- How to Care for a Lamb
- Caring For Lambs
- Lamb’s Ear Background
- How to Grow Lamb’s Ear
- Caring for Lamb’s Ear
- Uses for Lamb’s Ear
- A Pagan’s Journey into Herbalism
- The Garden: Lamb’s Ear
- Lamb’s Ear
- Tips for Growing Lamb’s Ear
- Lamb’s Ear Planting – How To Grow And Care For Lamb’s Ear Plant
- Growing Lamb’s Ear
- How to Plant Lamb’s Ears
- Care of Lamb’s Ear
- A Soft Touch
- Establishing Lamb’s Ear in the Garden
- Popular Varieties
- A Fun Plant to Grow
How to Care for a Lamb
When a lamb is born, the best way to make sure it grows into a productive and healthy adult sheep is to provide proper feeding and nutrition, housing and health care. If you are unsure what to do, contact your veterinarian for advice, and visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to shop for all the livestock care supplies you need.
What to Do Immediately after a Lamb is Born
Here are a few things you should do immediately following the birth of a new lamb on your farm:
- Trim the lamb’s navel cord to about 3 – 4 inches and dip the navel cord in an iodine solution to prevent infection.
- Tie the navel cord with a surgical suture so the navel cord eventually dries out and falls off naturally.
- Feed antibody-rich colostrum as soon as possible, or within the first 2 hours of life. If the lamb will not consume colostrum within the first 18 hours, contact your veterinarian. You may need to feed the lamb via feeding tube, which may need to be done by an experienced livestock owner. If no maternal colostrum is available from an ewe, or mother sheep, feed the lamb colostrum supplement, available at Tractor Supply Co.
How to House a New Lamb
It is important to keep your new baby lamb separated from adult livestock until it is old enough to establish a healthy immune system and become vaccinated from common parasites and infection. Read more about how to create a bio-security plan for you farm here.
Provide a clean, warm and well-bedded shelter for the lamb or group of lambs of similar ages.
How to Bottle Feed a Nursing Lamb
A lamb’s primary source of nutrition is milk, and hand-raised lambs must be fed milk from a bottle. Depending on the size of your sheep herd, it may save time to feed older lambs using a pail or automated livestock feeder.
Here are some tips for bottle feeding lambs:
- Feed at intervals that mimic natural feeding behavior.
- Feed lambs at least 4 times per day for the first 2 weeks of life, then 3 – 4 times per day until the lamb is 30 days old.
- If the lamb develops scours, a common condition in livestock that causes diarrhea, mix in electrolyte supplements with water and feed separately from milk feed. This will help prevent dehydration in the lamb, a dangerous condition for baby livestock.
How to Wean a Lamb
Sheep are ruminants, or animals that chew partially digested food multiple times throughout the digestion process. Help your lamb make the transition from liquid to solid by weaning. To wean a lamb from milk re-placer and onto solid feed, follow these steps:
- Once the lamb is 1 week old, offer a high-quality creep feed with at least 16 – 18% crude protein.
- Do not feed the lamb alfalfa hay just yet, because it increases the chance of bloat, a common condition in livestock that causes excess gas and discomfort.
- Provide clean, fresh water free choice at all times.
- Once the lamb is about 30 days old and has successfully been fed creep feed, milk replacer and a steady supply of clean water, introduce dry lamb feed.
- It is recommended to wean lambs abruptly instead of gradually.
Caring For Lambs
Keeping sheep on your homestead or farm is no small undertaking. They require good housing to protect them from the elements, vaccinations, feed, and regular care. They need to be sheared each year, and when lambing time comes around, you will have to supervise and care for the babies as needed. The payback, though, can be great. Sheep are an excellent source of wool and meat. You can use the wool yourself or sell it for income. You can also sell the lambs for extra money and slaughter sheep to feed your family.
Before your first lambing, be sure you are as informed as you can be about the process and how to care for the newborns. It would be especially beneficial to have someone there who has experience with sheep to help you through the process for the first time. Around 20 percent of lambs die before they are weaned. If you take the time to learn about their care and then put it into action, you can reduce this statistic significantly, at least on your homestead.
