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How to Grow: Lambs Ear
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Summer in white or violet colored flower spikes.
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 18 inches x 12 to 36 inches
drought tolerant, attracts beneficials, deer resistant
There is no better way to entice a child into your flower garden than to grow lamb’s ears. This low-growing perennial has soft, silvery green leaves that when touched remind you of a lamb’s ear. Kids love to pat the plant and pick leaves to share. Lamb’s ears are also favorites of adult gardeners, too. This low maintenance perennial can slowly spread to fill in the front of flower borders or creep along in rock gardens. It produces spiky white or violet colored flowers in mid summer that bees love. If you want just leaves, there are some new varieties that rarely bloom. Because of the leaves, lamb’s ears are an attractive plant spring, summer and fall in the garden.
Where, When and How to Plant
Lamb’s ears are hardy throughout New England. Purchase plants from your local garden center or get divisions from a friend’s garden. Plant in spring, after all danger of frost has passed in full or part sun, in well-drained, to early fall in well-drained, compost-amended soil. Space plants about 1 foot apart.
Lamb’s ears need little care once established. Amend the soil with a light layer of compost in spring and keep young plants watered. Older plants are drought tolerant. Mulch plants with a light organic mulch, such as cocoa bean hulls, to highlight the foliage.
Regional Advice and Care
Lamb’s ears produce summer flowers that can be left on the plant for bees to enjoy, or removed as soon as they form so the plant puts more energy into producing leaves. After 3 to 4 years, lamb’s ears plants may die out in the center and need dividing. Divide in spring, removing the whole plant and separating out fist-sized divisions to replant or give a way. Lamb’s ears spread faster in warmer areas and may need to be divided more frequently to keep them from spreading too far. Because the leaves are close to the ground, they may brown and rot during humid, wet weather. Periodically pinch off discolored and ratty leaves to keep the plant looking tidy.
Companion Planting and Design
Lamb’s ears are a nice addition to the perennial flower garden. The white leaves brighten up a garden and compliment blue-colored flowers, such as salvia, veronica and catmint, particularly well. They can also be grown in an herb garden or rock garden, too. Certainly if you are planting a children’s garden, a clump of lamb’s ears is a must.
“Silver Carpet” and “Helen Von Stein” are two newer varieties that feature large, whitish-green leaves and it does not bloom. Non-blooming varieties don’t spread as quickly. “Striped Phantom” has variegated foliage and few flowers. “Cotton Boll” has flower stalks with cottony flowers.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.