Lamium: How To Grow and Care For Dead Nettle

Lamium [LAY-mee-um] is a genus of approximately 50 species of flowering plants from the dead nettle, sage or mint family, Lamiaceae

Lamium plants with their tiny flowers are often used as a perennial ground cover.

Dead Nettle flower - Lamium

The herbaceous species within the genus are native to Asia, Europe, and some regions in northern Africa. 

While dead nettle is the common name describing the genus, different species are known by different names.

For instance, some of the most common species include:

  • Lamium maculatum (white nettle, pink pewter, and spotted nettle)
  • Lamium galeobdolon (yellow archangel)

The name Lamium comes from German taube-nessel which means deaf nut or nut without a kernel. 

The theory involves the plant’s resemblance to stinging nettles. 

Since Lamium species don’t have stinging hairs, they are “dead” and harmless.

Lamium Plant Care

Size & Growth

The size and growth patterns along with the foliage color of Lamium plants depend heavily on the species. 

Generally speaking, these plants have toothed leaves and square stems. 

They look similar to the mint leaves we use at home.

The green leaves making up the Lamium foliage are the reason for this plant is grown. 

They have a rapid spreading habit, which is great for using as a ground cover in large fields and gardens.

Overall, the plant is shaggy and short. 

It may reach a height of about 8” inches with a 24” inch spread.

Flowering and Fragrance

Similar to the foliage, flowers on dead nettles vary depending on the species and cultivar. 

Generally, the plants produce small two-lipped flowers. 

The bloom time for most species is late spring to early summer, lasting until late summer.

Flower color also determines the planting season. 

For instance, white and purple flowers are planted in spring and love full sun. 

On the other hand, yellow flowers are planted in the fall and thrive in full shade.

Take Lamium maculatum as an example:

  • Purple dragon has purplish flowers and silver leaves while Beacon Silver has rich pink flowers and Shell Pink has light-pink inflorescences.
  • White Nancy aptly blooms white flowers.
  • Beedham’s White also has white flowers but chartreuse leaves.
  • Anne Greenaway blooms mauve flowers.
  • Orchid Frost nettles have pink-purple flowers and variegation in leaves.
  • Areum has pink flowers and leaves with golden edges and white centers.

Light & Temperature

Dead nettles are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. 

These perennial plants thrive in full to partial shade.  

As for temperatures, these plants succeed in a wide range of climates but prefer cooler climes. 

Some species might not be tolerant of very hot temperatures.

Watering and Feeding

Dead nettles tolerate dry shade or part shade very well. 

Some species are drought tolerant. 

If located in a region with strong sunshine for long periods, and plants get enough water to keep the soil moist, watch out for overwatering to prevent root rot.

These plants are not too demanding in terms of feeding. Organic matter or compost should be sufficient. 

If you want to enhance the soil where your dead nettles grow, manure tea is a good alternative.

Soil & Transplanting

If your garden has clay soil, improve it by adding compost before planting dead nettles. 

Otherwise, the plants prefer acidic, well-drained loamy soils. 

Drainage is of utmost importance as it ensures the soil doesn’t get too soggy.

Transplanting is done in early spring or early summer, depending on the method of propagation you’re using. 

Work some compost into the soil pre-transplanting. 

Dig a 2” – 3” inch hole, placing the division or seedling carefully.

Don’t plant lamium too deeply as they may not thrive.

Grooming and Maintenance

The variegated foliage of the Lamium genus has a habit of spreading out very rapidly under the right growing conditions. 

If you don’t dig out rhizomes, they can overtake your flower beds.

Additionally, you might need to prune leaves affected by rot or some other disease to prevent spreading. 

Deadheading the flowers and cutting back the foliage after they’ve flowered will encourage new growth.

These plants are deer resistant and rabbit resistant; so you don’t have to worry about keeping them away.

How To Propagate Dead Nettle Plant

If starting from seeds, start the plants in a cold frame in spring or fall. 

Once the seedlings have grown big enough, transplant them to a shady spot. 

The division of rhizomes should be done in the same seasons.

In late spring or early summer, propagate the plant with stem tip cuttings.

Dead Nettle Plant Pest or Diseases

There are no serious diseases or pest problems afflicting this genus. 

However, depending on the region, aphids and slugs may appear occasionally. 

Also, keep an eye out for leaf blight and leaf spots. 

Remove affected leaves from the plant immediately.

If you have very hot and humid summers, the plant’s foliage may decline.

Lamium Plant Uses

Dead nettles are great for small scale groundcover in shady areas. 

Shade gardens, flower beds, and cottage gardens are the optimal locations for these plants. 

Add other shade-loving plants from the Hosta species, Heuchera or Barrenwort plants to create a unique landscape.

Use them as edgers but be careful about the growth, making sure to dig out the rhizomes before they grow too far. 

For patio and porches, plant dead-nettles in hanging pots for added interest.

Avoid using these plants in areas with a lot of foot traffic as they are intolerant.