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Madder...growing, harvesting and dyeing

 
Posts: 7700
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I've been trying for years.

I find that it germinates easily and then grows wonderfully but overwintering here is iffy.

I have yet to get plants to survive to three or more years so that I can harvest roots.

Three out of four madder plants made it this winter, ones that I started last late winter...they were in all different spots in the yard and I think that made more difference than the straw mulch I covered them with.  There were more than that last summer but I lost track of where I planted them and gave a few away.

I have some just sprouted in pots from some old seed and I have fresh seed out to start some more today.

As I've said, I'm determined to grow this dye plant  

I'm adding a three of my older photos lifted from my more general dye plant thread https://permies.com/t/15888/fiber-arts/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants

flat of 2014 spring starts...weld, woad, madder and hopefully yellow senna....and a 'mystery' plant in the lower right of the flat.


madder taking off after winter dormancy


two year old madder flowering


Has anyone had success growing it long enough to harvest for dye?


 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I buy seed from https://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=QandA/Growing/20080103-4.html

Madder is hardy for outdoor growing in USDA zones 4 to 10 (our catalogue says zones 5-10, but this is a bit out-dated)which means that it can take average annual minimum winter temperatures of minus 20 to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 29 to minus 23 degrees Celsius. It should be able to tolerate summer heat up to zone 10. I presume your home does not get much, if any frost in winter, but probably gets lots of summer heat. Plant the madder in a shady spot, mulch well and keep moist to keep down the root zone temperature.



and I also buy from https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/product/madder-rubia-tinctorum-packet-of-20-seeds-organic/

 Plant prefers very fast draining soil and full sun.  It is very drought tolerant and will thrive for weeks in a sunny, well-drained bed without any water at all.  Sow seed in fall or spring.  Sow 1/2 inch deep and tamp securely, then keep evenly moist and in the sun until germination, which may take up to 3 weeks.  The seeds may be sown in pots (3 per pot, thin to the best seedling) or direct seeded at 3 inches apart, then transplant or thin to 1 foot apart.  The plant will appreciate a trellis, mainly because this will give you, the gardener, space to cultivate around the plants, which stimulates them.



Both have had perfect germination.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Here is a link to a great site for more information about all things madder (and many other natural dyes)...   Growing & harvesting Madder (Rubia tinctoria)



Close-up of cut madder roots -


Madder dye plants make one of the most light-fast of natural dyes that has been in use for thousands of years.

The fleshy swollen madder roots produce madder red dye which is sensitive to temperature and to the mineral content of the water. Alizarin is the main chemical compound in this important natural dye and produces the red colour.

 
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you say that you have clay/loam soil. Madder really likes sandy/sandy loam soil. It's a Mediterranean plant. It needs lots of sun too. So, I would suggest that you look at where you planted it. Maybe add some sand to the soil or try to grow it in a pot. I think it would be fine in zone 7 through the winter. I would think that what's happening is that it's getting too wet.
Good luck!
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Dinie Johnson wrote:you say that you have clay/loam soil. Madder really likes sandy/sandy loam soil. It's a Mediterranean plant. It needs lots of sun too. So, I would suggest that you look at where you planted it. Maybe add some sand to the soil or try to grow it in a pot. I think it would be fine in zone 7 through the winter. I would think that what's happening is that it's getting too wet.
Good luck!



thanks Dinie! I think that's the answer
I am seeing one patch up already this spring and it is on a raised bed so good drainage there.

The other area where I had it will take some careful weeding as I let it grow up in bermuda grass last year.  It had spread well and looked healthy so I'm hoping it has survived.
 
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