Successfully Raise Farm Animals With The Backyard Homestead Guide…
Healthy lambs start with healthy ewes. Nutrition during gestation is essential for the health of the ewe and the lambs. She will need more energy than usual, so it is important to make sure the ewe is getting enough feed. A balance must be struck between under and over feeding the ewe. Both extremes can result in problems in the lambs. A good measure is to give her one and a quarter to one and a half pounds of concentrated grain along with three and a half to four pounds of hay. Pregnant ewes should be fed separately from the other sheep and should never be given their feed on the ground.
Your pregnant ewe will also need to get adequate vitamin E, selenium, and calcium. If necessary, give her a supplement. She may be most at risk of calcium deficiency if most of her food comes from grains. Foraged feed has more calcium. In addition to nutrients, your ewe needs to get plenty of exercise. Place water, feed, and minerals far apart from each other so she has to move around. Minimize her stress by handling her as little as possible. Check with your veterinarian to see what vaccinations she should have before lambing.
Once you are sure the ewe is in good condition for lambing, it’s time to be sure the facilities are in order. The lambing area in the barn should be cleaned thoroughly as well as limed. Some people like to put down a layer of diatomaceous earth to soak up excess moisture, which keeps the location more sanitized. Lastly, put down fresh bedding. The area for lambing should be twelve to fourteen square feet per ewe. Be sure the area is warm and free of drafts.
You will also need to prepare the lambing jugs. These are the pens to which you will move the ewe and lamb after birthing. These small pens help the lamb and ewe to bond and prevent mismothering. They should be cleaned as thoroughly as the lambing area before the animals are moved in. Create a little nook in one corner of the jug that is divided off from the rest of the space. This gives the lamb a safe place where it can retreat for safety reasons.
One of the first things that you will need to do to keep your new lambs healthy and safe is disinfect their navel cords. These are a sure way for infection to get into the lamb’s body and should be dealt with right away. First, clip the cord so that it is no longer than two inches. Then, disinfect the stump with an appropriate solution such as gentle iodine or betadine. Either spray the stump or dip it in the iodine solution.
Your lamb’s first food should be its mother’s milk. The first milk that she produces after giving birth is called colostrum, and it is very important that the lamb gets it within the first twenty-four hours. It is possible for a lamb to survive without it, but the risk is great that it will die of a disease. Colostrum is so important because in addition to containing crucial nutrients, it has antibodies that will protect the lamb from infection and disease. The ewe produces these antibodies, but does not pass them through the placenta to the lamb. For this reason, the newborn lamb is extremely vulnerable. To get the needed antibodies, it must consume them through the colostrum. If for some reason the ewe is not producing enough or will not feed the lamb, you can use replacement colostrum from another ewe or from a cow or goat. A lamb should get about a pound of colostrum in the first twenty-four hours, and another half of a pound eight hours after that.
Until your lamb is big and healthy, you must do all that is possible to avoid the main causes of death. These include starvation, hypothermia, scours (diarrhea), and pneumonia. Ensuring an adequate intake of colostrum is the first step towards preventing untimely death. It even helps to keep the newborn lamb warm. Additionally, preparing the lambing area and jug correctly will help to ward off dangerous chills. The ewe’s care for the lamb is also important. The faster she licks off the newborn, the warmer it will be. Watch the lamb’s behavior for signs of hypothermia: hunching up, unable to hold up its head, cold feel to its mouth and ears, and an inability to suckle. Its temperature should not drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can warm up a cold lamb by making sure it is dry, wrapping it in a blanket, and getting it enough colostrum.
To prevent starvation of your lamb, be sure that it is suckling and that its mother is producing enough milk. An underfed lamb will either be unable to stand or will stand with its head drooping down. It will also become hypothermic as a result of not getting enough nourishment. Starvation is a bigger risk in the first three days. You may need to bottle feed your lamb if it is not getting enough from the mother.
Scours, or diarrhea, can be very deadly in your baby lamb. It is caused by various types of bacteria, and the infection can be prevented by getting the lamb an adequate amount of colostrum. Preparing the lambing area and jug by cleaning and disinfecting is also good protection against scours. If you find yourself with a case of scours, you can treat it. You will need to administer antibiotics and fluids to the lamb.
The final concern for your newborn’s safety, pneumonia, is also caused by a bacterial infection. Again, getting an adequate intake of colostrum and proper disinfection are key. Keeping out drafts and moisture while ensuring good ventilation is also important. A lamb with pneumonia will have a fever, an increased breathing rate, will be lethargic and gaunt, and may not be feeding correctly. To treat an infection, you must administer penicillin, tetracycline, or other antibiotics. Giving the lamb fluids at the same time can make the treatment more successful.
