How to Grow Skullcap
American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a wonderful medicinal herb to grow in your garden. There are multiple varieties of skullcap out there (another popular one is Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)), but the American Skullcap herb is the one that this post is all about. American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is the most popular medicinal herb variety (at least in America).
Folklore says that it got the name ‘skullcap’ because the little flowers look like little helmets, and some say the flowers look like helmets in the shape of skulls. I do like to imagine that the flowers are used by fairies to cover their heads (similar to the folklore surrounding foxglove).
Medicinal History & Info for American Skullcap
In the olden days, Skullcap was used to treat rabies, which gave it the nickname “Mad Dog Skullcap”. It was also used for women’s ailments.
Today, it is commonly known as a relaxing nervine and has antispasmodic properties. It is an excellent remedy for anxiety, stress, nervous tension, headaches, and is a mild sedative as well.
I like to use skullcap for headache teas (find a list of herbs for headaches here), sleepy teas (I have been adding it to this sleeptime tea recipe lately), and for relaxing (I’ve been adding it to my borage tea recipe).
I’ll add a post soon with every possible skullcap recipe I can find. This article is COMING SOON!
Top Tips for Growing Skullcap
American Skullcap is a hardy perennial. It grows best in zones 4-8. My favorite place to buy medicinal seeds is from Strictly Medicinal Seeds. This isn’t an affiliate link, it’s honestly where I purchase my medicinal seeds. You can also check with local herbalists (if you have a good comunity of herbalists nearby!).
Propagating Skullcap (AKA starting Skullcap from seed):
Growing skullcap from seed works best if you do cold stratification for at least 1 week. To stratify, put the skullcap seeds in a plastic ziplock bag with moistened vermiculite or sand. Put this bag in the refrigerator. Don’t put it in soaking wet material, just slightly moistened (otherwise your seeds can rot or mold).
After at least 1 week of cold stratification, sow those seeds in seed trays or flats indoors under gentle heat in late winter. It might take up to two weeks for those seeds to germinate (aka be visible above the soil).
After all danger of frost in the spring, you can transplant your skullcap plants outdoors. You can also propagate skullcap by dividing roots or cuttings in early spring from already-owned skullcap plants.
Where to Plant Your Skullcap:
American Skullcap can be planted anywhere from full sun to partial shade. You might need to experiment with this. I live in zone 8a, and I tried growing skullcap in full sun. It did not like our sunny days and hot weather, and those skullcap plants did not survive. After a few years of failed full-sun-attempts, I planted my next batch of skullcap in partial shade. There, I finally had success. So if you struggle keeping your skullcap alive, move your next batch to a different location.
Skullcap needs well-drained and moist soil. Native skullcap is found in woodlands and along stream banks, so you need to imitate these conditions. Make sure your skullcap plants in soil that won’t dry out. I have mine in part of my vegetable garden with automatic drip irrigation so it stays perfectly moist (this is helped with my partial shady location, too).
Proper Maintenance for Your Skullcap Plants:
Keep your skullcap plants well weeded and keep that soil moist! Besides that, they do not deal with many pest issues.
Harvesting American Skullcap Plants:
Once your skullcap is in bloom, you can harvest the plant. I like to cut the whole plant down about 3 inches above the ground. You can use skullcap flowers and leaves either fresh or dried.
I hang my skullcap up in a dark, dry location (my closets or pantry) to dry completely. This old-fashioned drying technique for herbs is my personal favorite. You can also use a dehydrator, dry them on screens, or in the oven, etc.
My Final Thoughts on Growing Skullcap…
I love this herb. Not only is it really helpful to add skullcap to my headache, sleep, and relaxing herbal tea blends, it is really pretty in the garden. I love the idea of showing it to my little nieces and nephews and thinking about the flowers as fairy hats, too. There is something magical about growing your own natural remedies and skullcap will always have a special place in my yard!
Learn more about medicinal herbs from my favorite herb book: Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.
More Awesome Herbs You Can Grow:
- Tips for Growing (and Using) Lemon Balm
- How to Grow Feverfew
- Growing and Using Valerian
- Growing and Using Yarrow
- How to Grow Passionflower