Nettles Growing Guide

Urtica dioica


Crop Rotation Group



Fertile soil that holds moisture well.


Full sun to partial shade.

Frost tolerant

Yes, nettles are hardy perennials, though some wild species grow as annuals. The most popular cultivated type is hardy to -30 °F (-34 °C).


None generally needed.


Single Plants: 11" (30cm) each way (minimum)
Rows: 11" (30cm) with 11" (30cm) row gap (minimum)

Sow and Plant

Nettles are easily grown from seeds sown where you want the plants to grow in late winter or early spring. Nurseries seldom sell potted plants, but any gardener who has nettles will have plenty of plants to share. Early spring is the best season to dig and move stinging nettles. Young plants need water to become established, but become more drought tolerant with age.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.


Super-nutritious and willing to grow in tough environments, nettles have been used as cooked greens for thousands of years. Many temperate climates host native species, though the European stinging nettle is easiest to manage in the garden. In addition to the buttery greens that are harvested in spring, stinging nettle is a host plant for several important butterfly species in the US, UK and Europe. The stems and leaves of stinging nettle are armed with hairs that can cause burns or blisters on human skin. Grow them far from children’s play areas or walkways, as the plants tend to bend into an arch late in summer. In a remote bed, nettles mix well with goldenrod and tall garden phlox.


In early spring, as soon as plants show new growth, use scissors to snip off 4 inch (10 cm) stem tips. Wear gloves to protect your hands from stings. Thoroughly wash harvested nettles in a colander, spin or shake dry, and store in the refrigerator. Cleaned nettles can be dried for use as a nutritional supplement for humans or animals. Lightly steam fresh spring nettles before using them in soup, pesto, or other cooked dishes. Any form of cooking destroys the stinging hairs. In late summer, plants can be cut back by half to control their size and prevent reseeding, with the foliage incorporated into compost to add nutrients.


Expect to see chewed leaves from feeding by butterfly larvae, especially on leaves close to the base of the plant. Nettles are avoided by deer.

Planting and Harvesting Calendar

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Pests which Affect Nettles