All plants serve a purpose in the garden, whether playing a role in aesthetics, ecosystem benefits, or conveying a garden theme. Lady’s mantle is no exception. This classic garden perennial balances accompanying garden plantings, including showier garden bloomers, with a cushion of unique foliage.
Its low-growing, mounding habit (about one foot high and two feet wide) creates a lovely buffer for other garden specimens. The broad leaves, ranging from gray-bue to light to olive green, complement any color scheme and lend a soft, full, and loose look to the perennial border.
Clusters of wafty blooms on tall bloom spikes appear as the weather warms. The lime-green flowers brighten the garden and attract butterflies and other pollinators throughout the summer.
What Is Lady’s Mantle?
This plant’s botanical name hints at the plant’s historical association with alchemists.
This old-fashioned garden perennial became popular first in European gardens for its unique foliage and sprays of flowers. Approximately 300 species of Alchemilla grow in Europe and Asia, with fewer varieties in cultivation. Alchemilla mollis is prized for its ease of growth in diverse landscapes, soft gray-green leaves, and foamy chartreuse bloom clusters.
Lady’s mantle is an uncommon herbaceous member of the rose family, Rosaceae. Unlike its thorny, sturdy, boldly blooming relatives, this low-growing perennial spreads slowly by rhizomes (and quickly through reseeding).
The palmate leaves are scalloped and covered in dense hairs that catch and hold water droplets. Morning dew shines on leaves and along margins, creating a beautiful, sparkling effect.
This hydrophobic ability to repel water may be the source of the genus name Alchemilla. While the origin is unknown, it’s thought that the name refers to the plant’s ability to repel water and hold it in beads – considered by alchemists to be the purest form of water. The alchemists would then use the beads of water to attempt to turn base metals into gold; hence, Alchemilla.
In addition to its lovely garden characteristics, it historically has been used to treat stomach ailments. It’s also used in soaps, lotions, and dyes (originally to dye wool green).
Blooming in late spring, its bright flower clusters complement many other plant species.
Alchemilla mollis is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with boldly textured, soft foliage. Its velvety fan-shaped leaves reach six inches across and form a mounding habit.
In addition to exciting foliage, the blooms show up in feathery clusters of star-shaped green to bright chartreuse flowers. They rise on spikes floating 18 inches above the basal leaves in late spring and can persist through August. The blooms may not be flashy, but they brighten the garden with foamy sprays above the deep green leaves. The chartreuse color blends nicely with any other flower color, especially blue, purple, white, yellow, and pink.
This plant lends a cottage garden look and makes a pretty buffer to other perennials in the garden border, along paths and walkways, and as a groundcover in mass. Companion plants include those with dark purple foliage, upright perennials, and those with finer texture. Look to astilbe, salvias, coral bells, iris, ferns, and shrub roses for striking garden and container combinations.
Lady’s mantle readily reseeds and can be an aggressive spreader in optimal growing conditions. It is invasive in parts of southeastern Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. In other areas, where not considered invasive, measures like deadheading spent blooms can prevent unwanted and uncontrolled spread to other garden areas.
This plant prefers a cool and wet climate, performing in moist, rocky soils.
Alchemilla mollis grows naturally in Eastern Europe, particularly in the Carpathian and Caucasus mountain ranges and Turkey. The ideal climate is cool and wet, with moist, rocky soils and shade from the tree canopy or mountain ledge.
Enhance moisture retention and enrich the soil by adding mulch or leaf litter at planting.
Plant in spring after the final frost and in fall at least six weeks before anticipated frost. This timeframe gives roots a chance to get established before chilly temperatures arrive.
Dig a hole twice as big as the plant’s container to plant. Space plants 18 inches apart to allow plants to spread and infill.
Lady’s mantle can be grown in the ground or in garden containers. Use it to soften arrangements in large, planted containers by pairing it with upright bloomers and interesting foliage textures.
At planting, add mulch or leaf litter to help with moisture retention. This layer also enriches the surrounding soil as it breaks down over the season.
