This fast growing perennial herb will quickly become a favorite in the herb garden.
Betony, Stachys officinalis, is a medium height, slightly oval stemmed, toothed leaf perennial herb that makes a good space filler between tall plants and border plants in the herb or flower garden.
It adds texture and color to the garden and the pretty pink or purple flowers that bloom in mid-summer will add a bold spot of color to the herb garden after the early blooming flowers and herbs are finished blooming for the season.
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Betony is easily grown from seed, cuttings, or root divisions. Betony prefers average soil that is well drained in full to partial sun. If the garden is in an area that has high temperatures and humidity, give it more shade than sun.
Start the seeds outside after the last frost date is passed. For a faster start, seeds may also be started indoors and transplanted in the garden after the danger of frost.
To start from cuttings, cut near the base of a leaf and transfer to water.
Plant carefully once the leaf has developed roots. Leaf stems may also be dipped in rooting hormone and planted in potting soil in a small container.
Transfer outside, once the plant has developed roots.
Maintaining the Plants
Every three years, divide the plant by digging it up and cutting it into two or three pieces. This is easily done with a sharp knife.
Cut straight down the middle of the plant root, dividing it in half. If it is large, cut it into three or four pieces and replant as before. Lightly fertilize and water well when re-planting.
Betony is best harvested before the purple flowers are allowed to bloom. Pick the leaves in early to mid July and dry them in a cool, dry area.
After the leaves are completely dry and crumbly, store them in an air-tight container, such as a plastic bags or glass jars. Keep the dried leaves out of the light to preserve the oils and maintain freshness.
Uses for Betony
Historically, Betony has been used as a tea. The tea is also used as a gargling fluid for irritated and sore throats. The astringent nature of the tea also lends itself as a treatment for diarrhea.
Betony should be used in moderation, as excessive use could result in stomach irritation.
Through the years, Betony has also been called the heal-all herb, Bishops wort, and self-heal herb.
In the middle ages, Betony was often grown outside the doors of homes, as it was thought to drive away evil spirits and keep the home safe. It was also worn in amulets around the neck to protect the individual.