In the event that your new lamb is rejected by its mother, you will either need to care for it yourself or foster it to another ewe. If you had multiple births, you can first try giving the lamb to a different mother. To encourage her to accept it, try rubbing her placenta on the newborn. Be prepared with replacement colostrum in case she will not take the baby and you need to bottle feed it.
Caring for lambs is all about getting through the first ten days or so. If you can ensure the lamb gets enough colostrum, is warm, well fed, and disease free at this point, you are nearly home free. Once they pass the crucial stage, lamb care is largely hands-off. As long as their mother accepts them, the lambs will be happy and healthy and you will have new additions to your herd.
©2012 Off the Grid News
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.
Many people notice Lamb’s Ear popping up in their gardens and pull it immediately, thinking it’s a weed. Likely, it reemerges right away, as it’s highly resilient.
If you happen to notice Lamb’s Ear on your property, let it be! Not only is it a valuable plant to have in your garden, it offers hundreds of medicinal and culinary purposes as well.
Table of Contents
Lamb’s Ear Background
Lamb’s ear was originally grown in Turkey, Armenia, and Iran, but is now cultivated around much of the world because of its ornamental, medicinal, and culinary qualities.
It also has antibacterial properties and is even effective against Staphyloccocus aureus, the strain of bacteria responsible for various infections like sinus or skin infections. This bacteria is resistant to most antibiotics, so Lamb’s Ear is a godsend in the fight against it.
Used as a natural bandage in medieval times, this plant is super effective at healing wounds. It was one of the most important medicinal herbs to the Anglo-Saxons of early medieval Britain and is native to Europe and the Middle East.
However, it has spread widely to most parts of North America. Although it’s considered invasive, there are a ton of physical benefits to it that most people appreciate.
Mysteriously, some superstitious people even believe that lamb’s ear has the power to heal spiritual and emotional wounds!
This plant has been cultivated all over the world for its ornamental qualities. You might see it marketed by other names, too, including woolly hedgenettle, Stachys lanata or Stachs olympica.
There are several cultivars available, including:
- Big Ears: This variety, as you might expect, has leaves up to 25 centimeters long!
- Primrose Heron: This one has pink flowers and its leaves turn yellow in the spring.
- Striped Phantom: Striped Phantom is distinguishable by its variegated leave.
- Silver Carpet: Silver Carpet is a sterile plant that is asexually propagated and has grey leaves.
- Silky Fleece: Silky Fleece produces lilac-colored flowers along with small white woolly foliage. It propagates by seed.
- Sheila Macqueen: This is another sterile variety of lamb’s ear that produces large leaves.
- Cotton boll: Another sterile cultivar, this one is also asexually propagated and doesn’t produce flowering stems.
Commonly grown in children’s’ gardens, this plant is easy to grow and even more fun to touch! It’s used as an edible plant in a variety of areas, particularly in Brazil, and is known there as lambari. It can be used as a landscaping plant, too, as it’s perfect for edging and creating borders.
A perennial herb, lamb’s ear is covered with tons of gray or white tiny, silky-smooth hairs. The leaves are curved and covered with fur, much like the lamb of an adorable baby lamb!
The plant later produces flowering spikes up to 22 centimeters long, each of which has many flowers that crowd together on these spikes.
Lamb’s ear flowers in the late spring and early summer, giving your garden plenty of color at the perfect time of year. As evergreen plants, they tend to die back during exceptionally cold winters but later regenerate from their crowns.
How to Grow Lamb’s Ear
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).
You should plant your lamb’s ear seeds in full sun to partial shade. It prefers soil that is well-draining and moderately moist or even somewhat dry. The pH should be mostly neutral at about 6 to 6.5. It grows best in zones 4 to 7 but may be able to tolerate some other climates, too.
Lamb’s ear is commonly used as a flower border but can also serve as an excellent groundcover. You can start it by seeds or you can dig up other plants that were created via self-seeding and divide them in the spring. You can even use them in rock gardens!
Just plant the seeds 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.
If you’re planting started plants, space them at least a foot or so apart so they have room to sprawl. You don’t need to fertilize prior to planting, but it doesn’t hurt to add a bit of compost.
