertility and drainage.
  • Space plants at least 12 to 18 inches apart to allow room for growth.
  • Water new plants until established, then limit watering to 1 inch per week.
  • Apply mulch to keep the leaves close to the ground dry.
  • Place in full sun for optimal growth.
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Light

Lamb’s ear thrives in full sun but can benefit from partial shade in high-heat areas to prevent leaf scorching.

While it tolerates shade, producing greener, less hairy foliage, too much shade can cause leggy growth. Ensure at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

 

Soil

Lamb’s ear prefers well-draining, slightly alkaline to neutral soil (pH 6.0-7.5). Amend soil with compost for better fertility and drainage.

Avoid rich soil to prevent excessive spreading. Keep the soil dry to medium-moisture, and use mulch to retain moisture while keeping leaves dry.

 

Water

Lamb’s ear requires minimal watering once established. Initially, water regularly until the plants are established. Afterward, water about 1 inch per week, preferably in the morning to allow foliage to dry by evening.

Avoid overwatering, as lamb’s ear prefers dry to medium-moisture soil and does not tolerate soggy conditions.

 

Temperature and Humidity

Lamb’s ear thrives in 60-80°F (15-27°C) and USDA zones 4 to 9. It dislikes high humidity, which can cause fungal diseases.

In mild climates, it’s evergreen; in colder areas, it dies back in winter and reemerges in spring. Ensure good air circulation and avoid overhead watering.

 

Pruning

Regularly remove any dead or damaged leaves to prevent disease. Trim back flower spikes after blooming to encourage more foliage growth.

In late winter or early spring, cut back old growth to allow new shoots to emerge. Pruning helps control the plant’s spread and keeps it looking tidy.

 

Fertilizer

Lamb’s ear generally doesn’t require much fertilization. However, to promote healthy growth, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring.

 

Pests and Diseases

Lamb’s ear is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but it can occasionally encounter problems. Aphids and spider mites might infest the plant, which can be managed with insecticidal soap.

Fungal leaf diseases, such as powdery mildew and leaf spot, are more common in high humidity and poor air circulation. To prevent these issues, ensure good spacing, avoid overhead watering, and remove any affected leaves promptly.

Pests and Diseases
Pests and Diseases

 

Common Problems

Stunted Growth

Stunted growth, marked by slow development, often results from poor soil conditions and inadequate drainage. Improving soil drainage and reducing watering can prevent waterlogging and promote healthier growth.

 

Spots on Leaves

Spots on lamb’s ear leaves usually indicate fungal infections caused by high humidity and poor air circulation. Ensuring good air circulation, avoiding overhead watering, and promptly removing affected leaves can mitigate this issue.

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Rotting Leaves

Rotting leaves occur due to excessive moisture and high humidity, causing decay. To prevent this, maintain well-drained soil, reduce watering, and avoid overhead watering. Remove any rotting leaves promptly to keep the plant healthy.

 

Harvest

The best time to harvest lamb’s ear is in late spring to early summer when the leaves are at their peak. Harvest in the morning after the dew has dried for the freshest leaves.

Use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant. Collect the harvested leaves in a clean basket or container.

Cut the leaves close to the base of the plant, being careful not to damage the main stem. To ensure continuous growth and production, harvest only about a third of the plant at a time.

This method helps you harvest fresh lamb’s ears, which can last about 7-10 days with proper care.

Harvest
Harvest

 

Preservation

To preserve lamb’s ear by drying, hang small bundles of leaves upside down in a cool, dry place with good air circulation until completely dry.

Dried lamb’s ear can be used in various crafts and decorative items, such as wreaths and dried flower arrangements. Medically, dried leaves have antiseptic properties and can be used to soothe minor cuts and skin irritations.

Preservation
Preservation

By following proper planting, care, and propagation techniques, your lamb’s ear can thrive in the garden, offering both aesthetic appeal and practical benefits.

How to Grow Lamb’s Ear Plant
How to Grow Lamb’s Ear Plant

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