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How to Grow Stinging Nettles

Updated March 23, 2017

The stinging nettle (urtica dioica) is a fast-growing plant common across all of North America, though it prefers the moist, forested soil of the Pacific Northwest. Stinging nettles get their name from their actual sting: their leaves are covered with tiny sharp needles that release a painful combination of neurotransmitters, histamines and formic acid. Although common wisdom has dictated that a gardener avoid stinging nettles entirely, the plant has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as people rediscover its use in traditional herbal medicine and health benefits as a vegetable. Cooking neutralises the plant's stinging toxins.

Put on gardening gloves.

Open the packet of seed and mix with 1/2 cup dry sand.

Fill the growing flat or baking dish with seed starting mix soil. Wet the soil with water using the watering can, and mix well. Spread the moist soil so it evenly covers the bed or dish.

Sprinkle the sand/seed combination evenly across the flat or dish. Cover with cling film to keep seeds moist and warm while they germinate. Place in full to partial sun.

Check seeds daily. Re-water and re-cover until seedlings emerge--this can take several days to several weeks depending on the crop of seed you used. Stinging nettles can be slow to germinate. Be patient, keep them moist, and remove the cling film when they do start to sprout.

Replant seedlings, when they are 3 to 4 inches tall, into a portion of your garden that receives partial sun but is also easy to contain. You want to keep the sting nettles away from children and pets. Stinging nettle is invasive and hearty, and it can take over a garden if you do not control it. Wear gardening gloves when you handle the young plants.

Tip

Don't worry about planting stinging nettles too closely. They naturally grow in thickets, so spacing your plants is not important. You can begin harvesting the leaves for medicinal or culinary use as soon as the plants have established themselves in your garden and are approximately 6 to 7 inches tall.

Warning

Always wear protective gloves when you handle stinging nettle plants of any age.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Stinging nettle seeds
  • Seed-starting flats or a large, shallow baking dish
  • Seed-starting mix potting soil
  • Water
  • Watering can
  • Cling film
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About the Author

A writer and professional lab assistant based in Seattle, Kate Bruscke has been writing professionally about health care and technology since 1998. Her freelance clients include "The Seattle Times," KGB.com, Reading Local: Seattle, Nordstrom and MSN/Microsoft. Bruscke holds a Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.