Buck’s-horn plantain: growing, care & uses


My fascination with the world of plants led me to study horticulture. Whether they are crops or ornamental plants, whether they are found in the tropics or are native to our region, each plant has its own special characteristics.
I love to be inspired by the incredible variety in botanical gardens and try to bring as much nature as possible into my flat and onto my balcony.

Favourite fruit: mango, banana
Favourite vegetables: garlic, aubergine

This rather unknown plant is mainly used in Italian recipes as a salad green. Although its home is near the Mediterranean, buck’s-horn plantain thrives in gardens all over the world.

Minutina growing among rocks
Buck’s-horn plantain originates along the Mediterranean [Photo: arousa/ Shutterstock.com]

Buck’s-horn plantain (Plantago coronopus) is a low-maintenance herbaceous plant that belongs in every kitchen. Read on to find how to grow and care for buck’s-horn plantain.

Buck’s-horn plantain: origin and characteristics

Buck’s-horn plantain belongs to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and is also known as minutina, erba stella and hart’s horn plantain. It is at home in Central Europe on salt marshes and in coastal areas.

Unlike its close relatives, ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and greater plantain (Plantago major), buck’s-horn plantain has elongated toothed leaves. The leaves form a rosette close to the ground. When flowering, it reaches a height of 30 to 40cm. The inflorescences bear individual green to whitish flowers that bloom from June to September. Buck’s-horn plantain is an evergreen that tolerates extremely cold temperatures down to -23°C. It can be an annual or a perennial.

Buck’s-horn plantain leaf rosettes
Buck’s-horn plantain forms leaf rosettes with toothed leaves [Photo: mimohe/ Shutterstock.com]

How to plant buck’s-horn plantains

In nature, Plantago coronopus thrives in sandy or stony, dry salty soils, making it a perfect match for such problem sites in your garden. It grows effortlessly in almost all well-draining soils and in full to partial sunlight.

Minutina thriving in poor soil
Buck’s-horn plantain thrives even in problematic spots in the garden [Photo: Vankich1/ Shutterstock.com]

Buck’s-horn plantain is available at local nurseries as seedlings or seeds. Plant seedlings in groups of three, spaced 25cm apart. Most buck’s-horn plantain seeds can be sown directly outdoors from April to August or started in seed trays. For direct sowing, space the seeds 20 to 25cm apart. Only lightly press the seeds into the soil, as they germinate faster in light. Keep the soil evenly moist. At a temperature of 12 to 18°C, you can look forward to seeing the first cotyledons after about two weeks.

If you want to start them in a seed tray, buck’s-horn plantain seeds will germinate within three to five days at a temperature of 18 to 22°C. Place the seed tray in a sunny to semi-sunny location, for example on the windowsill. Use a sowing compost to create optimal conditions for the seeds to grow. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is low in nutrients, which is ideal for seedlings. Keep the sowing soil moist to prevent the seeds from drying out. When the buck’s-horn plantain seedlings show their first real leaves, they can be planted outdoors.

Tip: Plantago coronopus can produce two different seed sizes. The larger seeds have a mucilage, which sticks to the soil when it meets water. These larger seeds should be sown in autumn, whereas the small ones should be sown in spring. Pay attention to the sowing instructions on the packet to know when to sow your buck’s-horn plantain seeds.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
  • For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

When growing buck’s-horn plantains in containers or pots, make sure they have drainage holes as well as a drainage layer of gravel or stones to prevent waterlogging − too much moisture can cause the leaf rosettes to rot. Even in the bed, it is important to make sure that rainwater can drain away.

Buck’s-horn plantain care

Plantago coronopus is easy to care for and will reproduce abundantly if the location suits it. Fertilising is only necessary if the soil is very poor. For young plants, add a little compost to help them get started. If you notice that the plants are growing too close together, dig them up to separate them or remove them altogether.

Tip: buck’s-horn plantain seeds are easily spread by wind and rain. If you want to avoid rapid spreading, cut off the seed stalks before the seeds ripen.

Minutina bearing little white flowers
Buck’s horn plantain has inflorescences with small individual flowers [Photo: Martin Fowler/ Shutterstock.com]

Buck’s-horn plantain as a medicinal plant: harvest, effect and use

Buck’s-horn plantain is often found in salad recipes. It contains calcium, vitamin A and vitamin B2. The leaves can be treated like spinach and are wonderful in omelettes or as vegetable side dishes. The flowers are also edible, although not commonly used in the kitchen. Unlike ribwort and greater plantain, there is no scientific evidence that buck’s-horn plantain has healing properties. Even so, folk medicine uses it to treat coughs and colds. Buck’s-horn plantain can also be enjoyed as a tea.

You can harvest buck’s-horn plantain all year round. Cut off the leaves just above the base to ensure new shoots. Use it quickly, as it can only be stored for a few days. Store buck’s-horn plantain leaves in a damp kitchen towel.

Minutina grows in stony grass
The fine leaves can be harvested and prepared all year round [Photo: arousa/ Shutterstock.com]

What does buck’s-horn plantain taste like? Young leaves taste mildly bitter and somewhat salty. Older leaves have less intense taste and are tougher, making them better suited to sautéing and blanching. Some people say buck’s-horn plantain leaves taste like spinach.

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