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.)
Lamb’s ear is a super tolerant plant. It’s actually distantly related to mint, which is why it is so hardy and such a vigorous grower. A frost hardy plant, it produces downy leaves that make it super drought tolerant. Even when water is low and sunlight is intense, this plant will rarely droop.
Lamb’s ear has two phases of growth – in the first, it will grow horizontally and produce a cushiony mattress. In the second stage, it will send up stalks and flowers in spikes. It is truly a self-mulching plant!
The spikes will grow to up to 18 inches tall, with the rest of the plant spreading out about one foot wide, much closer to the ground. The blooms are usually light purple.
They can tolerate drought conditions as well as poor soil quality, but they don’t do well with standing water. Make sure wherever you plant them has excellent drainage.)
Caring for Lamb’s Ear
Once the plants have developed, you have to keep an eye out for rotting in humid conditions. Mulching underneath the leaves can help prevent this and other moisture-related diseases and fungi from developing.
You do not need to fertilize the plant at all, but you may find that it benefits from a light application of compost each spring.
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.
If and when your plants DO flower, you should clip off any dead flower heads. Healthy flowers attract bees as well as other pollinators, and also give off a pleasant, pineapple-like scent.
The plants don’t normally attract a lot of pests, except in damp, humid weather. Humidity can cause the foliage to become diseased, which can attract sowbugs. Remove dead or diseased leaves to prevent these (as well as other!) pests.
Lamb’s ear grows in zones 4-7, 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.
Wherever you plant them, make sure you are comfortable with them epxnading. They can be somewhat invasive and will create dense mats even in undesirable soil.
You might need to thin it every two or three years.
If you are reading this and haven’t planted lamb’s ear yet, I recommend selecting a location that you don’t mind becoming inundated with these plants – you’re going to have plenty on your hands so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
Even if you choose not to divide it because it’s growing out of control, it’s a good idea to, at the very least, prune your plants. This can help prevent your flower stalks from becoming too tall and gangly.
If you think they look a little awkward, just cut them off. Otherwise, just divide your plants every four years or so, or leave them be if you want to maintain large, sprawling clumps.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned, they’re drought tolerant, and deer resistant (most herbivores find the ultra-soft leaves unpalatable). It’s also resistant to rabbits. They are also super easy to grow.
Uses for Lamb’s Ear
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.
This plant creates a gorgeous and verdant carpet in the garden, with a layer of tiny white hairs. The kids love to walk through the lamb’s ear and pet the leaves!
Lamb’s Ear makes a handsome border to any walkway or flowerbed. In addition to its lush foliage, it also produces lovely blooms. This plant grows up to three feet tall and up to four feet wide, and can produce flowers in colors like pink, purple, red, and even white. This plant attracts birds and makes a good cut flower as well.
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.
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.
Wooly Lamb’s Ear causes the blood to clot more quickly and the fuzzy leaves absorb blood easily. It’s a good alternative to store-bought bandages if you’re trying to live a truly off-the-grid lifestyle.
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
The leaves of wooly lamb’s ear are perfect as makeshift bandages. Because they are so soft, you won’t mind putting them on your skin -plus, they’re antibacterial, absorbent, antiseptic, and antifungal.
Use them to treat scrapes, buts, burns, insect stings, and bug bites. For an even more powerful effect, combine lamb’s ear with a bit of plantain or yarrow.
It has also been said that Lamb’s Ear was used as the first toilet tissue! Remember that the next time you head out on a backwoods camping trip.
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. It tastes like a combination of apples and pineapples, with a delightfully fruity taste.
You can also make a very pleasant tea by steeping dried leaves in boiling water. Pick fresh, young leaves for best flavor when consuming.
This tea not only tastes great, but can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Among them, lamb’s ear can treat sore throats, internal bleeding, and even candida overgrowth. It’s also believed to boost liver and heart health and to treat staph infections, E. coli, and other diseases.
Here are some of the other things lamb’s ear can treat:
- Bladders stones
- Kidney stones
You can even use Lamb’s Ear for floral arrangements, wraths, and potpourris. 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?
updated 11/22/2019 by Rebekah White
Medicinal Properties of Woolly Lamb’s Ears
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Le Anne Hakimi
Posted on: August 21, 2001
I am growing a profusion of medicinal herbs and shrubs and all but one I have extensive information on. It’s Lamb’s Ear, and I remember reading somewhere that it was used medicinally, but I can’t seem to find that reference again. I’ve searched and searched and all I can find is that it was at one time used as bandages (I can believe that!) and that it makes a wonderful moonlight garden plant, owing to it’s silvery leaves. Do you have any information on its medicinal uses?
