How to Protect Dyer's Woad

Overview

Dyer's woad (Isatis tinctoria L.) is an herb used as a source of blue dye called indigo. This short-lived perennial grows 1 to 4 feet tall with a 3 to 5 foot taproot. Bluish-green leaves are covered with fine hairs and grow in a rosette shape. Dyer's woad begins growing this rosette in the fall it is planted. It shoots up 7 to 8 woody stems with four-petaled yellow flowers that are 1/8 inch wide in the spring. The new fall growth may need protection in order to survive severe winters.

Step 1

Clean out any weeds and dead foliage from around the dyer's woad plant. Old leaves and garden debris can act as a safe place for plant diseases and insects.

Step 2

Water the ground well before the temperature drop down to freezing. This ensures that there is enough moisture in the soil to prevent the dyer's woad from drying out during the winter.

Step 3

Mulch after the ground begins to freeze once a couple of hard frosts have hit. This will help the dyer's woad stay dormant and not put on new growth due to warm soil. New growth is susceptible to damage by winter temperatures.

Step 4

Spread 3 to 6 inches of straw or hay mulch around the dyer's woad plants. This will help insulate the soil. Do not pile the mulch on the plant crowns and leaves heavily since this will only encourage rotting. Keep the mulch layer to the depth of 3 inches directly over the plants.

Step 5

Remove the mulch once growth begins again in the spring or when all danger of hard freezing has passed.

Tips and Warnings

  • Dyer's woad is considered a highly invasive weed in most states of the United States. Some states prevent the sale of the plant or seeds. This plant is very aggressive when it goes to seed. It spreads to range lands, pastures, forests, waterways and croplands. Dyer's woad invades alfalfa, wheat and hay which bring the value of these crops down. Livestock does not like the taste of the non-toxic dyer's woad.

Things You'll Need

  • Dyer's woad plants
  • Water
  • Straw mulch

References

  • Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board: Dyers Woad
  • Forest Service: Dyer's Woad
  • NC State University---Perennials: Winter Protection
Keywords: dyer's woad, protect herbal dye plants, Isatis tinctoria

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.