Stachys lavandulifolia (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear)

Stachys lavandulifolia, commonly known as Pink Cotton lamb’s ears, is a small pretty subshrub, forming a dense clump which gradually spreads into a groundcover mat. 

It has attractive silky grey-green leaves, but what really stands out are the fluffy spikes of purple-pink flowers. These look just like cotton candy, which is why “pink cotton” is part of its common name. After flowering the spikes remain fuzzy and turn to light brown extending the plant´s interest into the autumn.

Originating from Turkey, the Caucasus, and Iran, this plant is gradually gaining popularity worldwide for its ornamental value, although it is not yet as well-known as its relative, Stachys byzantina.

Stachys lavandulifolia subshrub (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)


Quick Overview

TYPE

HEIGHT & WIDTH

Stachys lavandulifolia height and width (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

BLOOM TIME

Stachys lavandulifolia bloom time (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

SUNLIGHT

full sun

HARDINESS

hardiness (-15ºC / 5º F)

DROUGHT TOLERANCE

drought tolerance aprox 4 months

ORIGIN

Pink Cotton Lamb’s Ear Scientific name

  • Botanical name: Stachys lavandulifolia (STAH-kees lav-an-dew-lee-fol-ee-a)
  • Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)
  • Common name:   Pink cotton Lamb´s ears, Wood betony, Mountain tea
NameMeaning
Stachys Derives from Greek word stacys which means “ear of corn”, or “spike” to describe the inflorescence spike.
lavandulifoliaFrom Latin and meaning “leaves like Lavandula” (lavender). Referring to its narrow grey-green leaves.

How to identify Stachys lavandulifolia

Stachys lavandulifolia subshrub (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

Plant

Stachys lavandulifolia is a small subshrub (woody-based perennial) forming a dense clump of grey-green woolly leaves entirely covered with silky hairs. The plant spreads slowly into a thick ground cover.

It needs little weeding due to its ground-hugging habit and also its allelopathic properties.

During the late spring and early summer, hairy spikes of purplish-pink flowers emerge from the foliage.

It remains evergreen except in very cold climates, where the leaves may die back and regrow in spring.

It starts off as a herbaceous perennial, but as it matures, its stems become woody at the base, and that is why it is classified as a subshrub (perennial with woody stems except for the terminal part of the new growth).

The plant´s foliage averages 10 cm (0.3 ft) in height. The flower stem is 20 cm (0.6 ft) tall, and the width is 30 to 40 cm (1 to 1.3 ft).

Stachys lavandulifolia stem (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

Stem

The stems are herbaceous and become woody at the base as they mature. They grow upright, often branching, with leaves arranged opposite each other

The flower stems emerge from the foliage, slightly winding, with a height of about 20 cm (0.6 ft). They bear clusters of small purplish-pink flowers, arranged in whorls along the stem, and surrounded by long silky hair giving them a soft fuzzy look.

Stachys lavandulifolia leaf (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

Leaf

The basal leaves are narrow, grey-green and covered with silky hairs. The upper side of the leaves is usually a dark grey-green colour, while the underside may be lighter or whitish due to fine hairs.

They resemble lavender leaves, which is why “lavandulifolia” is part of its botanical name.

The shape is lanceolate to oblong with an acute tip. The margins are entire.

The size of the basal leaves is 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) long, and the stem leaves are shorter. 

Stachys lavandulifolia flower (Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear, Wood Betony)

Flower

The inflorescence is a spike approximately 10 cm (4 inches) long, consisting of multiple clusters of small purplish-pink flowers and woolly calyces arranged in whorls.

The flower is tubular and two-lipped. The upper lip has one lobe (shallowly 3-lobed), while the lower lip has three lobes, with the middle lobe being significantly larger. These lobes fuse to form a tube, which is surrounded by a calyx with long triangular lobes and pointed tips covered with long silky hair.

The flowers are bisexual (monoecious, i.e. both male and female parts on one plant). They have four stamens(male) and one stigma(female).

Bloom time is during late spring to early summer.

The flower spikes have a wonderfully hazy appearance and glow in the low, morning or afternoon sunlight.

The flowers gradually fade to light brown and become brittle as the hot summer months pass by. They are still a pretty sight until autumn but will eventually be blown away when winter arrives.

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Stachys lavandulifolia Habitat

Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ears is an alpine plant native to the rocky mountains of Turkey, the Caucasus region, and Iran.

It is well adapted to grow in rocky, cold and dry regions. 

Stachys lavandulifolia Usage

Ornamental

The lance-shaped leaves of the pink cotton lamb’s ear, with their soft, grey-green texture, serve as a beautiful backdrop for the striking fuzzy spikes of purple-pink flowers. It has dense foliage and an extended blooming period from late spring to early summer. Its interest can be prolonged into autumn with its hairy light brown dry spikes. This plant is an excellent addition to any garden.

It can be used in the landscape in the following ways:

  1. Groundcover: Stachys lavandulifolia makes an excellent groundcover, forming a dense mat of foliage that suppresses weeds and adds texture to the landscape.
  2. Border Plant: Adding texture, color, and fragrance. Its compact growth habit and attractive foliage make it a great choice for edging flower beds or pathways.
  3. Rock Gardens: The compact, low-growing nature of Stachys lavandulifolia makes it well-suited for rock gardens or alpine gardens, where it can cascade over rocks or edges.
  4. Container Planting: Plant Pink cotton lamb´s ears in containers or pots in patios, balconies, or decks. Its compact size and ornamental qualities make it suitable for container gardening.
  5. Pollinator Gardens: The flowers of Pink Cotton lamb’s ears attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, making it a valuable addition to pollinator-friendly gardens.