Woolly lamb’s ears is also known as woolly woundwort. Botanically, the currently accepted name is Stachys byzantina but older books refer to it as Stachys lanata. The Stachys genus has several other medicinally active species including Stachys officinalis, the common wood betony, and S. palustris, the marsh woundwort, so it is not perhaps not surprising that lamb’s ear might have medicinal properties similar to these two. Marsh woundwort, for example, was reputed to heal wounds rapidly, with supporting antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. The juice of betony is used to heal cuts, external ulcers and old sores. We did not find any documented evidence in Richters library and databases that lamb’s ears has the same properties, but it wouldn’t surprise us that it does. Certainly, as you have noted, the soft woolly leaves are a natural choice for use as a bandage for purely physical reasons, and if, like betony or marsh woundwort and other Stachy species, it were to have additional medicinal effects when the fresh juice of the leaves seeps into the wound from the bandage, it would make for a doubly useful first aid herb.
Also, tips on cultivating it? It’s very healthy and vigorous now and growing like crazy, but I’m not sure what to do with it for winter. I’m uncertain what zone I’m in (I thought it was 5 or 6, but we rarely get below 5 or 10 degrees Farenheit, so I’m not really sure).
To find your zone, you can check the USDA plant hardiness zone map which you will find on our website in the “Richters InfoCentre” area.
Lamb’s ears is very hardy, and very easy to grow. It requires full sun, good drainage, and little more. Over the years your patch will become overgrown and will need to be thinned out every, perhaps, 2-3 years. To keep the patch neat you can cut back the flowering stems once they have finished flowering and they are beginning to develop seeds.
A Pagan’s Journey into Herbalism
The Garden: Lamb’s Ear
Ah, Lamb’s Ear. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with these gorgeous plants. They ARE gorgeous – the leaves are silvery green and thick and fuzzy and soft as, well, a lamb’s ear (imagine that!). The spires of flowers are a beautiful contrast with delicate purple flowers. But either contain these guys or let ‘em run because they WILL run. They are prolific and will happily take over a bed completely. I had to thin out a bunch of them this year and didn’t know what to do with them, so into the compost they went. Next year, I know exactly where I’m putting them because I want to see if I can get something to grow under those windows! They are fairly hardy, occasionally nigh invasive, but they do NOT like really damp conditions and wet feet (plus, too much water and that pretty silvery fur turns all yellow brown in a very not pretty way).
Okay. Mostly, I love this plant. It’s pretty, it’s furry, it’s silvery, and it has neat properties. Now someone remind me of that when I have to divide them up in the spring.
NOTE: If anyone has information on Lamb’’s Ear proper (medicinal/pagan), I’d love to see it.
- Family/Name: Stachys byzantine. Related to Betony and often called Wooly Betony and, oddly enough, a member of the mint family (could have something to do with their tenacity).
- Aromatic: Apparently, smell a bit like pineapple! I can’t recall personally, but will be intrigued to find out. If so, definitely herb satchel potpourri!
- Topical Benefits: Lamb’s Ear has a history of staunching wounds (a member of the woundworts) and can be used as a natural bandage for a number of topical applications. It apparently also has good absorption properties and has been used for menstrual uses as well as a natural pad. The leaves are reported to have antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory uses, particularly when used fresh, which is why they’re the go-to plant for natural bandages and are used for stings, welts, and other uncomfortable swellings (hemorrhoids). These same properties can be used for warm, damp compresses (though I don’t know how boiling them would affect their medicinal properties for topical uses). If you can’t find aloe or honey, this plant is a great alternative and acts as a bandage/barrier as well if needed. I can’t get into the research paper, but apparently, extract of lamb’s ear has VR-MRSA potential.
- Edible & Dried Uses: The dried leaves have a variety of crafty purposes, but can also be slivered for tea, which supposedly has a sweet, apple-like flavor (I would guess reminiscent of chamomile). Teas, tinctures, infusions, and topical uses for fresh and dried. You can eat them straight from the garden if you don’t mind fuzzy food or gently steam for salads.
