Self-Heal Plant, Prunella vulgaris


Self-Heal is a perennial wildflower that is native to most of North America that is edible and has medicinal qualities.  You may notice it growing in your lawn, as it can bloom even if it has been mowed to a short height.  I have mainly encountered while out hiking, or near ditches/farm fields.  If you look closely at the bloom, you will notice that Self-Heal has one of the prettiest, most delicate flowers.

Self Heal

 Self-Heal Facts

  • Native to almost ALL of North America.  Only the extreme Northern Canadian provinces do not have Self-Heal.
  • Self-Heal is also a rare plant in that it is native to Europe and Asia
  • Is ecologically beneficial, as it provides nectar and pollen to many bees and small butterflies/skippers.
  • Has been used medicinally for hundreds of years.  It was used by the Native Americans, then by herbalists.
  • Self-Heal is high in antioxidants, and has high anti-viral and antimicrobial  properties
  • A member of the mint family, Self-Heal will spread via rhizome roots and can become aggressive or weedy
  • Self-Heal can grow within a lawn, and bloom even if repeatedly mowed.
  • Mowing/cutting of Self-Heal will increase the amount of surface area the plant covers.

Self-Heal Scientific Name

The scientific name of Self-Heal is Prunella vulgaris

Is Self Heal Edible?

Self-Heal is edible with a slightly bitter taste.  To preserve the nutrients, and antioxidant properties it should not be cooked.  It has primarily been used medicinally to relieve throat pain, accelerate wound healing, treating fevers, and for digestion/bowel issues.

Self-Heal Physical Description

A short perennial, Self-Heal grows to about 6 inches to 1 foot tall (15-30 cm).  You often see them shorter though, due to mowing.  Even if only a couple of inches tall they are still able to bloom.

Stalk / Stem

Self-Heal is a member of the mint family and will 4 angles on the stem, almost square like.  There are also small white hairs on the stem.

Leaves

Leaves are opposite and approximately 3/4″ wide by 1.5″ long (15 mm x 37 mm).  The shape of the leaf is lance-like, and may have smooth or a rounded saw-tooth edge.

Flower

Blooms of Self Heal are roughly 1/2″ long (12 mm) by 1/8-1/4″ wide (3-6 mm).  Individual flowers are tubular with two lips.  The top lip will be colored pink or purple, while the bottom lip is white.  Flowers will bloom for approximately 1 month in mid to late Summer.

After blooming a small packet will form containing a few seeds.  It has been said that when raindrops strikes the packet/tube, it bends down and the flings up, distributing the seed through the air.Prunella vulgaris

Root

Self-Heal has a small tap-root, and also fibrous rhizome roots.  So, being a member of the mint family Self-Heal will spread via rhizome roots and can become aggressive.

Growing Conditions for Self-Heal / Prunella Vulgaris

Self-Heal is versatile and adaptable in it’s growing conditions.  The optimum growth conditions for Self-Heal are full or partial sun, moist-medium moisture in loamy soil with lots of organic matter.  But, it can also grow in clay, shadier locations, and even somewhat drier areas.

How to care  for the Self-Heal herb

Self-Heal doesn’t require any special care.  If in a very dry area, it could benefit from supplemental watering during droughts.

Maintenance

Pulling unwanted plants is about the only thing you will have to do for Self-Heal.

How to grow Self-Heal from seed

Collect seed on spent flowers in late-Summer or early Fall.  Larger seeds will have a higher germination rate than smaller seeds.  So, if collecting seeds from multiple plants, make sure you sow the largest of the seeds.

Store in a cool dry location.  To germinate, direct sow in early Spring in a disturbed location or in flower pots with a potting mix.  The seeds of Self-Heal should be surface sown, as they require exposure to light to germinate.

Keep seeds moist until germination, which will occur after temperatures begin to warm up.  Studies have shown the optimum temperature for Prunella Vulgaris to germinate are approximately 70F (21C).

Garden Uses

Self-Heal would make a good choice for any wildflower areas, micro-prairies, or borders.  The shallow roots can help with erosion control while providing some ecological benefit as well.  So, win win.

Due to it’s somewhat aggressive nature, I would not plant this flower in a manicured flower bed.  It may surround your other species within a few years.

If you would like a step-by-step guide on how to design and build a wildflower or prairie garden, click on the image below.  There are sample plans and pictures showing you some of our results.

How To Make a Micro-Prairie

Fauna

Self-heal is visited by many types of bees and small butterflies while blooming.  It is also the larval host for the Clouded Sulphur Butterfly.  The foliage has a somewhat bitter taste, making it deer/rabbit resistant.

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Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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