If you want to add some cottage-style charm to your garden, plant lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis). It's an old-fashioned herbaceous perennial that, besides being beautiful in gardens, is also used in making lotions and soaps. Lady’s Mantle is a long-lived perennial flower that is fairly low-maintenance and blends well with other spring bloomers. The foliage looks good all season and can make a nice ground cover under small trees.
A mass planting of lady’s mantle is very eye-catching when in bloom but largely loses its impact after flowering. Lady’s mantle makes a nice contrast for bright daylilies and roses that bloom at about the same time. It's especially attractive when contrasted with burgundy and purple foliage. You can plant lady's mantle seeds or seedlings in early spring (after the last frost) or direct-seed them in fall (for emergence in spring). It can take two years for new plants to bloom.
|Botanical Name||Alchemilla mollis|
|Common Name||Lady's mantle|
|Plant Type||Heraceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1 to 2 feet tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Chalk, clay, loam, sand|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 7.5|
|Bloom Time||June to September|
|Hardiness Zones||3 to 8|
|Native Area||Southern Europe|
How to Grow Lady's Mantle
Lady’s mantle plants form a nicely sized clump, although they will also self-seed in many gardens. The seedlings are easy to lift and move to another spot in the garden or give away to grateful friends. If not kept in check, these plants can be aggressive self-seeders.
Sow seeds in the garden in the fall or early spring, or start them indoors about six to eight weeks before the last predicted frost. When the plants reach 4 inches in height, plant them outdoors. Keep the transplants 12 inches apart; they will quickly fill in the empty spaces.
Lady's mantle doesn't tend to suffer from any pests or diseases. To prevent leaf scorch, the most common issue, give the plant enough water and a partly shady location.
Lady's mantle grows easily in full sun to part shade, though sun scorch can be a concern in full sun. The plant tolerates close to full shade and prefers afternoon shade in hot climates.
Lady’s mantle isn’t terribly particular about soil, but it does best in a soil that is slightly acidic to neutral, with a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5.
Mulch around the plant, but not up to the stem. Lady’s mantle tends to hug the ground, so keep the mulch from covering the plant.
These plants are drought-tolerant once established, and they don’t like to sit in wet soil. However, in high heat or full sun, regular watering is required to prevent the leaves from turning dry and brown.
Temperature and Humidity
Lady's Mantle plants can adapt to a variety of climates but often need plenty of shade in hot climates.
A prolific self-sower, it's usually not necessary to fertilize lady's mantle plants unless you have poor soil. If so, a handful of slow-release organic fertilizer can be mixed in at planting time.
Varieties of Lady's Mantle
- Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller': More upright growth habit and larger leaves than most other lady's mantles
- Alchemilla mollis 'Auslese': Features upright lime-green flavors
- Alchemilla mollis 'Irish Silk': Grows up to 2 feet tall and blooms profusely
- Alchemilla mollis 'Robusta': Features larger leaves and grows up to 2 feet tall and wide
- Alchemila alpina: A similar species that is much smaller than A. molliis, with silver edges on the leaves
Pruning Lady's Mantle
Given the opportunity, lady's mantle can easily grow out of control. To prevent this, deadhead the flowers as soon as they begin to wither to prevent self-seeding. If the plant begins to grow in an undesired area, pull it up quickly. The entire plant can be cut back, if necessary; this will encourage new growth and, in some cases, a second bloom.
Growing From Seeds
Lady’s mantle can be grown from seed, seedlings, or divisions. If you’d like to try growing seed, direct sow outdoors after all danger of frost. Barely cover the seeds and keep them well watered. You can also start seeds indoors a couple of months before your transplant date. It takes about three to four weeks for the seeds to germinate, so be patient.
Given that it's easy to start lady’s mantle from seed, and it certainly self-seeds well on its own, many gardeners start out with at least one plant and wait to see how well it seeds on its own. Lady's mantle also divides easily. Divide the plants in spring or late summer by root division, and give away the extras.