How to Grow and Care for Spotted Dead Nettles

Attractive Choice for Shade

Spotted dead nettle plant with small pink flowers and silvery leaves in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spotted dead nettles are valued as perennial ground covers for the shade that will spread and fill in a patch of ground that might otherwise remain bare (except for weeds). In warm regions and/or in sheltered areas of your yard, they may be evergreen. Elsewhere (and depending on growing conditions), they are more likely to be semi-evergreen, herbaceous plants.

Both their flowers and their foliage make an impact on the landscape. Lamium is in the mint family (Lamiaceae), which provides a hint as to its toughness. The spotted dead nettle plant is listed as invasive in the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States and is located mainly in the upper eastern states.

Common Name Spotted dead nettle, spotted henbit
Botanical Name Lamium maculatum
Family Lamiaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 6-9 in. tall, 12-24 in. wide
Sun Exposure Shade, partial
Soil Type Well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Mauve, pink, purple, or white
Hardiness Zones 4-8 (USDA)
Native Area Europe, North Africa, West Asia

Spotted Dead Nettle Care

Lamium maculatum stays relatively short, with the typical cultivar standing less than a foot tall. But its attractive variegated foliage spreads out to two or three times its height. Spotted dead nettles are generally grown more for their silvery leaves than for their flowers, but the latter can be quite pretty, as well.

Some leaves may revert back to an all-green color (instead of being variegated); be sure to prune these out, so that the green color does not eventually take over the plant.

Being creepers and having a tendency to spread, these classic cottage-garden plants are popular flowering ground covers. They are especially valued for use in shady spots, which is a condition that many plants dislike. The silvery foliage of these shade plants makes them a good fit for landscape designs with creative color schemes

For companion plants, select other shade-lovers. The following could be some of the best choices, depending on your own unique landscaping needs:

Their stems root where they touch the soil, allowing the plants to spread. Eventually, they will form a mat. Spotted dead nettles will naturalize in some areas. This is great if you need to cover a problem area with an attractive ground cover, but not so good if you are trying to grow them in a place where you need a well-behaved plant. Thus you need to be careful in choosing the right spot to grow this plant.

Spotted dead nettle plants with small pink flowers and buds on top of stems in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spotted dead nettle plant with silvery-green leaves and buds on top

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spotted dead nettle plant with silvery green leaves and small pink flowers between grass blades in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spotted dead nettle plant stem with silvery-green leaves, small pink flowers and bud on top closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Warning

This plant can be invasive, depending on where you live. Check with your local county extension for any warnings that they may issue for your own region.

Light

Grow spotted dead nettles in full to partial shade. They will not require much water when grown in full shade, a fact that (along with their resistance to deer pests) recommends them to homeowners seeking low-maintenance landscaping. In fact, they are one of the best perennials for shade.

Soil

Install the plants in an acidic, well-drained, loamy soil. Add compost if you have clayey soil to improve drainage.

Water

Spotted dead nettles tolerate even shady areas that have dry soil. This ground cover requires very little care at all if planted in full shade. However, the more sunshine that you give these plants, the more water they will need, since they perform best in evenly moist soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Spotted dead nettle has a wide range, but does not do well in very warm, humid locations.

Fertilizer

Compost should be sufficient, as the plants do not require rich soil. Manure tea is a good substitute when it is too difficult to work more compost into the soil.

Types of Spotted Dead Nettles

A relative of spotted dead nettles is yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon). It offers similar value and requires similar conditions. One difference, though, is that it is more aggressive.

There are also several cultivars (all cold-hardy to at least zone 4, most 3 to 12 inches tall, and all wanting the sun/soil conditions of the species plant) of L. maculatum, including:

  • Purple Dragon: Purplish flowers and silver foliage 
  • White Nancy: White flowers, silvery leaves
  • Beedham's White: White flowers, leaves chartreuse and white
  • Cannon's Gold: Pink flowers, chartreuse foliage
  • Orchid Frost: Pink-purple flowers; leaves silver in the center and green at the edge; known for its disease-resistance
  • Anne Greenway: Mauve flowers; green, chartreuse, and silver leaves
  • Aureum: Pink flowers; leaves golden on the edge, white in the center
  • Ghost: Light-purple flowers; leaves almost wholly silver; taller (up to 14 inches) than the typical L. maculatum, and even the individual leaves bigger than on most kinds

Spotted Dead Nettles vs. Stinging Nettles

While dead nettle plants are flowering perennials, stinging nettles, by contrast, are noxious weeds (but edible when properly prepared). The unusual common name of "dead nettles" alludes to the fact that, while it resembles stinging nettles, the stingers are dead on L. maculatum, rendering it harmless.

Pruning

Spotted dead nettles should be pruned in the summer after the first blooming period. Cutting the stems or pinching back to a joint will stimulate new growth for the plant. Mature plants that have gotten "leggy" should be cut down to just above the ground, which then will grow back into a bushy, compact plant. Any solid green leaves should be snipped out, otherwise, the plant will eventually lose the variegated leaves and become all green.

These plants spread out, and you can keep them under control by pruning, too. Cut them to the height you prefer them to be and thin them out if they're getting too thick by cutting some of the branches throughout the plant back to the ground.

Propagating Spotted Dead Nettles

Spotted dead nettles propagate easily by themselves from runners, by dividing, or from cuttings. Here's how:

Runners:

  1. Locate where the runners have rooted themselves into the ground.
  2. Cut the runner off with pruning shears, plant it in another spot, and then water.

Dividing:

  1. Carefully dig up the entire plant.
  2. Using a knife, divide it into sections.
  3. Replant them in a suitable location, and water.

Cuttings:

  1. Select a branch and cut it off the plant.
  2. Take leaves off at least half of the bottom portion of the branch.
  3. Push the bare part of the branch into the soil at the desired location and water.

While they can self-seed themselves, spotted dead nettles do not do well if you try to grow them from seed.

Potting Spotted Dead Nettles

Spotted dead nettles are a great plant to put in containers or hanging baskets. Plant them with an assortment of other flowering plants in a container garden to have sitting on your porch and lanai, or they trail beautifully from a hanging basket.

Simply put some potting soil mix in a container or hanging basket that have drainage holes, and plant the spotted dead nettle then water. Keep in mind that smaller containers will require watering more often.

Plant it with an assortment of flowering plants, including paperwhites, cyclamen, and coral bells. Whatever you decide to mix it with, remember to select plants that need partial to full shade.

Overwintering

This plant is deciduous in areas where there is colder weather but stays semi-evergreen in other regions. To encourage new growth in the springtime cut spotted dead nettles back after the first frost or in the late autumn, depending on where you live.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Spotted dead nettles have few problems in the north; among other good features is the fact that they are deer-resistant plants. In the south, however, they may develop problems with leaf-spotting due to the high humidity. Providing extra spacing between plants can lessen leaf-spotting, but this somewhat defeats the purpose of growing spotted dead nettles, as one of their best features is that they spread and fill in an area, thereby crowding out weeds.

Common pests for spotted dead nettles are slugs and snails, which seem to be the main pests for this plant, although aphids can also attach themselves to the stems and leaves.

FAQ
  • How fast does spotted dead nettle grow?

    This plant is fast growing, and one plant can spread up to two feet or more within a year.

  • Do spotted dead nettle attract butterflies?

    Pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees love this plant in the spring when they are blooming.

  • Are rabbits attracted to spotted dead nettle?

    These deer-resistant plants are not bothered by rabbits either.

Article Sources
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  1. Spotted deadnettle. Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States.