Lady’s mantle can be easily transplanted, preferably in cool spring or fall temperatures.
Lady’s mantle can be transplanted easily, preferably in spring or fall when temperatures are cool and mild. Ensure containers and soils are well-draining, that you provide appropriate watering after transplant, and add leaf litter for insulation.
Growing from Seed
Seedlings are ready for transplant in about four weeks, but blooming may take up to two years.
Since it readily reseeds when it’s healthy and happy, growing from seed is easy. To get a head start on the season, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date. Move seedlings outdoors when the threat of frost has passed. Seedlings will be ready for transplanting after about four weeks. It can take up to two years from germination to full flowering status but may produce a few flowers earlier.
If wild seedlings are too successful, and if you have too many volunteer plants popping up in the garden, thin them out. Seedlings can be identified by the same three-lobed leaves as adult plants. Transplant them to appropriate spots or add them to the compost pile.
How to Grow
This is an easy-care, low-maintenance garden perennial. Other than trimming and meeting cultural requirements, little else is needed for it to thrive in the landscape. Upright bloom spikes may flop as they mature and cause a flattened appearance, so cutting back helps keep the plant neat and growing.
This partial-shade plant can endure full sun if given extra water and some afternoon shade.
Alchemilla mollis thrives in partial shade but can tolerate full sun with some extra water. In climates with hot summers, leaves may scorch in the sun. It benefits from afternoon shade.
New plants should be consistently watered for the first two years to establish a robust root system.
Lady’s mantle needs regular water to thrive and additional water in dry periods. Water new plants regularly for their first two years to establish an extensive, self-sufficient root system. After that time, you can slow down the watering regimen during cooler or wetter seasons but should still provide supplemental water during hot weather.
It is not drought tolerant. If the plant experiences stress from periods of drought, leaves may curl and brown. Trimming the brown leaves allows a quick flush of new growth to emerge.
It adapts well to different pH levels, growing in both alkaline and acidic soils.
Lady’s mantle prefers moist, well-drained soils (and not overly wet ones). Tolerant of most soils and clay, it is tough and adaptable as long as moisture and good drainage are present. It has no particular preference regarding alkaline or acid soils and will grow in both.
Temperature and Humidity
Keep dead leaves in place as insulation for the plant through late winter, then trim for new growth.
Lady’s mantle is a cold-hardy perennial and, being herbaceous, it will remain semi-evergreen or enter dormancy in winter, depending on your climate. Leaves will brown and die back as temperatures cool in late fall. Keep leaves in place for added insulation until late winter/early spring, when it’s best to trim them to allow new basal growth to emerge.
In containers, insulate the roots and crown to overwinter. Use mulch or leaf litter atop the soil. Keep the container outdoors, but protect it from winter winds and prolonged freeze exposure. Containers lack insulation from surrounding soil mass, so huddle pots together or nestle them in the ground to overwinter hardy perennials.
While adaptable to various landscape conditions, it does not handle hot or humid environments well. Leaves may scorch in hot sun, and plants may be susceptible to fungal diseases in high humidity.
In poor soil, organic fertilizer can be applied in spring as new growth emerges.
Lady’s mantle does not require regular fertilization. If your soil tests as low in nutrient value, use an organic fertilizer in spring as new growth emerges. Better yet, add compost at the time of planting. Otherwise, supplemental fertilization is not required.
Trimming back brown leaves in early spring is recommended before the emergence of new growth.
Cut back brown leaves in the late winter or early spring before new growth emerges from the crown. When the plant finishes blooming in mid-summer, cut off spent blooms to prevent self-seeding and to tidy and rejuvenate the plant. New growth will last all season. Deadheading may also encourage an additional round of blooms in late summer.
Propagation is easily achieved through plant division rather than cuttings. Since the lady’s mantle is a clump-forming perennial, it can be readily divided as needed.
Plants can be easily divided in the fall or early spring.
