Grow Valerian For Roots Leaves and Flowers

Save a spot to grow valerian (Valeriana officinalis) in your herb garden. It has so much to give to earn its place. From eating the leaves and roots to drying them for medicinal purposes.

If you are growing it for the roots make sure to plant it in a deep pot. In the garden it will develop a larger root system after the second year of growth.

What to do:

Sow the seeds just before the last frost. Yes, that's what I said! This is a real hardy perennial and the cold actually helps to propagate the seeds.

  • Push them into the surface of the compost, or soil if you are sowing directly into the garden.
  • Don't cover the seeds over. Just water them.
  • Choose the ideal location in the garden or to put your pot. Although the plant's roots like to be in a cool environment, the leaves need to be in a semi-shaded location. Just enough to be warm but not under hot sun.
  • For the first year I grew valerian from seed in a planter and then transplanted it into the raised bed in September. The roots will have more room to develop and by next Autumn be ready to harvest.
  • Grow valerian for a pretty flower border from June to September but keep some of the plants from flowering to encourage bushy, lush foliage. Makes a good indoor herb too!

A Bad Reputation?

Why should you grow valerian in the herb garden despite its reputation? Because of its numerous health properties! But maybe you're hesitant after hearing negative talk about the plant.

It attracts rats. Yikes! Cats loved to roll in it. What? The plant is invasive. Oh no!

This is enough to put off any enthusiast. So what to do is compare the benefits you will reap against the small grievances it may or may not bring. This will give you the incentive to go ahead and add it to your group of medicinal herbs.

This plant was transferred into a raised bed last Autumn and has emerged for the second year where hopefully, I can dig up a large rhizome this Autumn. (March 2019 photo)

I just hope my cat Pogo stays away from it!

Grow Valerian For The Benefits

The benefits of Valerian are numerous. As a medicinal it's widely know for the calming and sedative actions on the central nervous system. It is so effective that in the first and second world war it was administered to soldiers suffering from shell shock and stress. (1)

In our modern age where stress is, in my opinion pandemic, dried chopped root soaked in water will help to relieve symptoms like nervous exhaustion, stomach cramps, and stress, whereas a decoction will help induce sleep in cases of insomnia.(1)

(See health disclaimer left column)

For culinary uses, the roots can be chopped and added to soups and stews and the leaves and seeds eaten.

But did you know it is great for other plants in the garden too? Because valerian increases phosphorus, the growth of surrounding plants is boosted. In addition, the roots attract earth worms that aerate the soil promoting a healthy environment for all your herbs.

Clusters of pink, flesh coloured or white flowers on tall stalks can add height, scent and colour to a herb garden plan.

References:

1. The Complete Book Of Herbs by Lesley Bremness – pg.144 – Published in Association of the National Trust

  1. HerbHints
  2. Physic Garden
  3. Valerian

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