Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a pretty, flowering, perennial plant that is prevalent in zones 3-9. The plant is native to Asia and Europe but is grown all over the world for its ornamental and medicinal properties.
Valarian is very easy to grow, and being a perennial and a prolific self-seeder, it should reappear in your garden year after year. Read on for tips for growing valerian in your backyard and using it in your kitchen.
How to Grow Valerian from Seed
Source: Mountain Gardens/Youtube
Valerian seeds can be sown directly into the ground after the last frost of spring. Sow the seeds at about 3/8” deep and keep the soil moist. The seeds will need to be thinned to at least 18” apart to allow room for the plant to reach.
Alternatively, you can sow the seeds indoors for a head start. Plant the seeds into seedling trays and keep them in a warm sunny spot (65-70 degrees F). Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Once the last frost has passed, you can transplant the seedlings into the garden.
You should start to see sprouts after about 7-21 days. The plants will die back in the winter, but new growth should appear the following spring.
Valerian will self-seed, so if you do not want your plant to spread, you will need to deadhead the flowers before they dry and shed their seeds. If you find unwanted valerian plants, you can simply weed them out.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Valerian
When choosing a spot, Valerian plants can grow to about 3-5 feet tall, so bear that in mind. They will also need a 12-18” space for outward growth. Valerian is not too fussy and can thrive in full sun to partial shade.
Valerian roots like to have well-draining soil but need to be moist; don’t use standing water. Giving your plant a good mulch covering will help keep moisture in the soil.
Plant Valerian for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
Valerian has delicate pink or white flowers with a sweet smell and attracts all kinds of beneficial insects to your garden. The plant is a favorite of the hoverfly, which also feasts upon aphids and cabbage worms. Valerian also attracts several different species of butterflies.
Medicinal Properties of Valerian
Aside from its beauty, valerian is often planted and harvested for its medicinal properties. Valerian root is said to be a natural sedative that aids in sleep. Some research suggests that taking a valerian supplement before bed can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and promote sound sleep.
How to Harvest Valerian Root
Teas and supplements are made from the root of the valerian plant. Once the plant has matured, around the beginning of fall, it is ready to harvest. This is when the plant’s medicinal compounds are at their highest. Choose a plant with two years of growth before digging up the root.
Water the soil around your plant well and dig up the entire plant with a garden fork. You will notice that there is not one long tap root like you would find on dandelion or burdock but are many feathery roots.
Wash the roots and spread them on a baking sheet. Dry them in the oven or a dehydrator at 100 degrees F for about three hours. You will need to keep an eye on them and take them out once they feel crisp. You can also air dry them in a warm sunny place such as a windowsill, which could take several days.
It should be noted that valerian roots are reported as having a rather horrid smell that is reminiscent of old socks! Trust that they taste better than they smell!
How to Use Valerian Root
Valerian root can be bought in capsules from most pharmacies or health food shops. However, it is commonly used in tea form. The dried roots are infused into hot water and made into herbal tea. The taste is not always to everyone’s liking, so blending the roots with other herbs can make for a much more pleasant experience.
Try blending your valerian with peppermint, chamomile, or lemon balm, which are said to be sleep aids. Put a teaspoon of your dried herb mixture into a mesh ball and put it into a mug. Then, pour hot water into your mug and let it steep for up to five minutes.
So, have a go at growing this impressive plant this spring. Even if you aren’t interested in making tea, you can have a garden full of beautiful flowers that will have your yard buzzing with beneficial insects.
You must seek advice from a medical professional before using any herbal remedies, especially if you are taking any pharmaceutical medicines. Research all herbs thoroughly, and always abide by dosage recommendations.
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