Plant Research for the Pacific Northwest

List of natural dye plants that grow in the Pacific North West Coast region

This garden is based on the existing garden bed in my backyard and the optimal growing condition for each plant. The color on each name is the dye color the plant will most likely yield.

Weld: It forms a rosette the first year and in the 2nd spring shoots up a stalk to 5 ft/1.5m but more normally up to 3ft/1m. It flowers June-August and ripens seeds August-September. Weld likes dryish, chalky soil (it’s often found growing around limestone quarries, gravelly banks, stony roadsides–planting around walls would duplicate this) but it can grow in any kind of soil. Plant in full sun up north and partial shade in the South. (yellow)

from the garden

Marigold:  They need lots of sunshine. Though they grow in almost any soil, marigolds thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Do not fertilize marigolds. Too rich a diet stimulates lush foliage at the expense of flowers. Marigolds bloom better and more profusely in poor soil.

Woad:Sow in spring or late summer. Soak seeds overnight in tepid water, then plant, barely covering (husk for higher germination). They will germinate in 10 days. Plant out in full sun and well drained soil. Keep well weeded and give plenty of fertilizer (fish emulsion works great). Harvest young leaves (old ones are not good) when you need them, and harvest seeds when pods turn purple and detach easily. Husk the seeds before planting (the pods contain a germination inhibitor. (green)

Indigo: Tender perennial needs hot, humid weather and a mild climate, but it can be grown in more northern climes as an annual. Rub the seeds gently between sand paper to wear off part of the coat and then soak for 24 hours in warm water. Bottom heat can speed germination after sowing, but it can still take 3 weeks to germinate. It likes full sun. (blue)

Sunflower: sow seed directly into the garden, rather than start them in pots of any kind. Sunflowers need full sun; see 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day – the more the better if you are trying to grow them to their maximum potential. Choose a well-drained location, and prepare your soil by digging an area of about 2-3 feet in circumference to a depth of about 2 feet. Sunflowers are heavy feeders and deplete the soil more than many other crops. (green)

Sheep Sorrel: barely cover seeds and 2) water regularly. Germination takes 1-2 weeks.(mustard yellow)

Elderberry: relatively easy to grow and will thrive in alkaline or acidic soils. Plant the shrubs in a site with full sunlight if possible. Blue elderberry will flower and fruit even in partial sunlight. It should be planted in moist soil. Before planting seeds in the soil in spring, store them at 70 to 85 F for 60 to 90 days. Then store the seeds at 41 degrees F again for 90 to 100 days. Once the seeds are ready, they may be planted in the garden. To plant the seeds, place them directly on the surface of the soil. Cover the seeds with a half-inch layer of sawdust mulch.(pinkish purple)

Already blossoming in the garden

Sagebrush: propagate from an existing plant or buy from the nursery. Find a sunny, dry location for the sagebrush. Amend the soil with 1 inch of compost and 1 gallon of coarse sand. Sagebrush will never grow well in wet, heavy soil. (green)

Wild Chamomile: Seeds germinate in 1-3 weeks at room temperature. Transplant to full sun 15-24″/38-60cm apart. This plant flowers mid to late summer.(yellow and green)

Zuni: They look weedy at first and then bloom in 8-12 weeks. Picking will encourage the plant to produce more flowers. You can dry the flowers for storage. (red)

Safflower: Grow 6-9″/15-23cm apart in full sun unless your summers get very hot, as in the south, in which case give shade in the afternoon. This plant likes deep, fertile soil. Gather petals (watch your fingers) every 2-3 days just after dusk or before sunrise and let them dry, then store in darkness in a jar. (red – pink)

Tansy: Tansy are easy to grow, requiring little, or no attention. They prefer full sun to partial shade. They grow well in average to poor soils. Sow seeds early in the season, and cover lightly with 1/4″ of fine garden or potting soil. Water thoroughly once. Keep the soil moist to slightly dry. (mustard)

from the garden

Fennel: Plant seeds 2” deep in rows that are 20”apart.(yellow – brown)

Me planting in the sunny part of the garden




One response to “Garden

  1. Mary-
    The sketch for your dye garden is beautiful…I’m so happy you are documenting this, and I do hope you will continue to post the evolution of the plants and the dyes!

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