By Barbara Fahs, Garden Guides Contributor
About Lady's Mantle
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla spp.) is a traditional perennial herb enjoyed in flower gardens for its attractive yellowish-green flowers, which are small and numerous. The soft-looking foliage has a bluish cast. Named after the Virgin Mary's cloak because of its scalloped leaves, Lady's Mantle is often found in northern European gardens, where it is native. Some species can grow to a height of about 24 inches and most species bloom from late spring until early fall.
Like many herbs, Lady's Mantle is easy to grow. It doesn't require any special soil or nutrients and will do well in most shady garden areas in average, well drained soil. It can naturalize easily when it drops its many seeds, so keep it deadheaded if you do not want multiple plants in odd places.
The root is edible, as are the leaves, which sheep and cattle are said to relish. The entire plant is normally harvested in midsummer and can be used medicinally for bruises and wound healing. Lady's Mantle tea is said to be helpful for excessive menstruation.
Choosing a Variety
Almost 300 species of Lady's Mantle exist. Alchemilla mollis is common and many nurseries carry this variety. Check seed catalogs for other species, such as A. ellenbeckii, A. alpina and A. erythropoda. All species prefer dappled sun or shade and well-draining soil.
If you live where the summers are fairly cool, Lady's Mantle can tolerate some sun, but it prefers partial shade. After you dig a hole large enough for your plant, add a little fertilizer or compost at the bottom. If you have multiple plants, plant them about 18 inches apart. They like an application of mulch, which will keep them cool and moist. You can start Lady's Mantle from root divisions or dig up the volunteer plants that will undoubtedly pop up throughout your garden. If plants become messy looking or too numerous, simply divide them or thin them out.
Lady's Mantle grows best in areas with cool summers. If your summers get hot, plant it in a shaded location. Be sure to keep it well watered when it shows signs of drooping or when the weather heats up as it doesn't like to dry out. A type of yellow fungus sometimes attacks the plant, causing the leaf stalk to become abnormally long. The leaf blade will also be smaller and a pale color. Fungal diseases can usually be remedied by applying a light spray of organic sulfur.