How to Plant & Grow Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris)

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Marsh Woundwort Growing, Planting, Facts & Care (Stachys palustris)

marsh woundwort stachys palustris with purple flowers
Marsh woundwort can be distinguished from two similar species by its hairy stems and gentler scent. Photo by Pmau, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sometimes known by other names such as hedge nettle, marsh hedgenettle, clown’s woundwort, and clown’s heal-all, marsh woundwort is an herb in the mint (Lamiaceae) family. This is a large family, which includes many aromatic plants such as sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and lavender. Plants in the mint family can be found worldwide. Marsh woundwort specifically is native to Europe and Asia, but it has also been introduced to areas of North America. Much of the US considers it to be native, while Canada considers it invasive.

Marsh woundwort produces clusters of pink or purple flowers. This plant is often confused with betony and hedge woundwort, which are close relatives in the mint family with similar blooms. However, you can distinguish it from these species – marsh woundwort does not possess the nose-punching, overpowering scent that hedge woundwort does, and also often has noticeable, rigid hairs on its stem while wood betony has soft, fine hairs.

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Marsh Woundwort

A bumblebee on betony flowers Stachys hummelo
Marsh woundwort and other Stachys species are very attractive to bees. Pictured is Stachys hummelo (betony).

As suggested by its name, marsh woundwort can often be found in locations with damp soils, such as a marsh or on the margins of a stream or pond. Marsh woundwort flowers do not have a strong scent, but they have nutrient-rich nectar and are still quite attractive to pollinators, especially honeybees and bumblebees. They can bloom into the autumn, providing a valuable nectar source to any pollinators that are still active during those cooler months. Additionally, their rhizomes can help reduce soil erosion.

Marsh woundwort has a long history as a medicinal folk remedy and is used by some people to this day. As its name suggests, this plant was most often used for wound care. Marsh woundwort is also edible and was eaten mainly during food shortages until the 19th century. It also was used at times as pig feed. Although marsh woundwort has been referred to by some researchers as a “forgotten crop,” a close relative is widely cultivated as a source of food in China.

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Marsh Woundwort Fact Sheet:
Herbaceous Perennial
USDA 4 – 8
Part sun to partial shade
Pink, purple
July – October (Summer to Fall)
Height up to 0.8 meters (2.6 ft.)
seeds: on surface of soil; mature plant: 10-15 cm (4-6 in.)
pH 5.0 – 7.0

Marsh Woundwort Growth, Hardiness & Climate

marsh woundwort growing by a pond
Marsh woundwort grows well along the damp edges of ponds.

Marsh woundwort is typically found in moist, rich soil, and is an enthusiastic spreader. In fact, some gardeners complain that it spreads too much for their liking. This plant is generally considered to be easy to grow, but it does require a large amount of water, though this shouldn’t be a problem if planted along your pond’s edges or in naturally damp soil. Marsh woundwort is hardy in zones 4 through 8 and is a perennial in these locations, able to withstand freezing temperatures just fine. Do note that it can grow up to nearly a meter in height, so might work best as a mid or background plant rather than a foreground one.

How to Plant Marsh Woundwort Around Ponds

how to plant marsh woundwort Stachys palustris
Marsh woundwort grows best in damp soils rather than in standing water. Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0

One option for planting marsh woundwort is to grow it from seed. Marsh woundwort seeds should be sown on the surface of soil in the spring after any risk of frost has passed. If planted in the spring, marsh woundwort will often flower the following summer. Marsh woundwort can also be propagated from placing cuttings barely below the soil surface or grown by simply burying the roots of a mature plant up to the crowns of the stems.

How to Care For Marsh Woundwort

how to care for marsh woundwort
If marsh woundwort becomes too tall, you can just pinch new ends to encourage bushiness. Photo by © M J Richardson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

In general, marsh woundwort is low-maintenance and easy to care for. This plant does best in rich, moist soil with access to partial sunlight. Keep in mind that this plant’s natural environments are wetlands (such as marshes and fens), so it will do best in areas that can best imitate these habitats. This species can easily spread and become leggy, but you can pinch the ends of the herb occasionally to encourage bushiness. You also can divide established plants every few years to prevent too much spreading.

How to Winter Marsh Woundwort

Marsh woundwort is native to cold areas and is winter hardy in zones 4 to 8. In these areas, marsh woundwort does not require any special treatment in order to survive the winter. Some gardeners in colder zones attempt to help their marsh woundwort plants survive the winter by laying down a layer of mulch to protect the stems and leaves. However, this will not necessarily be successful and could encourage fungal growth on the roots and stems.

Within marsh woundwort’s native hardiness zones, it is a perennial and can be seen in gardens over many years. Outside of this plant’s native hardiness zones, some gardeners choose to harvest and eat the tubers in the fall, and simply replant seeds the following spring.

Is Marsh Woundwort Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?

Marsh woundwort is native to Europe and Asia and is considered to be moderately invasive outside of this range. Although it is not native to North America, it has been established there for some time and in many areas is considered as simply “non-native.” This means that, although not native, the plant has become naturalized and other species have adapted to its presence. An “invasive” plant is one that is not only not native, but also overtakes other plants and damages ecosystem. While marsh woundwort does have the potential to do this, it doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence.

Marsh woundwort is not known to be an extremely aggressive plant, but, like many plants in the mint family, it can be an enthusiastic spreader. Take care when planting this species in your garden so that it does not take over more area than you want it to. A great option to prevent excessive spreading is to plant marsh woundwort in a pot or planter instead of directly into the ground. If you’re outside of its native range, do take care to not plant marsh woundwort near streams or rivers that can carry the seeds to new locations.

Marsh woundwort is not considered to be toxic, but it is not recommended to be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Is Marsh Woundwort Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

Marsh woundwort is edible, and its tubers have been an important crop for some people throughout history. These tubers can be eaten raw or cooked, and are said to have a somewhat nutty flavor. They can also be ground up and used as a flour substitute for making bread. Interestingly, although marsh woundwort leaves and tubers are said to taste good, their smell is apparently unpleasant.

Marsh woundwort should not pose any problems for pond fish that may come into contact with it. It is possible that fish may try to nibble on this plant’s roots if given the chance, but as they are not toxic, this should be safe for fish to do.

Where to Buy Marsh Woundwort & Seeds? (UK & US)

Marsh woundwort is available in online and in-person nurseries that sell to the plant’s native ranges. Outside of marsh woundwort’s native ranges, you may have to order online, or ask your nursery to make a special order. However, this plant has become fairly common in North America, so it will likely not be too difficult to find there. As always, do try to select plants for your garden that are native to your area. A quick search on the Native Plant Finder will help you determine native options for your specific area.

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