Landscape Spotlight: Lamb’s Ear, ‘stachys byzantina’

Posted August 30, 2018 in Plant and Tree

Native to parts of the Middle East, this mint-family perennial is steeped in history.  Its formal Latin name can be broken down to the following: ‘stachys’ meaning spike and ‘byzantina’ is a reference to its natural habitat, which was once a part of the Byzantine Empire.  Getting its start in drought-like conditions and growing on rocky hillsides, this resilient garden plant has come a long way.

Now that we know the background, let’s agree that it’s just easier to call this garden delight by its common name, Lamb’s Ear.  With its soft and silvery-velvet leaves, oddly reminiscent of…a lamb’s ear, this plant creates a beautiful and lush carpet in any landscape.  Each leaf is covered by a dense layer of silvery hair making the plant irresistible to touch and perfect for a beginner or sensory garden for the kids!

Hardy in zones 4-8 (find your hardiness zone here), this plant is a favorite among gardeners and homeowners alike, but this landscape spotlight has more to offer than its irresistible fluffiness.  The almost reflective silver/green foliage is the perfect addition to the garden when mixed in with other plantings and its fuzzy leaves act as a contradictory accent and make a great backdrop to the rest of the landscape.  Not only that, but the hairs also prevent pest damage from hungry rabbits and deer.  Living in NEPA, that is as good as gold!

This hardy perennial stays low to the ground, averaging 6 inches in height, which makes it a perfect selection for groundcover use.  Keeping to a dense form, this beauty will spread out by its root system but is not considered invasive by any means.  Lamb’s Ear is easy to care for and its not terribly picky about its living conditions.  Plant in a bare spot that receives full sun to partial shade and has good draining soil.  This plant is incredibly tolerable of drier soil, making it a great candidate for areas of the landscape that you might not have had great success.  While Lamb’s Ear doesn’t mind poor soil conditions and can weather the toughest droughts, it completely abhors standing water.

In the summer months, you will find an extra surprise…it also has flowers! Hairy spikes of purple/magenta flowers, averaging a foot tall, will arrive in the warmer months to attract pollinators.  The pops of purple against its distinct leaves are the perfect combination, especially when surrounded by deep green and glossy plants, flowers and shrubs!  However, just like anything else, these flowers are not everyone’s cup of tea.  For those who like the plant for its foliage rather than its flowers, the flower stalks can simply be cut down, which will then redirect the plant’s energy back into the leaves.  Don’t throw the stalks away, however, they make great vase flowers for inside the home!

As for design, this plant is best used as a sprawling groundcover instead of a singular specimen plant.  Implemented to take over the places that were once mulch or as an edging plant, this sweet plant will soften the hardest of hardscapes.  If you want this soft landscape blanket to only cover a certain area, you will need to incorporate some type of edging to keep it contained.  It is hard to control free-spirits!  When planted in a designated landscape bed, the best companion plants are the ones that have scraggly bases, such as daisies and roses; the Lamb’s Ear will hide their bare base and end up making the garden bed look healthier as a whole!

As a plant that combines beauty and function, we can guarantee that Lamb’s Ear will not disappoint as an awesome addition to your landscape.  If you are searching for more landscape design inspiration or motivation to reimagine your own outdoor space as a whole, reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living!  We are here to lend our expertise and explore all options for your property with our complete design vision and project management to properly plan and construct your dream backyard!  We are truly committed to creating low maintenance landscapes and outdoor living spaces that provide an enjoyable and beautiful place to relish in the outdoors with your family and friends.  When you are ready to ready to chat about the possibilities, we would love to hear from you!




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