Some perennials aren’t flashy. They don’t win our hearts with massive flowers in eye-popping shades. Instead, they are content to perform without fanfare, play a supporting role to their flamboyant friends, and win our hearts with their sweet and simple charm. Alchemilla mollis, commonly called lady’s mantle, is one of those perennials.
Lady’s mantle is tough, hardy to Zone 3. A mounding perennial, it grows 18 inches tall and a bit wider. What I love most about lady’s mantle is its fuzzy, light green foliage. Tiny hairs blanket each gently pleated, velvety leaf with scalloped edges. Those hairs hold droplets of water, from dew or rain showers, and present them like little diamonds to anyone who takes the time to notice.
Airy sprays of dainty, chartreuse flowers, resembling the flowers of baby’s breath, begin blooming on long stems in early June in my garden. The weight of their flowers eventually gives way to gravity and they spill down over the foliage. The flowers are a lovely filler in arrangements and dry nicely, also. To dry, hang bundles of flowers, cut at their peak of bloom, upside down in a cool, dry spot.
Alchemilla mollis is not fussy about growing conditions. It prefers light shade but grows beautifully in full sun if given supplemental moisture and tolerates full shade, too. Lady’s mantle is also not finicky about soil. As long as it is not soggy, it will happily put down roots in most garden soils.
When planted in ideal conditions, lady’s mantle may self-seed with abandon. If her progeny is not desired in the landscape, deadhead spent flowers or hand pull seedlings when they are small.
If the idea of free plants gets your heart beating a little faster, move seedlings to new homes within the landscape or divide established plants in spring.
Lady’s mantle requires little maintenance. Deadhead to reduce seedlings or to keep the plant looking tidy. If the leaves begin looking summer-worn, cut them back and fresh foliage will quickly grow. Consider letting plants stand in fall, leaving their semi-evergreen leaves for spring clean-up. Another plus: deer and rabbits tend to leave plants alone.
Plant lady’s mantle at the front of borders or along walkways where its flowers can spill over, softening edges. Their soft, mounding form makes them perfect partners for upright perennials like blazing star (Liatris spicata) and summer bulbs like lilies. Their rounded, soft green foliage contrasts dramatically with perennials featuring blade-like leaves, like iris and daylilies and purple-foliaged perennials like coral bells and Penstemon ‘Husker Red’. Lady’s mantle would also be spectacular tickling the knees of roses in a rose garden.
I personally wouldn’t plant Alchemilla mollis in mass because I need to cut mine back in especially hot summers and wouldn’t want the hole created while waiting for plants to flush new growth. I do plant it often, however, in containers where it fills gaps between flowering annuals in a most delightful way.
Do you already grow lady’s mantle? Or were you tempted by those perennials that flirt with their brilliant blooms? Next time you are at your local garden center, check them out.
Garden with me!