Valerian is an easy to grow top notch medicinal herb that no herb garden should be without. All parts of the plant are used in medicine for the sleep deprived, especially the fine white roots. The white flowers are aromatic, radiating their musky scent throughout the garden, reminding you that it is ready for you to smell her. Humans, bees, and garden dwellers can often be seen napping next to her dainty leaves and towering flower stalks.
Valerian will thrive in variable conditions with little fuss. Being how it’s likely the root you want for harvesting, it helps to plant in a raised bed or garden row for ease of digging. Also, if your soil tends to retain water, this method will make bigger roots because they go deeper. Those who do not like to dig can grow in large pots and dump out soil at harvest, shake off the roots of soil, wash and process. I like to use this method because of the ease of harvest and containers can save space and can be more forgiving if you have a month of rain.
Common name: Valerian, Official
Botanical name: Valeriana officinalis
Type: Self seeding herbaceous perennial
Scarification/Stratification: None needed
Hardiness: -20 F
Sow temp/season: Oscillating temperatures of springtime or early fall
Sow depth/spacing: Surface sow on moist but well-drained soil spaced at one seed per inch.
Germination time: Starting at one week and ongoing
Self Fertile One plant will make seed, but two will make better pollination.
Final spacing: Final spacing 18”
Final height/spread: Stays at 12” until they go to flower, which rise up on 5 foot stalks. The foliage spread is 2 feet.
pH range: 5.5-7.5
Soil type: Loamy, well-drained
Nutrition Not a heavy feeder but likes a steady supply of finished compost.
Water requirement: Likes water, but does not like to swim.
Root type: Many fine, shallow spreading roots. The better the drainage the deeper they go.
Sun: Likes dabbled sunlight and/or a few hours of morning sun.
Time to maturity: Can harvest leaf in four months, root the first winter (2nd and 3rd year is better) and will flower the second year.
Hilling: Can add an inch of mulch every year.
Suckering: Will grow many new eyes from the crown.
Propagation: Divide plants in dormancy and pot them up and put in cold frame until spring, then plant to landscape. Sow seed in a minimum of 1 inch pots, keep potting up until they are large enough to transplant. Can grow in a 3 gallon pot.
Hybridization: Plant different varieties a minimum of 50 feet apart to prevent cross pollination.
Uses: All parts of the plant are active, but the roots are the strongest part. Preparations are best made from fresh plant material because the active compounds degrade rapidly. Can make a tincture to extend longevity of medicinal properties, or use fresh in a tea, or eat leaves and flowers in a salad. Valerian can be used to help promote sleep for the insomniac or to calm the nervous or stressed.