Lady’s mantle: flower, plant care & uses


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

Lady’s mantle is best known as a companion plant for roses. But this herb has so much more to offer! Discover more about the wonderful Alchemilla plants below.

Dewy alchemilla leaves
Lady’s mantle is an easy-to-grow companion plant to many perennials [Photo: sasimoto/]

Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), also known simply as Alchemilla, is a stunning perennial that has been used as a medicinal herb since the Middle Ages. Nowadays, Alchemilla plants are still used to treat gynaecological as well as menstrual problems. In the garden, these subtle plants are simply a beautiful sight. Read below to find out about the different lady’s mantle varieties, where to plant them and how to prune Alchemilla properly.

Lady’s mantle: origin, characteristics and flowering

Lady’s mantle is an herbaceous perennial that grows anywhere from 5 to 50 cm high, depending on the species. Alchemilla plants have round, scalloped, leaves that are hairy on the underside. Lady’s mantle owes its unique name to its leaves that should resemble the Virgin Mary’s coat, which is often depicted as pleated.

The genus lady’s mantle is native to Europe, as well as Asia, the Balkans and as far north as Russia. In nature, lady’s mantle plants are found in sunny, moist meadows and on hillsides. Lady’s mantle belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae) and is often used as an ornamental plant in combination with a variety of perennials thanks to its ground-covering habit, its ornamental leaves and yellow-green flowers.

Unique yellow-green alchemilla flowers
From May onwards, the lady’s mantle blooms with its many yellow-green flowers [Photo: MariMarkina/]

Lady’s mantle flowers from May to August. The small Alchemilla flowers cluster in dense blooms, called umbels. From September onwards, its seeds will ripen and form small, inconspicuous nut fruits, which serve to propagate and spread the plant. Lady’s mantle is a very slug-resistant plant.

Tip: Lady’s mantle owes its Latin name to another phenomenon, the dewdrops that form on its leaves. Druids and alchemists collected the water from the plant’s leaves to synthesise magical remedies, gold or the philosopher’s stone, thus the genus name Alchemilla. However, the water on the foliage is often not dew at all, but rather secreted by the plants themselves at the leaf edge: in boatanical terms, this is called gutation.

Alchemilla with water drops on leaves
The formation of dewdrops is a special phenomenon that characterises lady’s mantle

Risk of confusion with lady’s mantle: There is actually only a risk of confusion between the different types of lady’s mantle. However, this does not pose any risks, all common varieties of lady’s mantle are non-toxic. Only rarely is the common Alchemilla plant confused with parsley piert (Aphanes), an annual herb that is often found in fields with winter grains. To differentiate, parsley piert’s leaves have a more dramatic edge and do not form a calyx, or outermost spiral of the leaf.

Alchemilla leaves
Lady’s mantle are easily distinguishable by their leaves [Photo: nnattalli/]

Most beautiful lady’s mantle varieties

There are many lady’s mantle varieties with a diverse array of characteristics and needs. Needless to say, there is an Alchemilla plant to suit every garden. Here are some of the most popular lady’s mantle varieties:

Alchemilla vulgaris: The common lady’s mantle is sometimes referred to as the Alchemilla xanthochlora, prefers moist, sunny to semi-shady locations and grows up to 50cm high. This Alchemilla plant is most commonly used for medicinal purposes.

Dewy alchemilla vulgaris
Alchemilla vulgaris is most commonly used as a medicinal plant [Photo: Yala/]

Alchemilla mollis: Formerly known as Alchemilla grandiflora, this lady’s mantle prefers loamy, sandy, and slightly acidic soils. With its beautiful, large and velvety leaves, it is a popular ornamental plant in many gardens.

Alchemilla mollis plant
Alchemilla mollis is characterised by large, particularly soft leaves [Photo: colin grice/]

Alchemilla hoppeana: This lady’s mantle species is characterised by its shimmering silver foliage and often flowers until October. It only grows to 15cm high and feels at home in rock gardens, so in permeable, humus-poor and nutrient-poor soils.

Alchemilla hoppeana leaves green with silver edges
With its shimmering silver leaves, Alchemilla hoppeana truly stands out [Photo: ChWeiss/]

Sparsely-foliated lady’s mantle (Alchemilla epipsila): Also known as Alchemilla indivisa, this lady’s mantle is more delicate and compact than the other common varieties and has some advantages: The sparsely-foliated lady’s mantle does not spread as uncontrollably and does not wilt on the ground after rainy weather. This makes it particularly suitable for planting in narrow beds or pots.

Alchemilla epipsila yellow-green blooms
Alchemilla epipsila has particularly delicate flowers [Photo: ChWeiss/]

Dwarf lady’s mantle (Alchemilla erythropoda): As the name implies, the dwarf lady’s mantle is smaller and grows more slowly than its larger relatives. Furthermore, it does not spread as much and is more tolerant of shade and drought. This makes it a very good alternative for those who find other lady’s mantle varieties too large and unmanageable.

Dwarf lady's mantle
The dwarf lady’s mantle is much smaller than Alchemilla vulgaris and Alchemilla mollis [Photo: simona pavan/]

Alchemilla faeroensis ssp. Pumila: Another dwarf lady’s mantle which stems from the Faroe islands. Alchemilla faeroensis ssp. Pumila grows to only about 2 to 5 cm tall. This variety will please miniature plant enthusiasts and pot gardeners. This Alchemilla variety feels most at home in sunny, stony locations.

