Lamb’s ear is an ornamental ground cover plant. It’s prized for its fuzzy silver-colored foliage, which adds an interesting texture to any garden. It’s fast-growing and spreads quickly. However, it can have some issues as well, such as wilting.
Lambs ear usually wilts due to overwatering or a common care problem such as too much sunlight or using the wrong type of fertilizer.
In this guide, we’ll explore 7 common causes for a wilting lambs ear and how you can help your plant get back to health.
Lambs Ear Basics
Lamb’s ear gets its name from its leaves. The shape and fuzziness of the leaves look like baby lambs’ ears. These factors make the plant particularly popular with children, as well as the young at heart.
The scientific name for lambs ear is Stachys byzantina. This comes from its native habitat, the area once known as Byzantium. Today, this area encompasses Turkey, Armenia, and Iran.
They can produce purple flowers on flower stalks. These stalks can grow 12 to 18 inches, rising far above the groundcover leaves. Some gardeners find this contrast off-putting.
Many gardeners will sacrifice the flower spikes for greater growth. The leaves are the main attraction of the plant, but the flowers can be beautiful as well.
7 Causes Of Lambs Ear Wilting
Here are the 7 most common reasons why your lambs ear is wilting (and what to do about it!).
Overwatering is the most common culprit of lambs’ ear wilting. The plant is drought-tolerant and requires little water to thrive. In fact, an established lamb’s ear plant requires about 1 inch of water per week at most.
So, there are sure to be some weeks when you will need to provide it with a small amount of water. However, if it rains heavily, the plant will easily be overwatered.
If the soil isn’t well-draining, your lamb’s ear is in even more trouble. It grows best in sandy or rocky soil. This provides good drainage, which can help prevent rotting. It’s also suitable for rock gardens due to these soil requirements.
The good news is that the plant can bounce back with some care.
2. Root Rot
If your lamb’s ear frequently receives too much water, root rot can occur. Fungus in the soil thrives on moisture. The fungus will attack the roots of the plant, causing them to become brown and mushy.
The rotted roots will be unable to take in water. The leaves will turn yellow and wilt. Eventually, root rot can kill the plant, and its something that can affect a lot of other plants such as the areca palm.
Dealing With Root Rot
First, be sure the soil is well draining. If it’s planted in heavy or clay soil, you’ll need to move it. You should also avoid low-lying areas that will hold more water.
For example, if your yard has a gentle downward slope, plant lambs ear at the top of the slope, never the bottom.
Next, remove any rotting plant material. This helps prevent pests and diseases from taking hold. It also improves the look of the plant. This is typically required several times a year for a healthy lamb’s ear. You can rake the dead leaves away with your hands.
Lamb’s ear requires full sun to partial shade, depending on the climate. However, its large leaves cause it to take a defensive stance when the sun is very strong.
The leaves will wilt to avoid excess water evaporation. This is one reason lamb’s ear is drought tolerant. So, if you see your plant wilting in the afternoon sun, it’s simply caring for itself.
Do not water it in this situation. Getting the leaves wet will only contradict what the plant is trying to do. Wait until the sun is setting, and try to avoid getting water on the leaves.
4. Growth and Dieback
Lamb’s ear grows differently than most plants. It’s a member of the mint family. You may know that mint species like peppermint are aggressive spreaders. This causes most gardeners to grow them in containers, so they don’t take over their garden.
Lamb’s ear, on the other hand, operates differently. It likes to spread, but it leaves some of itself behind to die when it does so. It has horizontal stems called stolons. They will spread and root readily.
Once this occurs, the plant leaves behind its old roots, and part of its old growth.
This can make it appear that your plant is dying and wilting, but it’s simply the nature of the plant. In many ways, it’s similar to a snake shedding its skin. Old growth is left behind and new growth appears.
Dealing With Dieback
There’s only so much you can do about dieback because it’s a natural process for the plant. It is very important to remove any dead or rotting plant material to prevent pests and fungi.
Avoiding overwatering, too much sun, and too much shade can help limit dieback, however.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil. They feed on the roots of plants, sucking the sap from them. This causes the plant to be undernourished.
It will become wilted. The leaves may turn yellow or bronzed. Growth will be stunted.
Plants that are severely affected by nematodes will need to be disposed of. If it’s a continuing problem in an area, you’ll need to move your lamb’s ear to a new location.
Compost contains beneficial fungi which can feed on these nematodes. Adding compost to your soil can help prevent and treat early nematode infestations.
6. Over Fertilization
There are many plants that thrive with fertile soil and the use of fertilizers, but lambs ear isn’t one of them. This plant prefers low-nutrient soil. If you fertilize it or plant it in rich soil, it can grow too fast.
If the nitrogen content of the soil is too high, this can cause wilting. The nitrogen prevents the plant’s roots from taking in adequate water, which causes it to wilt due to dehydration.
Your lambs ear will begin to wilt and dieback during winter. When this occurs, you’ll need to cut the plant to the soil line. This prevents the dead plant matter from rotting and inviting fungi or pests.
When spring comes, the lamb’s ear will come back to life and begin growing again.
Other Common Lambs Ear Problems
Lambs ear is resistant to many pests, including deer, rabbits, and many insects. However, it is susceptible to a few other issues.
Fungal Leaf Spots
Fungal leaf spot disease is caused by a fungus that feeds on the lamb’s ear leaves. This typically causes black or brown spots. Some types of fungus will come together, forming larger spots on the leaves.
You can treat fungal leaf disease by removing dead or infected plant matter. Spray the leaves with wettable sulfur or Bordeaux mixture about once a week. This is especially important during wet weather conditions.
Powdery Leaf Disease
Powdery leaf disease is also caused by fungi that feed on the leaves. You’ll see pale yellow areas on the top side of the leaves, and powdery spots on the underside.
The disease can be difficult to spot due to the color and texture of the lamb’s ear. If you see any affected leaves, remove them and dispose of them.
Wettable sulfur can prevent leaf spot. You’ll need to start a few weeks before the disease typically appears. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering the plant. Ensure that the plants have adequate space and ventilation between them.
Summing It Up
Lamb’s ear can be challenging to grow due to its drought tolerance, which makes it easy to overwater. It’s also susceptible to over-fertilization and nematodes.
It requires lots of sunlight, but too many hours of strong sunlight can also lead to wilting leaves.
However, you can successfully grow lambs’ ears. You just need the right knowledge, and perhaps a bit of trial and error.