Jacob’s Ladder is also known as the herb Valerian that, according to folklore, attracts cats and rats; it was said that the Pied Piper of Hamelin carried it in order to charm the rats away. Whatever its colorful past, this spreading perennial is quite hardy and grows from three to five feet tall. From fern-like foliage, stems rise to produce heads of white, blue or pale pink flowers. Jacob’s Ladder is a good flower for naturalizing. It will grow in USDA zones 3 to 9.
Select the site to plant Jacob’s Ladder. This plant is tolerant of most soils, but does best with soil that is kept moist. It will grow in any sunlight, as long as its roots are cool. If the plant is grown in an exposed location, it might require staking.
Plant Jacob’s Ladder in the fall or in the spring, from March to May. Till the soil and remove any rocks or garden debris. Dig a hole that is twice as big as the root ball. Carefully remove the plant from the container it came in and place in the hole. Fill the hole to half full and water to settle the soil. Finish filling the hole with the soil and tamp down carefully to remove air bubbles. Water to settle the soil. Plant Jacob’s Ladder two to three feet apart.
Keep the plant well watered. Mulch lightly and apply a light dressing of a balanced general fertilizer in the spring. This plant is generally free from problems.
Harvest for use by digging up the roots in late fall, when the plants are in the second or third season. Cut the roots into thin strips and dry in a 120 to 140 degree oven, turning frequently. Do not freeze. Despite its unpleasant aroma-one person likened its odor to ‘essence of dead cat’-this herb is used in making perfumes.
Cut the top growth in the fall. Divide Jacob’s Ladder in the spring or fall; prepare the soil first. Lift the plant, divide and replant immediately to prevent the roots from drying out. When grown in good conditions, this plant will self-seed. If you don’t want it to reseed itself, cut the plant back after flowering.