Growing guidelines

Tickseed/Dyer's coreopsis, Coreopsis tinctoria

spacingca. 25x5cm
sowing depthneeds light to germinate
germination period8-14 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsfrom mid march/may
plantmid to end may
flowersjuly to october
locationfull sun to partially shaded
soilnutritious, well drained soil, moist to dry, avoid water logging
feucht bis trocken, keine Staunässe

I prefer to start Coreopsis indoors around mid to end of march, for earlier flowers, and it also fits my gardening style. Which is to only loosely plan placement beforehand. That way I'm able to transplant them out into beds and to fill empty spots later in spring.

Once there is no more frost to be expected you can also sow the seeds directly into the ground. Press onto soil, don't cover densely, needs light to germinate.

Throughout summer I harvest the flowerheads every few days, and am rewarded with even more flowers. They can be used fresh for dyeing or dried. Leaves and stems can also be used for dyeing, try them for bundle dyeing!

Dyer's chamomile, Anthemis tinctoria

spacingca. 30x30cm
sowing depthneeds light to germinate
germination period14-21 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsapril to may/may to june
plantmid may
flowersjune to october
locationfull sun
soildry to slightly humid soil, moderately nutritious,
well drained

The Dyer's chamomileblooms abundantly once it is well established.

Flowers can be harvested on a regular basis, and the plant will grow new blooms until quite late in the year. I have even had a handful of flowers in the mid of january.

Make sure the soil is well drained. Dyer's chamomile can handle dry(er) soils better than too much water. It goes well in natural flower beds mixed with other perennials and some annuals. But I really love to plant them in between vegetables, or on the edge of beds. They do require a bit of space though, if they're doing well!

Dyes very beautiful yellow tones with aluminum mordants, albeit not the most lightfast ones. Steams and leaves can be used too, but colours are less bright in that case.

Dyer's marigold, Tagetes erecta

spacingca. 30x30cm; if they have more space
they can get bigger
and bushier
sowing depthneeds light to germinate
germination period14-21 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsfrom mid march to april
plantmid May
flowersjuly to october
locationfull sun to partially shaded
soilnutritious, well drained, humic,
not too dry

This variant of marigoldcan grow quite tall and bushy, and has big flowerheads. I like to start the plants inside and plant them out once there is no more danger of frost. They are a preferred snack for slugs, which can be problematic when sowing outdoors.
Choose a location that gets quite a bit of sun. In very hot and dry summers I make sure to mulch them weel. Loosen firm soils well.

Tagetes are often used for companion planting in the vegetable garden. Their roots can improve soil quality, and reduce nematodes.

Harvest flowers several times during summer. Flowerheads can be threaded and hung in a dry and shady place for drying.

Orange cosmos/Sulphur cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus

spacingca. 25cm
sowing depth0,5-1cm
germination period7-21 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsmarch to april/april
plantmid May
flowersjuly to october
locationfull sun to partially shaded
soilmoderately moist and nutritious, well drained,
avoid waterlogging

The bright orange to yellow blooms of this Orange cosmos can be seen from july until the first frost. Keep harvesting the flowerheads every few days to encourage more blooms. That way the plants will become bushier during summer. Very attractive to pollinators.

Does well in full sun. Is supposedly quite drought resistant, but in my garden always does better when watered during heat waves.

Woad, Isatis tinctoria

heightinflorescence up to 120cm
spacingca. 20x20cm
sowing depth1-2cm, vorher einweichen oder kleine Samen aus Schoten holen
germination period7-21 days
Keimtemperaturgerminates at quite cool temperatures, but will germinate well at 20°C too
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsmarch to may/march to june
plantmid May
flowersin second year
locationfull sun
soilwell loosened and drained soil, nutritious, slightly calcareous
Boden, nährstoffreich, kalkhaltig

Usually woad forms a rosette of leaves in the 1st year, a high inflorescence is formed in the 2nd year. A single plant grows a multitude of seeds! Cut the flower stalks before seeding if you want to prevent any self sowing. Has a long taproot, so when grown in container make sure it is deep.

