Scientific Name: Betonica officinalis
Common Names: Betony, Bishopwort, Common Hedgenettle, Purple Betony, Wood Betony, Woundwort
Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)
Betony is native to parts of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa.
Betony has been used since ancient times in herbal medicine, it is said to have been able to prevent bad dreams as well as treat arthritis, gout, anxiety, migraines, heartburn and many other ailments. Betony may interfere with blood pressure medications so should be avoided when these are being taken. The leaves can be used fresh in herbal teas and the dried leaves can even be used as a passable substitute for black tea. Betony produces long-lasting spikes of nectar-rich purple flowers during Summer that help to attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insect pollinators to the garden. Betony grows to about 60cm tall and has attractive flowers so can be used towards the middle of mixed cottage garden plantings.
The natural habitat of betony is along the edges of woodlands so in the garden it'll grow best in a location that receives shade during the hottest parts of the day. Betony grows best in a fertile loam soil rich in organic matter so if your soil is sandy or lacking in nutrients add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted animal manure prior to planting. Betony will grow in clay soils but will be stunted, adding organic matter and gypsum can help to break up the clay and allow for better growth. Betony grows well in a wide pH range and is tolerant of frosts. When planting out betony plants should be spaced 15cm apart, this will provide enough room for them to grow but still allow them to form a continuous mat once established. Water betony plants regularly until they are established. The rhizomatous roots of betony plants may become congested after several years of growth and will start to suffer as water is less able to penetrate the root ball and nutrients become depleted. To ensure continuing healthy growth every few years the plants should be dug up, divided and replanted with the addition of compost, worm castings or well-rotted cow manure to restore soil fertility. Division of betony plants is best undertaken during early Spring.
When To Sow
In cold and mountainous areas of Australia sow betony seeds from October to March. In temperate regions of Australia sow betony seeds from September to November or from March to April. In subtropical areas of Australia sow betony seeds from August to October or from March to May. Betony won't grow well in the humid tropics of Australia.
How To Sow
Betony seeds are small so broadcast sow them over the top of a punnet or small pot and cover with a very light layer of growing mix. Press down gently to ensure good contact between the seeds and the damp growing mix, doing this will help to prevent the germinating seeds from drying out between watering. Water often but gently to avoid washing the seeds out of the pot. Thin out or gently divide the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to safety handle. If germination is poor you may need to cold stratify the seeds, to do this mix some of the seeds with a small amount of damp sand in a zip-lock bag and place into your refrigerator to chill for a few weeks prior to sowing.
Betony seeds can have slow and erratic germination taking from 14 to 30 days for seedlings to emerge.
Time To Harvest
Betony plants will be large enough to begin harvesting leaves from after 16 to 20 weeks of growth.