A gorgeous annual 4 to 6 feet tall with long, draping flower heads, this amaranth is a stunner in the garden and has so many uses! Find organically grown seeds here!
How to grow:
Site Selection: Annual, support of mature plants may be necessary. Plant in well drained soil. Full sun is preferred.
Start seeds: Sow 4-6 weeks before the last frost indoors. Barely cover seed. Bottom water or mist to avoid covering seeds with displaced soil. Transplant outside after last frost. Or, direct seed after last frost, sow thinly, barely covering the seed. When seedlings have first true leaves, thin to 12-15″ apart. I like growing as a border, or intermixed with taller sunflowers (like Hope Black Dye).
Harvest: Anytime after flowers open.
Processing: Soak entire seed head, stem and leaves in warm to cool water immediately to extract color. I plan on writing a blog post details how I’ve gotten GREAT, lasting color from this plant! Can also be multipurpose; eat young leaves, eat seeds or pop like popcorn!
Native to the Mediterranean and a member of the coffee family, madder is a hardy perennial grown for its red dye. The roots of this plant have been used for centuries to make a bright, lightfast dye on both protein and cellulose fibers. Second and third year roots give better color, although the older the plant the more intense the dye, so plan your planting accordingly.
How to grow:
Site Selection: Zone 5-9 (although grows fine for me in zone 4b with winter mulch), sandy to loamy soil, neutral to alkaline. Full sun is preferred. Plan for a plant to send out runners, so grow in buried containers or beds. Click here for madder seeds!
Start seeds: Start indoors several weeks before last frost and plant out after all threat of frost has passed.
Harvest: Harvest the roots of 2 to 3 year old plants in the fall after the tops have dyed back, or wait additional years for even more dye potential. Harvesting areas of madder sequentially while replanting in the current beds will provide a constant supply of madder.
Processing: Rinse the roots with cold water, cut into small pieces and allow to dry completely (unless using fresh). Store in a dry, cool place.