- Possible Interactions: Blood pressure medications.
- Safety: Most sites I’ve found don’t list Lamb’s Ear, but Betony pulls up some caution warnings regarding stomach upset and blood pressure (betony lowers bp), plus the traditional “we don’t know for sure, so don’t do it” pregnancy warning. Given the close nature of these two, it would be wise to assume similar interactions.
- Other Names: Wooly betony, woundwort, wooly woundwort, lamb’s tongue; the Stachys family covers: heal-all, self-heal, woundwort, betony, lamb’s ears, and hedgenettle, with wood betony being Stachys officinalis. There seems to be a great deal of overlap with the variants.
- Attributes: Unk. Lamb’s Ear doesn’t really ping on a search for mystical properties – not via Google or in any of my herb books. On a guess, I’d go with the following…
Venus, water, feminine, moon, healing, protection, purification, negating hostile influences
- Related Attributes: Refer to Betony.
Betony: Fire, Jupiter, Venus, consecration, prevent intoxication, protection, psychic protection, preventing bad dreams, dispelling negative influences and hostile forces
Honestly, I’m scraping around for these resources as most of this is a bit of odds’n’ends tidbits I’ve picked up here and there. Most webpages I’m finding are saying pretty much the same things and nothing really definitive.
- Favorite Site – The Chippewa Herald Why? Because it addresses the fact that most sites are saying the same thing!
- Favorite Site: The Medicinal Herb Gardens at ONU
- WebMD – Betony (Stachys officinalis – Not Lamb’s Ear, but relative)
- Mother Earth Living
- The Pepper Project: Growing Anti-Bacterial Bandages
- The Fig & Honey Life – Lamb’s Ear
- Missouri Botanical Garden (general garden info)
Lamb’s ears are a bit more on the vegetarian side.
- Lamb’s ears are primarily perennial evergreen plants native to Turkey, Iran and Armenia in Europe.
- The scientific name of a lamb’s ear plant is Stachys byzantina, from the family Lamiaceae, the family of mint, and the plant is also known as ‘lamb’s tongue’ and ‘woolly woundwort’.
- The leaves of lamb’s ears have a soft velvety texture and are shaped like the ear of a lamb, hence the common name, and they are a silver grey-green colour, and when the leaves are young, they tend to be more green in colour.
- Flowers of lamb’s ears bloom during spring and summer on long stems that sit above the plant, and the small flowers range from a pink to purple colour.
- Lamb’s ears typically grow to be 30 to 45 centimetres (12 to 18 inches) tall, and the flower spikes add another 10 to 22 centimetres (4 to 8.7 inches) to the height of the plant.
- Lamb’s ears are often used to decorate gardens and recreational areas, and they commonly attract children due to their soft furry texture.
- The most successful conditions for growing lamb’s ears involve full sun and locations that do not pool water, although they do endure other situations relatively well.
- Lamb’s ear plants benefit from being divided and it is a good way to obtain more plants, and they can also be grown from seed.
- Excessive quantities of water and high humidity levels can cause lamb’s ears to become diseased or rot, and they do have the habit of spreading, especially in ideal growing conditions.
- Lamb’s ear plants have been used as an alternative to toilet paper and medicinally to treat wounds and the like, due to their antiseptic and other medicinal properties, and the leaves are also edible and can be made into a tea.
Lamb’s Ears, 2014, Plant Care Guides, http://www.garden.org/plantguide/?q=show&id=3370
Stachys Byzantina, 2015, Perennials.com, http://www.perennials.com/plants/stachys-byzantina.html
Stachys Byzantina, 2015, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stachys_byzantina
Remember going to the petting zoo with your kids and touching baby lambs? This the feeling of the leaves of Stachys byzantina, also known as Lamb’s Ear. If you love growing perennials, you need to give this hardy plant a try. It is easy to grow, has a lovely texture and the prettiest flowers on tall graceful stems.
Stachys byzantina is a native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran and is also known as hedge nettle. It is actually a form of perennial herb. In Brazil it is grown and used for its medicinal properties. The name lamb’s ears comes from the shape of the leaves and the fuzziness of the coating on them, which resembles the ears of baby lambs. There are many varieties of lamb’s ear.
