To the genus Lamium belong some species of biennial or perennial plants, widespread in nature even in uncultivated places in Europe and Asia; in the garden few species are cultivated, but a few dozen varieties, generally deriving from the Lamium maculatum, a perennial species, endemic in our country. In Italian gardens this perennial still does not find the space it deserves, perhaps because the plant in general is often mistaken for a nettle, although the lamium, despite many similarities with this undesirable weed, does not even belong to the nettle family, not it presents any type of stinging hair and, looking at it closely, has slightly different shaped flowers than those of the nettles, and the stems that carry them have a square section. Another reason why the Lamium it is not much cultivated in Italian gardens, it is perhaps its vigor, which makes it an almost infesting plant; in fact, however, this defect can become valuable when it comes to decorating a difficult, very large, or difficult to care for flowerbed.
It is a medium-sized plant, which tends to be evergreen when the winter season is mild, while it loses its foliage in case of constant and intense frosts; in any case i Lamium they are very rustic plants, and even after the harshest winter, with the arrival of spring heat, the stoloniferous roots quickly give rise to a new carpet of leaves. They are ground cover plants, with a development that depends very much on the species and on the variety placed at home; lamium maculatum, and the various hybrids it originates from, tend not to exceed 35-55 cm in height; it has branched stems, which tend to spread wide enough to form large clumps. The foliage is characterized by a thin streak, in the center of the leaf, of silver color; the most widespread varieties of lamium have different types of spots on the foliage, up to almost completely silver leaves, which have only the outer edge of green. Throughout the summer, up to the autumn, at the apex of the stems there are scapes that plant the flowers, similar in shape to those of nettles, vaguely reminiscent of snapdragons, even in lamium flowers have the shape of a deep mouth, and are generally white, pink or lilac; the flowers bloom continuously, until the autumn colds.
Lamium are perennial herbaceous plants with a "black thumb" proof, they grow luxuriant even in the less well-kept garden, also suitable for those who have no time to devote to flower beds; they are generally cultivated in the open ground, so that they can spread out at will, but they can also be grown in pots, or in hanging baskets, where they can better appreciate their ground cover development, which becomes hanging. Smaller and more compact varieties are recommended in pots. Lamiums prefer fresh and slightly humid soils, but they also tolerate drought quite well, and tend to develop in any soil, even compact and drained; they are generally recommended as shade plants, not because they prefer it, but simply because they can develop without problems even in the most complete shade, even if often in these conditions they tend to stop flowering. They are therefore cultivated in a semi-shaded area, or even sunny; however, they fear so many hours of direct sunlight a day, especially during the hottest hours of the long summer months.
They are hardy and vigorous plants, so once they are planted and take root, they tend not to need treatment, being satisfied even with the water guaranteed by rainfall; in order to have a luxuriant and floriferous flowerbed it is however good to water when the climate is dry, from April to October, so as to avoid leaving the plants completely dry for long periods of time. We can still water even sporadically, without fearing that the seedlings defung; the potted specimens are watered only when the ground is well dry. At the end of winter, just before the small plants begin to develop, we spread on the ground a small amount of granular slow release fertilizer, which will guarantee the correct amount of fertilizer over the coming months.
To have a lamium flowerbed that is always compact and luxuriant, it is advisable, in autumn, to prune all the plants, more or less a few centimeters from the ground, in order to favor a great spring development, and the production of many new shoots, which will keep the well branched plants, already at ground level. If left to themselves completely, lamiums sometimes tend to lignify at the base, emptying the foliage slightly.
How to contain an excessively lush plant
Lamium, if cultivated in an area of their own, tends to become infesting over the years, because they spread even outside the flower beds, even in the grass, or in the neighboring flower beds, suffocating the other plants. We can take advantage of this feature by planting our lamiums in the flower bed farthest from home, the one where we sometimes forget to water, where they can expand at will without causing us any harm. We can also choose the new, particularly compact varieties that tend to have a more disciplined development. Lamiums develop by means of lateral stolons, just like small strawberry plants do; to contain them, it is sufficient, periodically, to remove the plants that develop at the end of the stolons: with the help of a spade, we will make deep cuts along the external perimeter of the lamium bush, removing the plants that come out of the flowerbed, and severing the rebellious stolons, which are developing excessively.
In this way we can contain the size of the flowerbed, without harming the plants inside.
Propagate the lamium
Lamiums propagate effectively by dividing heads in the autumn; It is sufficient to cut the bread of roots and stems located at the base of a plant, immediately placing the seedlings thus obtained directly at home; we can use for propagation plants that naturally develop at the end of the stolons, thus guaranteeing even greater compactness to the lamium flowerbed.
Most varieties of lamium easily produce many fertile seeds, which can be used to propagate plants, which also tend to self sow. If, however, we have purchased a lamium of a particular variety in the nursery, we cannot be certain that the plants obtained from seed are identical to the mother plant; therefore in general the propagation by seed is not carried out, although it could be interesting to obtain lamium of varieties other than the seeds taken in the garden.
They are sown in spring, in full earth, or already in February, in a warm bed; before sowing it is good to fill the seeding tray with a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts, which will be well moistened before sowing. We position the seeds, exerting a slight pressure with the fingers to make them adhere well to the substrate; if we are provided, we cover the seeds with a light layer of vermiculite, which will hold the seeds in place, and keep the moisture near the ground. We keep the seedbed in a fairly warm and constantly humid place, until the seeds are germinated; we thin out the seedlings, raising the smaller and weaker specimens.