When To Harvest Mullein Leaves, Flowers, Roots, and Seeds?

Mullein is a medicinal herb that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. However, knowing when to harvest mullein is crucial to get the highest potency and yields from this versatile plant. This guide will cover everything you need to know about identifying the optimal time to harvest the leaves, flowers, roots and seeds of the mullein plant.

Harvesting Mullein Leaves

Mullein leaves can be harvested any time during the first year of the plant’s growth as a basal rosette, or in the second year before the plant flowers. However, the ideal time for the highest potency and yields is in the spring or early summer of the first year.

Spring of First Year

The leaves that emerge in the first spring are young, vibrant and full of vital nutrients and medicinal compounds. Mid to late spring is an optimal time for leaf harvest. The weather is mild, the ground moist, and the leaves are at their peak potency.

Early Summer of First Year

The mullein basal rosette continues to grow through early summer, producing more large soft leaves. Harvest leaves before the weather gets hot and dry to maximize yields. The leaves harvested at this stage will be almost as potent as spring leaves.

Late Summer or Fall of First Year

You can continue harvesting leaves in the latter part of the first year, but potency will start to decline after the long hot summer. The leaves may be smaller and less soft. However, you can still collect leaves through late summer and fall if you need larger quantities for tea blends or other medicinal preparations.

Early Second Year Before Flowering

Once the mullein plant survives winter and begins growing again in spring of the second year, you have a final opportunity to harvest leaves before the flower stalk emerges. These leaves will be lower quality than first year growth but can still be used. Monitor closely and harvest before yellow buds appear.

After mullein flowers in the second year, the leaves become tough with a bitter flavor and are not considered optimal for harvesting. Focus your efforts on the bounty of flowers and seeds instead.

Harvesting Mullein Flowers

One of the most popular uses for mullein is as an infused oil for earaches. The flowers contain analgesic and anti-inflammatory compounds that gently soothe ear pain and infection when the infused oil is applied.

Mullein flowers form tall stalks up to 6 feet in height during the second year of growth. Flowering begins in mid to late summer. The tiny yellow flowers bloom progressively up the stalk over several months.

To harvest the flowers:

  • Wait until the buds open fully and the flowers are vibrant yellow.
  • Pick the flowers individually when they are dry and free of moisture.
  • Collect flowers throughout the entire blooming period for maximum yields.
  • Harvesting is best in the heat of a sunny day when essential oil content is highest.
  • Avoid harvesting after heavy rain or dew when the plant is wet.
  • Use immediately fresh or dry fully for storage. The flowers can be easily stripped from the stems when fully dried.

Timing your mullein flower harvest carefully allows you to reap the benefits of these healing blossoms. Pick them at their peak for the best medicinal preparations.

Harvesting Mullein Roots

Mullein roots are another valuable part of the plant for medicine. They contain saponins, flavonoids and other compounds. The roots can be used to make teas, tinctures and syrups.

To get the highest potency and yield from mullein roots, there are two optimal times for harvesting:

Fall of First Year

Dig up mullein roots in the fall after the leaves have died back for the winter. The large taproot is easiest to harvest and clean when the ground is soft and moist. This allows you to access the entire length of the root. The roots will be their largest size at the end of the first season of growth.

Early Spring of Second Year

You can also dig roots in early spring before or just as the flowering stalk appears. The roots shrink over the winter so won’t be quite as large as fall roots. However, the roots harvested in early spring will still be high quality as the plant stores energy underground over winter.

Avoid harvesting roots once the plant has gone to flower as the older roots become woody and lose potency. Get them early in the two seasons recommended.

Harvesting Mullein Seeds

The small yellow seeds that form after mullein flowers are another treasure trove of medicine. They have a slightly bitter, astringent taste. The seeds contain saponins, flavonoids and mucilage that help relieve respiratory congestion.

To harvest mullein seeds:

  • Wait until the flower stalk is completely dry and the seed pods turn brown.
  • Collect the dried stalks and place them in a paper bag.
  • Gently crush the flower spikes, then sift and separate the seeds from the chaff.
  • Discard any unripe seeds that are green or soft.
  • Store the dry yellow or brown seeds in an airtight glass jar out of sunlight.

Mullein seeds mature and can be harvested in early fall of the second year once the flowers have finished blooming. Time your harvest when the seed pods rattle – indicating the seeds are dry and ready. This is often around the time of the first fall frost.

When to Harvest the Parts of the Mullein Plant

Knowing the optimal timing is key when harvesting mullein leaves, flowers, roots and seeds. Here is a quick summary:

  • Leaves – Harvest spring through early summer of first year for highest potency. Can also harvest fall of first year or early spring of second year before flowering.
  • Flowers – Harvest mid to late summer of the second year when yellow blooms open fully.
  • Roots – Harvest fall of first year or early spring of second year before plant flowers.
  • Seeds – Harvest early fall of second year when seed pods are dry and seeds rattle inside.

Paying close attention to the mullein plant’s growth stages allows you to obtain each part when it is at maximum medicinal strength and quality. The biennial nature of mullein means you must be patient to allow the plant to complete its full two year lifecycle before reaping nature’s bounty. But with the proper timing, you will be rewarded with a valuable harvest of gentle, healing medicine from this beloved herb.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the optimal time to harvest mullein leaves?

The optimal time to harvest mullein leaves is during the spring or early summer of the first year of growth, before the plant flowers. This is when the leaves are youngest, most vibrant, and highest in medicinal compounds.

Can you harvest mullein leaves in the first winter?

It’s best not to harvest mullein leaves in the first winter. The leaves will die back as the plant becomes dormant for winter. Harvest leaves in spring through fall of the first year, before frost sets in.

When do mullein flowers bloom?

Mullein flowers bloom from mid summer through early fall during the second year of growth. The tall flower spike emerges and yellow flowers open progressively up the stalk over several months in the peak summer season.

Is it better to use mullein leaves or flowers?

Both the leaves and flowers have important medicinal uses, so it depends on what you want to use the mullein for. Leaves are the basis for teas and lung tinctures. Flowers are better for earache oil infusions. Get the leaves in the first year, then harvest both leaves and flowers in the second year.

Can you harvest mullein roots in the first spring?

It’s best to wait until fall of the first year or early spring of the second year to harvest mullein roots. Don’t harvest the small new roots in the first spring. Let the taproot grow large before harvesting.

When do mullein seeds mature and how do you harvest them?

Mullein seeds mature in early fall after the flowers. Harvest dried seed pods when they turn brown and rattle, indicating the seeds are ripe. Remove from stalks, sift and separate the seeds, discarding any unripe ones.

How long is the mullein lifecycle from seed to mature plant?

The mullein lifecycle is two years from seed to mature plant. It forms a leaf rosette in year one, then sends up a tall flowering stalk in year two which then produces seeds to begin the cycle again.

Can you harvest mullein multiple times in one season?

Yes, you can harvest leaves progressively through spring and summer of year one, and both leaves and flowers repeatedly during the peak summer flowering of year two. Just be sure to leave some leaves on the plant for sustained growth.

What’s the best way to dry harvested mullein leaves or flowers?

Dry mullein plant parts quickly out of sunlight in a single layer, turning occasionally, until crisp. Use screens or baskets or a dehydrator on low heat. Crumble dried leaves and store in airtight containers. Flowers can be stripped off their stems when fully dried.

Final Thoughts

Timed properly, a mullein harvest provides you with the best nature has to offer from this useful biennial herb. Pay attention to its growth stages for optimal leaf, flower, root and seed harvest. With the guidelines above, you’ll gather an abundant medicinal yield from mullein’s two year journey that you can enjoy for many years to come.