Growing woad : LUSENET : garden project : One Thread

Any book I've consulted talks about woad's dyeing properties. I'm interested in it as a plant and how it's supposed to grow. I bought a woad plant three years ago: it grew low to the ground, in splayed clumps of leaves. Then, in summer #2, tall stems shot up in the spring, covered with tiny yellow flowers. Summer #3, nothing. (We live in southern Ontario, Canada). It this plant a biennial? Did it just happen to die off after a bad winter? If it's a biennial, can it be propagated any way short of buying a new plant each year and staggering them? Thanks in advance for any information. Kelley Teahen

-- Kelley Teahen (, March 30, 1999


This is all straight from Sunset's National Garden Guide, since I'm completely unfamiliar with this plant except by name. (I suspect Ashley knows more.) If we're talking about Genista tinctoria (aka dyer's greenweed or woadwaxen), it's not a biennial, although it is deciduous. It should be hardy in Sunset zone 1, which includes all of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and as far north as central Minnesota (zone 43), but is not listed as hardy in your Sunset zone, which is zone 45. You're just slightly above the zones listed for this plant (unless you're on the coast), so I'm thinking you might be right about the bad winter. Also, there are several other plants in the same genus that are NOT hardy, so maybe you got one that was mislabeled.

-- Xeney (, March 30, 1999.

See, I told you she'd know. Now I have to get a copy of that book (although I don't really grow any unusual herbs).

-- Xeney (, March 30, 1999.

Okay, I looked at my books and somehow I have mostly books about _American_ plants... go fig. Anyway, in the Richters catalogue (available from, which I highly recommend for anyone searching for unusual herbs, we find Woad (Isatis tinctoria), listed as the woad which was the main source of blue dye in europe until the introduction of Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). It is a biennial. They say it is easy to propagate from seed, which they sell ($2.50 Canadian/packet). That would be a good deal more economical than buying plants. There are a number of areas where woad is considered a noxious weed, so you might want to check that before growing it. for more information on woad (growing and dyeing), try The Woad Page at

Genista tinctoria is also known as dyer's broom, and apparently is used to dye wool bright yellow.

-- Ashley Lockwood (, March 30, 1999.

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