Motherwort is an herbaceous perennial that is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which includes mint. Similar to this strongly fragranced plant, motherwort also has a unique aroma when bruised or crushed.
This plant produces deeply toothed, ragged leaves and small, pink or purple flowers that appear in the summer. The lower leaves have five lobes while the upper leaves have three lobes. The uppermost leaves only have one lobe, giving this plant a unique tiered appearance. This plant is used to attract pollinators and add unique beauty to a garden. Take note that motherwort is a very fast grower and can be invasive.
|Botanical Name||Leonurus cardiaca|
|Plant Type||Perennial, Herb|
|Mature Size||4 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, Partial, Shade|
|Soil Type||Loamy, Sandy, Clay, Silt, Moist but Well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral, Alkaline|
|Flower Color||Pink, Purple|
|Hardiness Zones||3-8, USA|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia|
Once established, motherwort is a very hardy plant. It can be grown in a wide variety of conditions and does not often contend with pests or diseases. Motherwort does require a gardener willing to keep on top of its rapid growth, so it does not spread out of control.
To help with this, it is best to cut the plant back to around five inches in height after it has flowered. This will prevent the seeds from maturing and stop the plant from readily self-seeding. Another easy way to contain motherwort is by growing it in containers.
Because of motherwort’s rapid growth and spreading habits, this plant can quickly get out of hand. Motherwort is considered invasive in the United States. If you would like to grow this herbaceous perennial, be sure you have measures in place to prevent unwanted spread.
Motherwort typically grows well regardless of how much or how little light it receives. This unique feature makes motherwort a viable addition to both full sun and full shade areas of your garden or landscaping.
Motherwort is also tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions. It will do the best when planted in moist, well-draining, rich soil. It prefers a pH level of neutral to slightly alkaline.
This plant has minimal watering needs, and once established, it is considered drought-tolerant. While the plant is young or after transplanting, it is important to keep a consistent watering schedule to ensure that the soil remains moist. After this, water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.
Temperature and Humidity
Similar to its requirements for most other growing conditions, motherwort is adaptable to a variety of temperature or humidity levels. It is known to grow almost anywhere in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8 and can handle a wide range of environments.
Because motherwort is not picky about soil conditions and naturally has a vigorous growth habit, fertilizer is typically not required for these plants. Amending the soil in the spring with compost or a well-balanced fertilizer is all this herbaceous perennial needs.
Motherwort grows rapidly and spreads through underground rhizomes. This makes division a quick and simple way to propagate this plant. Division is best done yearly to prevent motherwort from spreading out of control. To do this, you will need a garden shovel, gloves, and a sharp pair of garden snips. Then follow these instructions:
- While the plant is dormant, either in early spring or late fall, gently dig around the plant to loosen the root system.
- Once the roots can be lifted from the ground, remove the plant.
- Using the shovel and snips, cut through the rhizomes to divide the plant. Make sure each division has a healthy root system and healthy foliage.
- Plant each division in its permanent location, amending the soil with compost before planting.
How to Grow Motherwort From Seed
Motherwort grows well from seeds, making it another great method of propagation. To grow seeds, cold stratification is required. Soak the seeds for up to 24 hours in water, then move them to a plastic bag with damp sand or peat moss and place them in the refrigerator. Leave in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. After this, the seeds are ready to plant.
Because of their fast growth rate, these plants do well when seeds are sown directly into the garden. To do this, simply broadcast the seeds over well-draining soil in the late spring or late fall, then cover them lightly with 1/8 inch of soil. If the seeds are planted in the fall, there is no need to cold stratify the seeds. To start indoors follow these instructions:
- Plant the seeds in well-draining soil a few weeks before the last frost. Cover lightly with soil about 1/8 inch deep.
- Keep the soil moist.
- When germination occurs, wait until the threat of frost is gone and the plants are several inches tall before transplanting them to the garden.
- Space each plant around two feet apart to accommodate its rapid growth.
Potting and Repotting Motherwort
Motherwort does well when grown in containers. This method of growing is ideal for those who want to keep motherwort from spreading throughout their garden. Its rapid growth means it will outgrow its container quite quickly. When this occurs, simply remove the plant and divide it. Repot the motherwort and either discard or pot the divided plant. Be sure whatever container you use has proper drainage holes.
Motherwort grows well in areas with cold winters. Therefore, no extra care is required to overwinter these plants.
How to Get Motherwort to Bloom
Motherwort is known not only for its unique foliage but also for its interesting flowers. Motherwort blooms in the summer, producing tall stalks of numerous, small flowers. These tubular pink or purple blooms appear close to the stalk and sport an array of pointy sepals. Because of this plant’s hardy nature, motherwort does not need any extra attention to promote flowering. However, keep in mind that flowers may be minimal in the plant’s first year of growth. Expect increased blooming activity from the second year of growth on.
Common Problems With Motherwort
Motherwort is famous for its hardy, easy-going nature, and is often found springing up in areas of neglect, such as former gardens or near roadsides. With such a robust nature, motherwort does not often need much help growing. If your motherwort seems to be struggling, be sure it has enough nutrients in the soil and that it is receiving the right amount of water. Other than this, motherwort should grow exponentially on its own.
Is motherwort easy to care for?
Motherwort is extremely easy to care for and requires minimal ongoing attention. However, its hardy nature also means it's known to quickly take over a space if not contained.
Is motherwort invasive?
Because of its vigorous growing habits, motherwort can quickly overtake a garden. It is considered invasive in the United States.
Where does motherwort grow?
Motherwort can be found in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. It grows almost anywhere, from woodlands and fields to riverbanks and roadsides.