Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) get their name from their soft, fuzzy leaves. These hardy, drought-resistant plants make excellent borders and edges in gardens because they are tough and they self-propagate easily. In late spring, lamb's ears send up spikes of delicate purple or pink flowers surrounded by purplish, light green foliage that add an interesting touch to dried arrangements. Lamb's ears' leaves have a sweet, apple-like flavor and can be steeped fresh or dried for tea.
Cut the lamb's ears just as the flowers are beginning to open. They will continue to open slowly during the drying process. Use sharp scissors or shears, and harvest the flowers in the late morning after the dew has dried. Do not harvest the flowers when they are damp with rain or dew.
Place the stalks into a shallow container of water to keep them from wilting while you are still harvesting. Just the bottom couple of inches need to stay in the water. If the stalks wilt, they can end up misshapen when dried.
Strip the larger leaves from the bottoms of the flower stalks and set them aside. Leave the smaller leaves near the tops of the stalks and around the flowers. Shake the excess water from the bottoms of the stalks.
Bundle the flowers with rubber bands. Lamb's ears hold a lot of water and stalks will shrink quite a bit while drying. The rubber bands will keep the flowers from falling out of the bundles.
Make the bundles so that they are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. If lamb's ears bundles are too large, the stalks will dry very slowly and can mold. Keep a loose loop as you wrap the rubber band around the flowers. You will use this to hang the bundles.
Hang the bundles upside down from a drying rack or clothesline. The drying area should be room-temperature and dark with good air circulation. Wrap the loose loop of the rubber band under the drying rack bar or clothesline then back over the top and around the flowers.
Dry the larger lamb's ear leaves on a newspaper. Place the newspaper on a table and spread the leaves evenly over the surface.
Check the flowers periodically to make sure none of the stalks have fallen out. Depending on the humidity of your region, lamb's ears can take two to four weeks to dry. They are ready to take down when they are stiff and papery.
Things You Will Need
- Sharp scissors or shears
- Shallow container
- Rubber bands
- Drying rack