Stachys byzantina 'Primrose Heron'
Common Name: lamb's ears
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Purplish pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Appreciates some light afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Too much shade, however, may impede leaf drying and promote the onset of disease. The woolly leaves of this plant tend to trap moisture, and in humid climates such as the St. Louis area, plant leaves are susceptible to attack from rot and leaf spot where too much moisture is present. Plants are generally drought tolerant. Avoid overwatering. If mid-summer foliage decline occurs, pick off damaged leaves as needed. Spreads by creeping stems that root as they go along the ground and can be mildly aggressive in rich soils. Site starter plants 12-18” apart for use as a ground cover. Divide when necessary. Flowers are not particularly showy, and many gardeners prefer to remove the flowering stems as they appear to enhance the ground cover effect.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Stachys byzantina, known as lamb's ears, is grown primarily for its thick, soft, velvety, silver-gray leaves which typically form a rapidly spreading mat approximately 4-6" off the ground. Leaves are evergreen in warm climates, but will depreciate considerably in harsh winters. Erect, small-leaved flowering stems with terminal spikes of insignificant, tiny, purplish-pink flowers appear in summer rising above the foliage to 10-15" tall. Many gardeners remove the flowering stems to enhance the ground cover effect. Dense rosettes of woolly, tongue-shaped, gray-green leaves (to 4" long) spread by runners. Leaf shape and texture resemble a lamb's ear, hence the common name.

Genus name comes from the Greek stacys meaning ear of corn in probable reference to the inflorescence of a related plant.

Specific epithet means of classical Byzantium (Istanbul, Turkey).

'Primrose Heron' is noted for its unusual foliage color. Dense rosettes of woolly, tongue-shaped leaves (to 4" long) emerge chartreuse in spring, mature to silvery-green in summer and reacquire a yellowish-green cast in autumn. Leaf shape and texture resemble a lamb's ear, hence the common name. This cultivar is grown primarily for its thick, soft, velvety, yellowish-green leaves which typically form a rapidly spreading mat approximately 4-6" off the ground. Leaves are evergreen in warm climates, but will depreciate considerably in harsh winters. Erect, small-leaved flowering stems with terminal spikes of tiny, purplish-pink flowers appear in summer rising above the foliage to 10-12" tall.

Problems

Tends to rot and develop leaf diseases in humid summer climates. Well-drained soils are essential in order to combat potential rot problems which often occur in humid St. Louis summers. Even with well-drained soils, some summer die-out may occur where high humidity and/or moisture on foliage is present. Can spread aggressively.

'Primrose Heron' has better resistance to problems than the species.

Garden Uses

Foliage provides interesting texture and color to the border or rock garden. Effective edger or small area ground cover.