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the indigo seedlings emerge!

Posted on Apr 5, 2011 by in gardening, indigo, natural dyes | 8 comments

On March 11, I planted a flat of the Japanese indigo seeds (Polygonum tinctorium) that I collected from my garden last fall, along with and a packet of madder seeds (Rubia tinctorum) that I purchased from Horizon Herbs. Since the indigo seeds are so small, I covered them with only a dusting of potting soil. The madder seeds I planted a bit deeper.

About 10 days later, the seeds started to germinate, but we entered a period of very wet and cold weather, so I brought the plants indoors for some warmth. A week later (and after the day when my garden was completely flooded) the sun came out again and it finally felt like spring had arrived!

So now the little plants are outdoors enjoying the sun, and growing stronger by the day. (Except for those that got eaten by snails the other night.) As soon as they are about four inches tall I will transplant them.

seedlings of madder (foreground) and Japanese indigo (with red stems)

One-year-old madder root sending up the first vining plants of the year

Another interesting dye plant that I plan to add to the garden this year is Cota, or Navaho Tea. It is a drought tolerant medicinal plant that yields a beautiful orange dye. I learned about it from Rebecca Burgess, and she writes about it in her beautiful new book Harvesting Color.

Rebecca brews a pot of Cota (Navajo Tea), both a medicinal and a natural dye


  1. Hi Dustin,
    How wonderful to see your new plantings! You will be rich in natural plant matter soon. How exciting!

    It was very nice meeting you last Sunday in Rebecca’s class. I am sure we will run into each other again along the way – the Fibershed event perhaps :^)

    Take care, and thank you for your very informative and inspiring blog. I value it!

    • Hi Janis,
      Great to meet you too, and thanks for the compliment on my blog. Soon I will be writing a post about Sunday’s class.
      Hope to see you at the fibershed event!
      ~ Dustin

  2. That is an encouraging sight! I just planted mine earlier this week, since it is too cold here for them to go into the ground until mid-May, so hoping I get such a good germination rate. Where did you find Cota?

    • Hi Birdsong, Yes, isn’t it great to see the little indigo seedlings. Good luck with yours! I am getting some cota plants from Rebecca, but I noticed that they also have seeds at Horizon Herbs. They list them as Navajo Tea.

  3. Hi Justin,

    I found you through Jude..your blog is so interesting. I am fairly new to all this and was wondering if I am too late to inquire about the indigo seeds?

    • Hi Judy, Yes I still have some indigo seeds and would be glad to mail a packet to you. I’ll email you to get your mailing address.
      ~ Dustin

  4. Hi! If you have any indigo seeds left, my mom and I would love some! Found you via jude and eva. Love your sight – your dyed yarn and fabric and your shibori work. Many thanks.

    • Hi Janet, Yes I still have more indigo seeds, so I will email you to get your mailing address. And thanks for the compliment!
      ~ Dustin