Growing lady’s mantle: location, plant spacing and more

The right location for Alchemilla plants depends first and foremost on the variety. As far as the soil is concerned, this ranges from moist and nutrient-rich to stony, well-drained and relatively nutrient-poor. All lady’s mantle species, however, need sunlight. Lady’s mantle can also be grown in pots, but take care with the large species in particular, as they grow large quickly and form a creeping taproot over time. So, lady’s mantle plants ideally need wide pots.

Alchemilla plants in sunny location
Lady’s mantle plants feel most comfortable in the sun [Photo: Steve Cymro/]

Plant lady’s mantle either in spring or autumn. Spring planting is best suited for Alchemilla, as the weather is usually not too dry at this time and it ensures enough time for the plant to get well established before the winter. The plant spacing depends on the species and ranges from 25 cm for dwarf lady’s mantle to 40 cm for Alchemilla vulgaris and Alchemilla mollis. Lady’s mantle looks best when planted in groups.

Plant lady’s mantle species with high nutrient requirements, such as Alchemilla mollis, in pre-fertilised soils, like our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. To prepare the soil for species that require more permeable, nutrient-poor soil, mix sand into it where necessary.

Lady's mantle planted in stony soil
Lady’s mantle plants do not have high demands on their location [Photo: Anettepoet1/]

Lady’s mantle plant care: watering, pruning & fertilising

Lady’s mantle is equally undemanding when it comes to care. As it is a fairly nutrient-hungry plant, it appreciates a little fertiliser now and then. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is perfect for this, but well-rotted manure or compost can also be used. It is best to fertilise in spring when the plant is sprouting lots of new foliage. During longer dry periods, water your lady’s mantle plants regularly.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Lady’s mantle self-sows and spreads quickly over a large area in the garden. To prevent this, cut back the lady’s mantle straight after flowering, before the fruits have ripened and the seeds have spread. This method encourages healthy growth the following year. Do not hesitate to cut it back right at the base of the plant, as the leaves would wither anyway and lady’s mantle is not evergreen so it is sure to sprout again from its roots come spring.

Sprawling alchemilla plant
Lady’s mantle tends to spread quickly and widely [Photo: fujilovers/]

Lady’s mantle propagation

Lady’s mantle can be propagated both from seed and by division, although dividing plants is usually easier. If you want to divide the plants, it is best to do this in autumn or spring.

Dividing lady’s mantle

  • First cut all around the piece to be replanted with a spade. Since lady’s mantle spreads through its roots, you will have to cut some of the plant’s roots.
  • If the section is exposed, prise it out of the soil with the spade. Do not pull it out by the leaves, as these tear off easily.
  • Now cut the perennial piece into root balls about the size of a fist, with the spade or an old knife.
  • Plant the divided root balls in the desired location. It is important to water the plants well until they are well established and have developed a strong root system.
Young alchemilla plant in ground
Alchemilla is generally easy to propagate [Photo: Sergey Sonvar Nik/]

Growing lady’s mantle from seed

  • Lady’s mantle is a light and frost germinator. So, sow the seeds between October and January to stimulate germination with the cold temperatures.
  • To do this, scatter the lady’s mantle seeds on soil in a shallow dish and press them down, covering them only lightly with soil.
  • Outside, place the tray in a sheltered, sunny spot. With sufficient moisture, the seeds will germinate after exposure to the winter cold as soon as it gets warmer again.
  • From spring onwards, transplant the seedlings into the desired location.
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Overwintering lady’s mantle

The species of lady’s mantle that are widespread in our climate are hardy and survive temperatures even as low as -20°C. Alchemilla foliage withers in the winter, but in spring the plant sprouts again from its roots. In very cold winters, however, make sure to cover the root area with some twig or leaves for protection.

Overwintering alchemilla plant with frosted leaves
Although the above-ground part of the plant dies back in winter, lady’s mantle sprouts anew in spring [Photo: Erkki Makkonen/]

Harvesting and using lady’s mantle

Both lady’s mantle leaves and flowers can be harvested and used. To build up a winter supply of lady’s mantle, dry some of the crop. The best time to harvest lady’s mantle is in late spring and early summer. With its slightly bitter, sour taste, lady’s mantle is mainly used for its medicinal properties and only rarely is used as a culinary herb. Although, you can use the young leaves of lady’s mantle for wild herb soups and salads. Only the young, fresh leaves are really suitable for this, as they have a stronger aroma when dried. Lady’s mantle can also be used to make refreshing drinks mixed with fruit juices. For this, boil the herb first in water and cool before using.

Cup of alchemilla tea
Lady’s mantle tea has been used as a healing drink for a long time [Photo: Bankiras/]

Lady’s mantle has many benefits: it has a digestive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and analgesic effect. Since the Middle Ages, lady’s mantle plants have been used in gynaecology, for example to treat menstrual cramps or during menopause. A lady’s mantle tea brewed from the leaves or flowers of the plant may also help with colds or mild gastrointestinal complaints. The medicinal properties of lady’s mantle come from the tannins, flavonoids and bitter substances contained within it. During pregnancy, however, the use of lady’s mantle should be avoided, as complications with the uterus may occur due to the herb’s antispasmodic effect.

Is lady’s mantle poisonous?

No species of lady’s mantle is poisonous. This is true for both humans and animals. However, if you eat too much, it can cause nausea due to the high tannin content.

Lady’s mantle brightens up your garden without requiring much care. If you are interested in discovering other easy-going garden plants, you will find some examples in our article on low-maintenance garden plants.