Tips for Growing Lamb’s Ear
I have tried lamb’s ear in several areas of my garden and have finally found the perfect spot for it. I have it located in my test garden that gets sunlight most of the day but is shaded from neighboring trees from about 4 pm onward. Here are some tips for growing this pretty perennial.
Lamb’s ears does best in full sun where it will get hours and hours of sunlight daily. My test garden gets about 10 hours of sunlight with some full sun over head for about four hours and my lamb’s ears loves the spot I have it planted it. It is a tough summer bloomer that comes into glory in the heat of summer.
As long as the plant gets the right amount of sunlight, and not too much water it will grow easily and spread quickly.
Stachys byzantina likes well draining soil. Too much water will result in root rot. I originally had two clumps of the plant, one on either side of a pathway. The left side got much more standing water and shade than the right side, and the difference in the plants is astounding.
If possible avoid getting too much water on the leaves, especially if you water in the afternoon. Once established, lamb’s ears requires little in the way of maintenance. Outdoors, it only needs extra watering when the temperatures are very high for days on end. The plant is quite drought tolerant because of its native Middle Eastern origins.
The plant flowers in late spring and throughout the summer months. Cut back any flowering stems close to ground level after they flower to encourage new stems and leaves. The flowers start out with pale green blooms on the ends of long stems and gradually open to purple flowers.
The stems of the flowers are tall and erect and often branched. They can grow to 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall and make quite a show when the plant is totally in bloom.
Children will love the texture of the leaves of Stachys byzantina. They are velvety soft with a wooly texture and are silver gray to pale green in color. The shape resembles a lamb’s ear which is where the common name comes from. The plant tends to be evergreen but can die back and get ragged looking in the dormant months and will do well with a clean up in the spring.
When to plant
Plant lamb’s ear in the early spring and space the plants about 2-3 feet apart so that it will have room to spread.
Lamb’s ears grows readily from divisions. Every 3 or 4 years divide the plant in early spring, just as the new growth begins. The plant will benefit from a good pruning close to the crown in spring to remove dead leaves. This will help the plant to bush out and remain more compact. Un-pruned plants can get seedy looking and thin easily as this photo shows.
After division, add some organic matter to the soil and mulch around the plant to retain moisture and help with weed control. Stachys byzantina also grows easily from seed and is also self seeding.
Lamb’s ears is cold hardy in zones 4-8. Intense heat in the warmer zones can make growing it a challenge unless you have a lot of afternoon shade in your garden.
Stachys byzantina makes a wonderful ground cover. It is a dense, low growing plant that spreads in a garden bed if it gets the right conditions, so it works well to fill in areas of your borders to keep the weeds at bay. The purple pink flowers make great cut flowers. The color is great against the darker green colors in most borders to give nice contrasting shades.
Lamb’s ears is best planted at the front of a garden border because of its low growing habit. This large clump of lamb’s ears started early in the year with just a few divisions and filled in the area nicely by the end of the summer.
It is also lovely in a rock garden. Good companion plants are dianthus, and day lilies. The plant also does well in containers in a pot that gets afternoon shade. It can be grown as an indoor plant, but will require quite a bit of light, so a south facing window is best. Be careful not to over water it if you grow Lamb’s ears indoors.
Lamb’s ear is attractive to garden visitors. Bees, and other insects such as butterflies, and hummingbirds love it. It is not popular with deer, rabbits or squirrels.
Plant lamb’s ears in a sunny location and prune flowers when they are done and you will have lovely clumps of low spreading plants for years to come.
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Lamb’s Ear Planting – How To Grow And Care For Lamb’s Ear Plant
A favorite for growing with kids, the lamb’s ear plant (Stachys byzantina) is sure to please in nearly any garden setting. This easy-care perennial has velvety soft, wooly evergreen leaves that are silver to gray-green in color. The foliage is also similar in shape to that of a real lamb’s ears, hence its name. If left to bloom in summer, lamb’s ear will produce spikes of pink to purple colored flowers too.
In addition to enjoying its attractive, fuzzy foliage, the leaves can be used as a “band-aid” of sorts for healing wounds and in helping painful bee stings.
Growing Lamb’s Ear
As long as you provide suitable conditions, growing lamb’s ear in the garden is simple. It’s hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-8, and the plant’s Middle East origins make it superb for growing in drought-like conditions. In fact, lamb’s ear plants are tolerant enough to grow almost anywhere.
