COMMON VALERIAN, GARDEN HELIOTROPE, TRUE VALERIAN
Pronounced: vu-leh-ree-AH-nah oh-fi-shi-NAH-lis
Sunset zones: All.
USDA zones: 4-9.
Heat zones: 9-1.
Height: 5 feet.
Width: 4 feet.
Dense clusters of small, white, fragrant flowers.
Bright green, aromatic, pinnate leaves.
Full sun to partial shade.
Sow seed indoors, 10-12 weeks before last frost at 70°F (21°C). Germination takes place in 21-25 days.
Sow outdoors in early spring.
Take basal cuttings in spring.
Divide in spring.
When flowers start to fade, sheer back, leaving 2 feet of stem for a second set of flowers in late summer, early fall.
Rainy Side Notes
Valeriana officinalis is a medieval Latin name, probably from the Latin word valere, which means to be healthy, referring to its medicinal properties. For over 2,000 years, the roots of the herb were used to treat many ailments such as hysteria, depression, and insomnia. Naturalized in North America, it is an herb still used medicinally and as an ornamental herb in the garden.
Valerian roots make a strong smelling (and I mean strong!) medicinal tea that should be used with caution* as well as with nose plugs. I use the tea occasionally, mixed with peppermint and honey (to mask the smell and bitter flavor) for sore back muscles. For gardeners I recommend trying a hot bath while sipping a cup of valerian tea; it soothes the muscles after a long day working in the garden.
The herb grows well in our maritime climate, as it thrives where summers are cool. Used in herb gardens, cutting gardens, or as a neutral backdrop for shorter perennials and shrubs, the plant blends well in a mixed border.
Photographed in author's garden.