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Plant Profile: Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina aka S. lanata)

Lambs Ear Stachys byzantinaLamb’s ear is a herbaceous perennial native to Turkey, Armenia, and Iran, and is a member of the deadnettle family, Laminaceae, that also includes mint, basil, and beebalm. It forms a dense rosette 4-6″ tall of silvery-gray leaves that are up to 4″ long, soft, fuzzy, and resemble a lamb’s ear. In summer terminal spikes 10-15″ tall carry tiny inconsipicuous bright pink flowers. Many gardeners do not find the flowering stems attractive and cut them off as they appear, or buy cultivars that do not produce flowers. Plants are evergreen in mild climates but melt out in hot humids climates. They are an excellent choice as an eding plant in parterres or borders and if wacked off by the lawnmower will promptly grow back. There is no better plant than lamb’s ear to introduce children to the joys of plants. Just stroke the leaves and you will see why. The genus name, Stachys, comes from the Greek word stachys meaning ear of corn and refers to the inflorescence of a related plant. The specific epithet, lanata, comes from the Latin word lana meaning willy and refers to the texture of the leaves. The specific epithet, byzantina, refers to the ancient city of Byzantium, now known as Istanbul, and refers to the geographic distribution of the plant.

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Bloom: Inconspicuous small pink flowers bloom on 12-18” stems in spring.

Size: 6” H x 9”-18” W (spreads very quickly).

Light: Full sun with afternoon shade in the South.

Soil: Average, dry to medium, well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established.

Fertilizer: Fertilize in spring with general fertilizer.

Hardiness: Zones 4-8.

Care: Remove dead foliage as it appears both in late summer and the end of winter.

Pests and Diseases: Leaves rot in hot humid weather; slugs and earwigs may eat holes in the leaves but can be controlled with baits.

Propagation: Divide in spring; basal cuttings in spring.

Companion plants: Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria), pink, red, or orange roses or annuals such as portulaca; Platycodon gradiflora ‘Sentimental Blue’; white variegated lirope, Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa). The Adam’s needle is sharp and pointy and is an interesting contrast to the softness of the Lamb’s Ear.

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