Summer Dye Garden Plants

It’s hard for me to believe that spring is here, with the 12 inches of snow we received last night! My puppy is loving the snow, but I’m a little worried about the plants. Luckily, my dye garden seedlings are still tucked in safely indoors under grow lights and out of the unseasonably cold weather.

Over the past six years I’ve spent a significant amount of time growing out Woad (Isatis tinctoria), and Japanese Indigo (Persicaria tinctoria or also called Polygonum tinctoria), since these are the two varieties of indigo that grow in the region that I live - Minnesota, USA.


I started my Japanese Indigo seeds indoors under grow lights three weeks ago, and they are about 1-2 inches tall now. I’m watering them daily with a little spritz bottle of water so as to not get them too wet, which sometimes makes them “leggy.”

Woad grows well in Minnesota, and is know for spreading rapidly. So much so, that is is not allowed in the western states of the USA. So, please check your local invasive list before ordering any. Woad is native to Central Asia to Eastern Siberia and Western Asia, but was introduced to Western and Southern European countries many years ago and was especially cultivated in Southern France. It has a long tap root, so I don’t start it indoors - I simply broadcast it around my garden in mid May, and cover with about 1/2 inch of dirt, and water as needed throughout the season. Woad is incredibly drought tolerant and hardy, and that is something I have come to value as a less-than-perfect gardener!

Dyers’ Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is used to create yellow and orange hues from the petals of the flowers. I started my seeds indoors three weeks ago, and will plan to transplant them in mid May to the garden. They are lovely for eco printing and bundle dyeing, and they tend to self seed each year, so your Coreopsis bed will stay blooming for years!


French Marigold (Tagetes patula) is one of my favorite dye plants for a number of reasons: the flowers are gorgeous and abundantly grown in my area, they are beneficial for keeping pests away when planted on the edges of gardens, they make great bouquets, and the produce a lovely rich yellow to orange dye hue. I started the seeds indoors three weeks ago, and will plan to transplant them in mid May to the garden.

These are just a few of the natural dye plants that I’m excited about growing this coming season, and I’d love to hear how your dye gardens are coming along if you have started one!

And if you want to start one, grab a Grow Your Own Natural Dye Garden Kit before I sell out for the season!

libby london