A lovely tall perennial plant with masses of tiny highly perfumed flowers.
Easy to grow and needs little maintenance once established. Prefers full sun
and a richer soil and some water but can tolerate some drought will little trouble.
Flower stalks will most likely need staking but they produce masses of flowers
for long periods of time and are loved by butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Foliage is interesting, in large green mounds. Will spread by underground roots
if left to may need containing, will also self seed if not cut back after flowering.
Great plant for areas that need height.
Description of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Large leafy perennial that blooms in the second year from seed. Produces mounds of mid green leaves that are deeply divided heavily incised with serrated edges. Leaves can be up to a foot in length are deeply veined and attractive in their own right. In late spring the flower stems arise. These can grow up to 6 feet in height are much branched with each branch ending in a flat umbel of tiny white or pink flowers. Each flower is a tiny five petaled star shaped tube and have a strong perfume like scent. Flowers from early June until September with smaller flower stalks arising even later. Flowers are followed by small fluffy seeds than easily float on the breeze.
Location and care of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian prefers full sun but will grow in slight to partial shade. Prefers a good rich soil so amending with organic material, a good compost is best before planting. Likes to be in a well drained location that remains slightly moist does not like to dry out or have waterlogged soils. Using a soaker hose to water from the base on a daily basis is ideal. Prefers a neutral pH soil if possible, cannot tolerate waterlogged soils.
Valerian clumps can get fairly large from the second year onwards so ensure there is enough space. Plant at least 2 feet apart Flower stalks are tall so use as a back border or area where tall plants are suitable. The stalks are hollow and not too strong so plant will most likely need staking especially if it in a sheltered location.
If intending to dig roots for harvesting ensure soil is easy to work as plants can become large and hard to dig out. Clumps can be divided in early spring or fall with spring being the best time. Plants can spread using underground rhizomes so ensure it is planted where spreading is not going to be a problem. Will not easily stay contained if it is happy with its location.
Growing Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian seeds are quite small and prefer to have light to germinate so sowing indoors is recommended. Outdoor sowing can be done if enough seed is available. Press seeds into the soil surface and keep watered until they become small plants.
Sow indoors in mid to later winter, use medium potting compost and sow seeds on surface or only very lightly cover. See general growing instructions for more details. Germination is usually about 10-20 days depending on temperature and other conditions. Young valerian plants have quite different leave appearance to mature plants, the leaves are not divided, this only occurs as the plants become bigger. It is easy to become confused and unsure of your plants, have faith the leaves will change as they grow and become strongly divided.
Transplant when seedlings are large enough to handle. Grow on in individual pots until plants are about 6 inches, and harden off before planting out. Ensure enough space between plants as they can become quite large.
Harvesting Valerian (Valeriana officinalis).
If intending to harvest the roots grow in a location where it is easy to dig them up again. Wait until at least the second winter before harvesting to allow roots to enlarge. Cut down the flower stalks to allow the plant to concentrate on root growth. Dig roots in early fall to to winter of the second year. Plants can be left for additional years is desired.
Medical Uses of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian has been used for a very long time as a calmative and sedative. It is probably the strongest herbal sedative available. It is used to help calm people down and allow them to sleep. It has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries
Most commonly the roots are used and fresh root is superior to dried. IT is
most commonly used as a tincture or the fresh roots which is the most effective
way of preserving the active ingredients. However the leaves and flowers also
contain some of the roots properties and can be used fresh during the summer
months. Tinctures of the fresh flowers can also be used. Leaves can be used
in cooking or more commonly in salads to promote some sleep. Eat such salad
at night not for lunch!
Valerian does not work on everyone, some people find it works as a stimulant rather than a sedative.
Flowers are sometimes used in the perfume industry. Dried roots attract rats and cats and can b used to as bait to lure them away from areas to be protected.
Valeriana baltica, Valeriana exaltata
Young flower buds about to open
Valerian plant early in spring
Flowering valerian in our field