I like to sow woad in small pots in march, and always soak the seeds before planting to increase germination. I put the pots in a cool place indoors or even a protected corner in the garden. You can also sow them directly in the soil if your bed is already empty in march (mine rarely are).

Woad is a brassica, keep that in mind for crop rotation if you grow cabbage, kales or similar. To obtain indigo the leaves are best harvested in the first year.

Leaves can be harvested a few times during the growing season. Dye content is variable, harvesting after a few fully sunny days is recommended.

Weld, Reseda luteola

heightinflorescence up to 100cm
spacingca. 30x30cm
sowing depthneeds light to germinate
germination period14-21 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsMarch – April or end of August – September
plantmay or september-october; young plants are
not frost hardy
flowersin second year
locationfull sun
soildry to moderately humid, moderately nutritious
well drained and loosened
rather calcareous

Usually weld will grow a leaf rosette in the first year and only blooms in the second year. They're a biannual plant on paper but sometimes they form a flower stalk in year one, and others have also surprised me by growing again in year 3 and flowering once more. All aerial parts contain dye, harvesting is recommended shortly before the buds open.

When sowing outside make sure to not cover the seeds (need light to germinate). They grow quite slow in the beginning, and should never dry out in that early stage. I find it easier to start weld indoors.

Instead of spring they can also be sown in autumn. Just make sure the plants are well established before frost.

Sunflower Hopi Black Dye, Helianthus annuus

height250cm and higher
spacingca. 50cm
sowing depth3-5cm
germination period6-14 days
start indoors/sow in place outdoorsmid to end april; mid may
plantmay/after last frost
flowersjuly - october
locationfull sun
soilwell loosened soil, avoid water logging
nutritious, wind sheltered or gently bind to a support

I usually start sunflowers indoors (about three weeks before the last frost) and transplant them into the garden after mid may. That is the only way I can save them from being eaten by slugs.

If that is not an issue in your garden, you can sow into the soil outdoors once the nights don't go below 0°.

These sunflowers will grow tall! They often have a gigantic main flower head and lots of smaller ones. I always tie them to a support.

Seeds can be harvested for dyeing once they stain your fingers when gently rubbing them. Leave some of the seeded flower heads to share with birds.

Dyer's knotweed, Polygonum tinctorum

spacing2-5 plants en bloc, 30cm
sowing depth0,5-1cm
germination period14-28 days
start indoorsend of march - april
plantmay/after last frost
locationfull sun to partially shaded
soilSoil nutrient-rich, well-drained, humus-rich, fresh to moist

I always start Dyer's knotweed indoors. I soak seeds over night, and then put 3-5 seeds in a pot. I also keep the pots rather warm until the seedlings appear. The seeds sometimes germinate very slowly. The germination power decreases a lot after a year: And may then improve if the seeds are frozen for a few weeks before sowing. Dyer's knotweed does well when it grows somewhat crowded in a group.

Only plant out when there is no danger of frost. Roots easily and can therefore be quickly propagated by cuttings.

Avoid waterlogging and dryness. Dyer's knotweed likes very sunny and moist conditions. It needs nutrient-rich, loose soil and should not be allowed to dry out completely.

Strong winds and sunburn sometimes damage the leaves, but the plants usually recover.

Pincushion scabiosa, Scabiosa atropurpurea

spacing30 cm
sowing depth0,5 cm
germination period14-21 days
start indoorsmarch - may
plantmay/after last frost
sow outsidemay - june
flowersjuly - october
locationfull sun
soilSoil moderately nutrient-rich, well-drained, humus-rich, fresh, rather calcareous

The Black scabiosa can be started indoors like coreopsis, or sown outside from may to june (or after last frost date).

Likewise, do not plant out plants until there is no danger of frost. Slowly acclimatize them to outdoor temperatures.

Avoid waterlogging and dryness, preferably choose a sunny location.

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