Easily divide plants in fall or early spring by digging up the plants, roots, and all. Cut the plant into segments using a sharp knife, serrated blade, or spade. Make sure each new plant segment has a bundle of intact roots and leaves. Plant the new divisions in your desired garden spots and keep them well-watered until established.
The cultivated varieties of Alchemilla species are very similar and can be used in the garden interchangeably based on availability. Each of these varieties has gray-green foliage, chartreuse foliage, and shallow-lobed, palmate leaves.
Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’
This variety grows 14″ high and 30″ wide and often flowers more than other varieties.
‘Thriller’ grows 14 inches high by 30 inches wide. A popular variety, ‘Thriller’ is slightly larger than other varieties with more prolific blooms.
Alchemilla mollis ‘Irish Silk’
Standing at a height of two feet, ‘Irish Silk’ captivates with its remarkable abundance of blooms.
‘Irish Silk’ grows two feet tall and is noted to be particularly florific.
Alchemilla mollis ‘Robusta’
This variety presents an upright silhouette and forms strikingly large leaves.
‘Robusta’ grows 14 inches tall and 36 inches wide. It has an upright form and features large leaves.
Alchemilla mollis ‘Auslese’
It’s a European selection known for its more upright lime-green blooms.
Like ‘Thriller,’ the variety ‘Auslese’ is large with prolific lime green flowers. ‘Auslese’ is a European selection with more upright, lime-green blooms.
In addition to mollis, other Alchemilla species to try in the garden are sometimes available.
Silvery-white, deeply lobed leaves characterize this mat-forming plant.
Mountain lady’s mantle is a dwarf, mat-forming ground cover that grows only three to eight inches tall and is perennial in zones 3-7. Deeply lobed leaves are silvery white. Requiring good drainage, it is ideal for rock gardens.
At only 5″-6″ tall, this is an excellent choice for confined spaces.
A. erythropoda is another dwarf species – reaching only five to six inches tall – and resembles a miniature version of A. mollis with its chartreuse flowers. Hardy in zones 3-7, it’s another good match for rock gardens and small spaces.
Alchemilla sericata ‘Gold Strike’
This pale yellow-flowering variety shines in spots with shallow, rocky soils.
‘Gold Strike’ is a silky variety that brings pale yellow flowers atop small, deeply lobed leaves. A compact selection, ‘Gold Strike’ reaches about one foot tall with a 16” spread and is adaptable to spots with shallow, rocky soils.
Lady’s mantle is pest-resistant, rebounding from nibbling, but reseeding requires control.
Lady’s mantle has no significant pests or diseases in the garden. The downy leaves are deer and rabbit-resistant, and the plant quickly rebounds if nibbled.
As discussed, reseeding can be an issue if left unchecked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lady’s mantle is a lovely, low-maintenance, easy-care herbaceous perennial. A garden classic, its size makes it perfect for garden borders, walkways and paths, cottage gardens, and containers.
Known for its soft, fan-shaped leaves, lady’s mantle flowers bloom from late spring to mid-summer and beyond. Tall sprays of green to chartreuse flower clusters float above basal leaves. The bright green bloom and gray-green leaves complement many other garden plantings, especially flowers in blue, purple, pink, yellow, and white, and contrasting foliage textures and colors.
Lady’s mantle reseeds readily in optimum growing conditions. It is invasive in southeast Alaska and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Where not invasive, remove spent blooms to minimize reseeding to unwanted garden areas.
In the right garden setting and under the watchful gardener’s eye, Alchemilla mollis brings a loveliness to the garden through attractive foliage, color, and texture. Flowers can be cut at peak bloom and hung to dry in a cool, ventilated spot to use as a filler plant in dried floral arrangements.
Thriving in varied conditions from full sun to partial shade, consider underplanting trees and shrubs with a ground cover or border of lady’s mantle. With few requirements other than trimming and deadheading, lady’s mantle is a carefree perennial that brings classic cottage garden charm to the landscape.