Madder: from seed to root to dye

Three years ago I planted a batch of Madder seeds (Rubia Tinctorum). I've been carting them around in pots, inside and outside various apartments that I've lived in, sometimes in the ground as well. They are like a tank, almost impossible to kill! All along the way, I've been dividing and trimming the roots and saving any extras. I finally had the opportunity to dye with it last week and was absolutely amazed by the color, such beautiful deep reds. Here are some shots of the little baby plants all the way through the dye process and my final pieces.

Also, if you want to grow this plant, I've got seeds and seedlings for sale!

Madder Seedlings
Mature Madder Plant
dried madder roots
powdered madder root
madder dye bath
block printed madder on the clothesline
block printed madder detail
madder seed plant root and print

Free Mulch and Compost in Los Angeles

For those of you who don't already know, the city of Los Angeles processes and gives away free mulch and compost at a number of locations around the city. These can help with weed control and fertilizing your seedlings.

The mulch and compost are simply piled up and require that you bring your own bags, shovels, and whatever else you need to cart the goods away.

I've only picked up my compost from the Boyle Heights location. I'm not sure if it is distributed at all the other mulch give away sites as well.

For maps to and hours of access for the sites :

Locations and information about the mulch and composting program.

Propagating Indigo From Cuttings

Persicaria Tinctoria (Polygonum Tinctorium) is one of the most simple plants I've ever encountered in terms of propagation from leaf cuttings. Simply trim a stem with five or six leaves, plop it in water, and let time be your tool! No rooting hormones or fertilizers are necessary. Adventitious roots will emerge at the base of each stem node that is submerged in water! This begins to happen within a matter of hours. I've had success with transplanting these newly rooted indigo clones back into the soil after one week.

I've been keeping my clippings in a cup full of water on a sunny window sill.


I've pulled out a few different clippings from the water and placed them on a dark background to highlight the speed and location of the root growth.

This is a fresh indigo clipping with five formed leaves. The cut was made between nodes. No rooting has occurred.

indigo rooting

On the third day, rooting is evident from the base of the lowest node. The roots from the next node up on the stem are just beginning to emerge.

day three indigo clipping

By the fifth day, the roots can be an inch or more in length and are reaching out from every node that is submerged beneath the surface of the water the plants are stored in.

day five indigo rooting