The plant should be grown in full sun or partial shade. Although lamb’s ear can tolerate the poorest of soils, it should always be well-draining as the plant dislikes overly moist soil. This is especially true of shady areas.
Lamb’s ear has many uses in the garden, though it is grown primarily for its foliage. The plant’s low-growing, mat-forming foliage makes it ideal for use as a ground cover. Plant them in open borders alongside other perennial plants or grow them in containers.
How to Plant Lamb’s Ears
Lamb’s ear planting is easy and most often takes place in spring. The planting holes should not be any deeper than the pots they were originally growing in. To prevent overcrowding, space the plants at least a foot or so apart.
Although lamb’s ear doesn’t require much in the way of fertilizer, you can add a bit of compost to the holes prior to planting if desired. Water new plants thoroughly but do not waterlog.
Care of Lamb’s Ear
Once established, lamb’s ear requires little maintenance; therefore, the care of lamb’s ear is also easy. Water only when the soil is significantly dry. Watch the foliage carefully in wet sites (from high rainfall) or regions prone to humid conditions, as this can lead to rotting. Spreading mulch under the leaves will help prevent this.
Trim the plant back in the spring and prune out brown leaves as needed. To keep the plant from spreading, deadheading spent blooms is often a good idea.
In addition to self-seeding, the plant can be propagated through division in spring or fall.
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is a perennially popular garden plant, grown primarily for its felty grey foliage. The leaves have an exquisitely soft texture, but lamb’s ear is a tough-as-nails groundcover for the garden.
A Soft Touch
Lamb’s ear spreads quickly to become a six-inch carpet of soft grey-green foliage. The flowers rise 12 to 18 inches above the foliage in summer as tiny clusters of purple blossoms that are all but obscured by the covering of felty grey hairs around them. However, it is known more for its elongated oval leaves than it flowers. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Full sun is the main requirement for lamb’s ear; it can tolerate partial shade in extremely hot places, but the foliage loses some of its characteristic grey color in the shade. It is fairly drought tolerant once established and will adapt to almost any soil type as long as drainage is good.
Lamb’s ear is the ultimate edging plant. Use it along paths, walls and driveways to soften the edge of hard, straight lines. Or, use it as edging around beds of perennial flowers – it forms a static, attractive frame for more colorful species that come and go throughout the growing season.
It can also be used as a large scale groundcover, as it forms a thick mat of grey foliage, making a pleasing contrast around taller green-leafed plants.
Establishing Lamb’s Ear in the Garden
Lamb’s ear is available in most garden centers and can be planted in spring or fall. It doesn’t need a rich planting bed; simply stick the plants in the ground about 12 to 18 inches apart anywhere with sufficient sun exposure and good drainage.
Water lamb’s ear weekly to get it established, but afterwards it only needs water every few weeks to keep it happy in all but the hottest, driest climates.
Individual plants will quickly spread to about 18 inches in width and then slowly spread out from there. Every few years you can divide the clump to keep it contained in the space allotted for it and to provide new plants for other locations in the garden. While lamb’s ear isn’t invasive in the sense that is will pop-up away from where it is planted, it does spread to cover a large area eventually if its growth is not curbed. Lamb’s ear is fairly easy to eradicate where it’s not wanted, however.
Maintenance and Problems
The only other maintenance is to clip off the dead flower stalks as they fade toward the end of summer. Other than the fungal diseases that occur with lamb’s ear in excessively hot, damp conditions or where drainage is poor – such as leaf rot and powdery mildew – lamb’s ear is not bothered by pests or disease. Dividing crowded plants and removing the mats of dead leaves that form around the base of the plants helps to provide better air flow and limit the impact of these pathogens.
There are a few cultivars of lamb’s ear that may be encountered in nurseries.
- ‘Big Ears’ has especially large foliage and is more tolerant of humidity than other varieties.
- ‘Silver Carpet’ has smaller than average leaves with a bright silver-grey color and does not flower.
- ‘Primrose Heron’ has variegated yellow and green foliage.
- ‘Cotton Boll’ has extra fluffy flower heads that look like little balls of cotton.
A Fun Plant to Grow
Children always love to experience the soft foliage of lamb’s ear, which is quite similar to fuzzy fur that covers the ears of many small animals. It is very effective at outcompeting weeds and is one of the easiest perennials to grow, holding its own in the garden for many years.