Medicinal

Stacys lavandulifolia has been used since many years as a medicinal plant in tradition Iranian medicine. It is prepared as a herbal tea (hence the common name “mountain tea”.

It has been used to treat infections, asthma, and rheumatism. And as an analgesic for joint pain and headaches. 
Research has demonstrated its antibacterial, antioxidant, anxiolytic, and analgesic properties.

Biodiversity

The flowers of Pink cotton lamb´s ear attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to the garden’s biodiversity.

Other Uses

The flower stems of Pink Cotton lamb´s ear can be used in both fresh and dried floral arrangements, adding an intriguing visual appeal with its fuzzy flower stems.

How to care for Stachys lavandulifolia

Cold exposure

Pink cotton lamb´s ear is an alpine plant that is very tolerant to frost and cold weather down to -15ºC (5ºF) or less. However, this is possible only if the soil is well drained. Cold, soggy soil can be fatal to it. 

However, especially while the plant is not yet established, you should add a thick layer of mulch around the plant’s base to protect the roots from cold temperatures. It´s preferable to use gravel mulch because organic mulch will stay humid and can cause the plant to rot.

In very cold places, the foliage might die back during the winter but will send up new growth when the temperatures rise and the soil warms up.

Sun exposure

Pink Cotton Lamb’s Ear prefers full sun but can tolerate some light shade.

In extremely hot climates or areas with intense sunlight, it’s beneficial to shield plants from the harsh afternoon sun to avoid leaf damage. Offering partial shade during the hottest part of the day can shield the plant from excessive heat and strong sunlight.

Soil

Pink cotton lamb´s ear prefers well-drained soils. It likes gritty and rocky soils. Avoid planting it in wet areas, as it dislikes soggy soil, which may lead to root rot and fungal diseases.

If your area tends to become waterlogged, you may need to keep the entire root ball above ground level and fill in with a raised mound of sandy soil, sloping gradually away from the plant’s base.

 It can tolerate most types of soils, from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline. 

Avoid fertilizing the soil if you need the plant to remain robust and better equipped to handle extreme temperatures.

Watering

Pink Cotton Lamb´s ear is drought tolerant and can go for some months without water once it is established (about 4 months of drought if the temperature is not too hot). 

Once established, it usually does not need watering. However, if there’s a long period without rain or very hot weather, you should water it, making sure to let the soil completely dry out before watering again.

It’s essential to water the young plant regularly during its first year after planting. Depending on the soil and the temperatures, you may need to water it once a week, every two weeks or every three weeks.

When you water the plant, make sure to give it plenty of water, allowing the soil to get a good soak. This way, the water can sink deep into the soil, helping the roots grow deeper as well. With deep roots, the plant can withstand longer dry periods since the lower soil layers stay moist for a longer time.

Avoid overhead watering because the woolly calyx and leaves can easily trap water, leading to fungal diseases.
To preserve the soil´s moisture, you should add mulch around the root area of the plant. The mulch should preferably be gravel because organic mulch can lead to leaf rot.

Pruning

  • During any time of the year, cut off the diseased or yellow leaves to maintain the vigorous growth and healthy appearance of the foliage.
  • After the flowering period, you may want to deadhead the flower spikes to give them a neater look and avoid self-seeding. However, if you like the dry, light brown fuzzy stems, then delay this task until autumn and just thin out some of the stems to increase exposure to sunlight and improve air circulation. This can help prevent rot and promote overall plant health.

When to plant Stachys lavandulifolia

The best season to plant is typically in the spring or autumn, but it will depend on your climate. You should avoid planting during periods of extreme temperatures.

If you have mild weather where you live, it’s best to plant in the autumn to give it time to develop the roots during the cooler months before the arrival of the hot summer. In case of very cold winters, it’s better to wait until spring when the risk of frost has passed and the soil is warmer. That way, the plant can have a better chance to grow well and be healthy.

How to propagate Stachys lavandulifolia

Pink Cotton Lamb´s Ear can be propagated by cuttings or seeds.

Seeds: Sow seeds in autumn or spring.

  1. Sow the seeds in a well-draining medium. Lightly press the seeds into the soil, just covering with a thin layer, as the seeds need light to germinate.
  2. Maintain consistent moisture but not soggy (cover with a plastic lid or bag) and provide indirect light. 
  3. Water from the base of the container (don´t water overhead)
  4. Germination should tale 1 to 3 months
  5. Once the seedlings have grown a few sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter, or harden them to outdoor conditions and then plant into their permanent positions after the last expected frosts. 

Cuttings: in late summer

  1. Cut a stem just below a leaf node.
  2. Remove the lower leaves, leaving a few pairs of upper leaves intact. 
  3. Plant in a well-draining medium. Keep the medium consistently moist (but not wet) and provide indirect light. 
  4. Once the roots have developed, transplant the rooted cuttings into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter

Self Progagation

The plant may propagate by self-seeding if the flower stems are left to produce seeds.

An excellent online source for plant propagation techniques can be found in RHS propagation article.

Sources

Sources of information used for this article

Article from Jardin Sec

Article from Kew

Article from Missouri Botanical Garden

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