Stachys byzantina, the lamb’s ear, is a flowering plant species from the Lamiaceae family, indigenous to Iran, Armenia, and Turkey. It is cultivated by ornamental enthusiasts in most temperate climates and has become naturally established in some areas after escaping from gardens.
These plants produce flower stems of 12–18 inches tall while the rest of the plants grow low and about 12 inches wide. They flower in spring and summer, producing small light purple flowers. These plants are considered to be evergreen but often die back in cold winters and revive in spring.
They are herbaceous perennials, normally covered with silver-white or grey, silky hair. They are called lamb’s ears because the leaves are curved with a white soft fuzzy coating. Flowering spikes are erect and often branched. There are many different cultivars including white flowering varieties, shorter varieties as well as varieties that don’t flower so much.
These plants are popular with insects and Hummingbirds, particularly with bees. Wool Carder Bees make nests with the fuzz in decayed wood. Bumblebees like to visit the plants during the morning to collect water that condenses on the hair of the leaves.
The plants spread rapidly, making them good groundcover in sunny areas. These plants are drought-tolerant and are good for rock gardens and xeriscaping.
Cultivate these pants under the direct sun in cool climates, while they can grow under partial shade in desert areas and warmer climates. Too much heat and arid conditions will cause leaf burn. If you grow it indoors, it needs at least 8 hours of bright light – if this isn’t possible, use grow lights.
These plants only need watering once weekly. While they are drought-tolerant, they will lose a few older leaves in dry conditions. Avoid getting the leaves wet as they will start rotting or develop fungal diseases like powdery mildew or leaf spot if the leaves get wet. Leaves closer to the soil are particularly prone to rot. Mulch under the leaves to alleviate this but it’s best to directly water the soil.
They don’t like humid conditions as this makes them vulnerable to fungal diseases. But since they spread so fast, rotted plants can easily be replaced by propagating new plants.
These plants grow well throughout their hardiness range of zones 4a – 9a (−30 to 30 °F) and can withstand a broad range of temperatures. While they are evergreen in milder climates, the leaves and stems tend to die down in harsh winters and come back in spring.
These perennials thrive in poor soil provided it is well-drained and has a slightly acidic soil pH. Add organic compost to poor soil for improving drainage before planting.
These plants aren’t normally kept potted, but some use it as a filler in big container gardens. Since it only needs very little watering, keep it with plants that have the same watering needs. If you’re potting it, use terra cotta or clay pots with good drainage capacity to prevent overwatering problems.
These plants divide easily and they benefit from being divided every 2 or 3 years to keep them healthy. Flowering cultivars need division more frequently than non-flowering varieties. You’ll know when to divide the plant is when the center of the plant dies.
Prepare a new pot or growing location with well-draining soil. Dig the plant up carefully and remove dead or wilted foliage and roots. Split the root clump into several portions, with each portion having healthy fibrous roots. Plant each portion in separate pots or the ground, spaced at least 18 inches apart.
Seeds are best to start indoors in late winter, 8 or 10 weeks before spring begins. Use damp starting soil and lightly sow the seeds on top but don’t cover them as light is needed to help them germinate. Keep watering the soil lightly until they germinate, you can also plant seeds outdoors in spring. It usually takes around 30 days for the seeds to germinate.
These plants don’t need fertilizing since they prefer growing in poor soil. However, organic compost can be added every spring to help growth.
Some cultivators find that the flower stalks are gangly and deadhead them to keep the plants looking healthy. Remove dead/dry leaves or parts to also prevent pests. In late autumn, these plants will start dying back, particularly in colder climates. You can prune away the dying foliage now or in spring before new growth appears. The plant’s stems will take root any time they contact the soil so you can prune it back to control it from spreading too much.
These plants aren’t very vulnerable to pests because of their hairy leaves but they are prone to fungal diseases due to their intolerance for humid conditions and water-logged soil. The humid summer months can bring problems as these plants can develop leaf/root rot and leaf spots from fungal infections that create white or brown or black or powdery yellow spots. Remove damaged/infected leaves and decaying foliage as this frequently attracts fungal spores to treat and save the plants, use a suitable antifungal spray and provide the plant with more air circulation.
Stunted growth is caused by microscopic nematodes that slender roundworms can attack the entire plant, making the plant appear wilted, sickly, and stunted, with the leaves turning yellow or bronze and dying. The only way out is to destroy the plant and treat the soil with pesticides.
Diseased leaves can attract sowbugs, sometimes they are a type of woodlouse that feeds on bacteria and fungi on dead and decaying vegetation. Spread diatomaceous earth near the plants to eliminate these pests.
These plants like to spread and branch out since the branches can easily take root, they no longer need their central root system and focus on developing new growth as a result, their central root system dies and starts decaying. These should be removed as unwanted pests and fungal diseases will be attracted and spread. Keep the soil dry and prune the plants to control and prevent root death.