What Is Valerian?

How To Grow Valerian Plants In The Garden

Valerian is a flowering shrub or small tree native to the island of St. Helena off the coast of Africa. It grows up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide with a trunk that reaches 12 inches across.

Its leaves are green, oval shaped and have five petals each with three white stamens and two black pistils. They are usually arranged in a fan shape. Valerian flowers appear from late spring until early summer. The flower’s scent is described as sweet and floral, like a rose but stronger.

The leaves of valerian plants produce an oil which when applied topically helps treat rashes, insect bites, burns and other skin irritations. The oil is also used to make candles and perfumes.

In addition to its medicinal properties, valerian is also known for its ability to promote sleepiness and improve concentration. It may even reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Valerian has been used as a mild sedative since ancient times.

It was popularized during the Victorian era by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) and Charles Dickens (1812– 1870).


Valerian does best in a well-drained, loose soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

The soil should include worm castings or other types of organic matter such as compost. Valerian does not do well in sand or clay based soil. It prefers a slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5 to 6.5).

Grow valerian plants in direct sunlight for at least five hours per day. They can grow in partial shade, but they will not flower as profusely. Valerian plants should be spaced four feet apart.

It is important that the plants are able to spread out and receive adequate sunlight.

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Watering valerian plants should be done with rain water, distilled water or filtered water. Tap water may contain chemicals or minerals that can harm the plant.

As a general rule, the plant should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Allow the topsoil to dry out before watering again. Overwatering can kill valerian plants.

Fertilize three to four times during the growing season with a good granular fertilizer. Follow the package directions for the proper amount and application time. Do not fertilize the plant in the winter months.

If you need to stake your valerian plant, use a wooden or bamboo stake that has been driven into the ground near the valerian plant. Do not place the stake next to the plant because it will damage the valerian root system as it grows.


Valerian plants are not prone to many problems. They are hardy and grow well in most conditions.

Valerian plants can be attacked by the same pests that attack other garden plants like aphids, spider mites and mealy bugs. A strong blast of water can be used to remove these pests from the leaves.

Valerian plants can be susceptible to webbing from insects like the six-spotted leaf hopper. The leafhoppers inject a toxin that causes dark red or purple areas to appear on the leaves. There is no chemical cure for this problem.

The plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease.

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Valerian plants can also develop some bacterial infections that cause yellow and wilted areas on the leaves. Gather the affected leaves and trash them to prevent the spread of the infection to other plants in your garden. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed.

Do not place them in the trash because they can still infect other plants.

Valerian plants are susceptible to fungal infections that cause the leaves to develop a yellow or brown discoloration. Remove and destroy infected plant material as soon as you see the problem. Try spraying the plant with a mixture of one part milk and nine parts water.

Repeat this procedure every few days until you see an improvement, then begin watering as normal.

Harvest valerian roots in the spring before the plants begin to flower. To harvest, pull up the entire plant and cut off the top several inches of it. Valerian can regenerate from even deeper roots than that, so do not worry if you cut too much off.

After you have harvested your roots, replant some of the new shoots that grow from the main root to produce more plants.

Valerian is not usually attacked by animals, but it can be damaged by garden pests like slugs and snails. You should check your plants often for these pests and their slimy trail.

Powdery mildew can sometimes be a problem on valerian plants if the humidity level is high or the plants are not given enough water.

Valerian plants can also be attacked by several different types of insects. Check your plants every few days for signs of insects.

Cutting the top off of infected plants and removing infected plant material is the best way to get rid of insect infestations. While you are doing this, be on the look out for any harmful animals that might be living in your garden such as rodents or rabbits. Get rid of any you find immediately.

It is always a good idea to grow valerian plants in a well-balanced organic garden soil. If possible, add some slow release fertilizer before you plant your valerian.

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You can purchase valerian seed on Amazon or from other seed suppliers. Valerian seed can be hard to find because it cannot be legally shipped to all areas of the country due to its hallucinogenic properties.

Plant the valerian seeds one inch deep in your garden bed once all danger of frost has passed. If you are planting your valerian in a pot or other container, prepare the container and plant the seeds as you would other container plants.

Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Add slow release fertilizer to your garden every few months to promote healthy growth. Valerian grows rapidly, so keep an eye on your plants and thin them out as needed.


Valerian can be grown inside as a house plant. Keep the soil barely moist and place it in a well-lit location. Fertilize lightly every few weeks.


Valerian has been used medicinally for centuries. It is most often used to help treat insomnia and anxiety. Do not use valerian if you are allergic to the Valerianaceae family of plants, if you suffer from kidney or liver disease or if you are taking any prescription medications.

To prepare for medical use, pour boiling water over dried valerian root and steep for ten minutes.

Sources & references used in this article:

In vitro propagation of Valeriana jatamansi by R Kaur, M Sood, S Chander, R Mahajan… – Plant cell, tissue and …, 1999 – Springer

… of the essential oil, valerenic acid and derivatives, and valepotriates in Valeriana officinalis roots and rhizomes, and the selection of plants suitable for phytomedicines by R Bos, HJ Woerdenbag, FMS van Putten… – Planta …, 1998 – thieme-connect.com

Valerian: or, the Virtues of that Root in Nervous disorders, and the characters which distinguish, the true from the false. Illustrated with figures by J Hill – 1772 – books.google.com

Biological and phytochemical aspects of Valeriana officinalis by G Corsi, L Lokar, AM Pagni – Biochemical systematics and ecology, 1984 – Elsevier

Extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L.) vs. placebo in treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a randomized double-blind study by S Pakseresht, H Boostani, M Sayyah – Journal of Complementary …, 2011 – degruyter.com

The Virtues of wild Valerian in nervous discorders by J Hill – 1772 – books.google.com



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