The Garden Muse: Wood Betony, A Great Bloomer for Summer/Fall

Published 11:00 am Friday, June 30, 2023

the Garden MuseI would like to introduce you to Betonica officinalis previously known as Stachys Betonica; Stachys Officinalis and more commonly called by the names wood betony, common hedgenettle, betony, purple betony bishopwort, or bishop’s wort.

Wood Betony is an easy to grow herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It is native to Europe, where its medicinal properties have been valued in European folk herbalism. It has naturalized here in the US. It will grow in neat, formed clumps and spreads underground by short rhizomes. Because it will naturalize easily when conditions are right, it is considered an invasive plant. Wood Betony prefers well drained soil in sun to part shade (with at least six hours of sun a day.) It is cold hardy in USDA growing zones 4-9.

The flowers of Wood Betony are purple and suitable for fresh cut and dried flower arrangements. This is an excellent plant to have in a pollinator garden. The bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds all adore its lipped flowers. Pinch off spent blooms to prolong flowering in the summer.

Deer do not particularly care for it, and it is draught tolerant once established.

The leaves and flowers of Wood Betony have been used to brew medicinal herbal tea. It is an astringent warming plant. (Caution should always be used when using/ingesting ANY plant. Never taste, ingest, or apply as medicine any plant without making an absolute identification and knowing its origins.)

Betony is a good example of a plant that one should ask for by its scientific name when purchasing for the garden. There are many cultivars/varieties of this plant specific to what one is looking to do with it. Two in particular; Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ is the most preferred hummingbird variety and would be the best choice for a pollinator garden plant (NOT EDIBLE) and Stachys floridana commonly called Florida betony, a native in the US (limited to Florida that I can tell) and almost all parts of the plant are edible to humans. Improper identification regarding these two plants could result in lethal consequences.

Wood Betony is a lovely easy to care for long blooming perennial. I like it planted as a border, its neat compact mounds, deep green foliage, and purple flowers are very attractive in the garden.

Dawn Conrad is a Retired Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbalist, Writer and Artist. She can be contacted at dawn@mygardenmuse.com.