say what? the bud of all buds on angelica gigas

crazy-budWHAT CRAZY KIND OF BUD IS THAT, and what’s going to come out of it? Scale hint: It’s the size of a dinner roll, or better, on a 5-foot stem.

gigasThe plant in question: Angelica gigas, a Korean native that behaves as a biennial or short-lived perennial in these parts. I grow it as the former, letting it sow around where wanted (and removing early on where not). Apparently I might be able to get some of the larger plants to bloom an extra year if I deadheaded them, instead of allowing them to go to seed.

A. gigas is a star of high-to-late summer, with 6-to-8-inch domed flowerheads of the darkest wine color in much of August or longer. But for me the show begins them those insane-looking buds form, always prompting garden visitors to ask “What’s that?” Indeed.

This most dramatic of angelicas wants moist soil, and is adaptable in my area to sun or shade, but seems happiest in bright shade (the old happy medium of gardening conditions).

To have a successful colony, as with any biennial, you need to be vigilant and not accidentally weed out your self-sown babies each spring. You also will need varying generations of plants: some at blooming age (one year old) and some babies (to bloom next year). So I suggest to get started you buy yourself some plants, perhaps at Annie’s Annuals or Digging Dog, and also some seed, maybe from Select Seeds or Jelitto, and start a happy if eccentric-looking family.

  1. Betsey says:

    Something is missing from your wonderful Angelica gigas photos: Insects! Mine are always studded with bees once they open until they kick the bucket. This year I’m trying a variegated Angelica, which looks gorgeous. Won’t bloom till next summer if it makes it.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Betsey — yes, mostly wasps here, and hornets, even. Much-loved plant of all the flying guys with stingers, you are right!

  2. genata says:

    This is the third year that I have tried to grow this plant, which I started from seed last year. No dice. It will not even make stems- just some very nice leaves, but refuses to grow past a few inches. I’m at a loss. Every year I see them blooming elsewhere, and I am jealous. If I can find the plant, I will just buy it next year. Jeez!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Genata. Is it in the shade and where the soil doesn’t dry? It hates hot/sunny/dry — unless it plants itself there someday!

  3. Linda Pastorino says:

    I just read this Gigas blog and laughed. Talk about a colony. I had eight of these planted in my rose garden beds for about six years. They were well behaved and doubled three years ago. This year one plant decided to muliply. I just dug out many hundreds of plants yesterday because they were suffocating all other plants in the bed. I discarded the many thousands of seedlings. I am repotting the midsize ones today about fifty and I have probably ten very large size ones also that I will re direct in other parts of the garden. The original eight were placed in very loamy composted soil in full sun. They have thrived. Now I have a huge group I can give to our club’s plant sale. Because they acted timidly for years I was shocked by this actually. I love this burgandy cultivar for flower arranging. I also want to get the white /green flowered one as well.

    1. Peter says:

      Betty – I am in MN (St. Paul) as well – I am growing one of these – I purchased it at the Master Gardener’s plant sale in Hopkins two years ago – it didn’t do much last year – this year it bloomed and I let most of it go to seed – The slugs eat the seeds so I will see how much seed I actually get. They had a number of these plants on display at the State fair this year.

      1. Maureen says:

        Hi, I purchased a first year plant at Bachman’s last fall. This is looking very promising….would a commercial variety have viable seeds? It was grown by Bluebird Nursery, Inc. out of Clarkson, NE. Thank you in advance.

      2. Linda T says:

        Hi- I bought mine last year at the same plant sale. It’s now flowering beautifully but only about 4’ high. Did your’s reflower? Did you have to do anything special with it?

        1. margaret says:

          It is a biennial, meaning the blooming plant will dies after the season, hopefully leaving behind seedlings. Those will not bloom till their second year — so unless you buy another blooming-age plant (a 2d-year plant) next spring, you will have no flowers till the year after.

  4. john says:

    Terrific, I too love my A Gigas (Korea). I’ve been buying them for years, but it was not until the past couple years that I actually saw that they are reseeding (finally!). The only advice that I can give on reseeding success is to keep a sharp eye out: The seedlings here (Rhode Island) emerge late, like mid-late May?
    The candy-ing angelica archangelica (Sweden)is also a biennial, and it blooms in the spring. Mine are 5-6 feet tall and blooming by Memorial Day. They fade in the hot summer and look pretty rangy. If I cut them low early, they can come up from the base, but if they are left to go to seed, they do so easily, seedlings showing up that summer. this one has green foliage and multiple celadon (I guess, whitish green) flower heads
    This year I am growing Chinese angelica (Vicar’s root). Nice finer foliage, which the rabbits originally decimated. White umbels, maroon foliage and stems. Not as tall (4ft) as I hoped, but it is a transplant

    Anyhow, my a gigas grow with red zinna, Bishop of Landaff dahlia, heliopsis and dill. A surprisingly calm compination

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, John. Yes, I get seedlings at various times — I have another crop of tiny ones just popping up now, in fact, presumably from last year’s seeds — and there were others earlier. I suspect moisture and temperature and what spot they are sown in affects timing. I have a new one called ‘Vicar’s Mead’ too and it got pretty tall, but we shall see. Just blooming now.

      1. john says:

        “Vicar’s mead”, yes, not “root”. But it lacks the love I’m feeling for gigas- leaf, height (maybe mine would be taller if it were not for the bunnies early on), color, flower…. But if it too reseeds, I’ll probably keep it around. It’s been blooming for about a month, so that’s cool…

    2. Lisa says:

      Love your color/plant combination! I can see it now…I must try to get some seeds of the gigas to try this fall.

  5. Dianne Boerger says:

    I grew this 2 years ago. Just recently I have found about 3 seedlings no where near where the original plant was. They are only about 2 feet tall. Will they bloom this year. I am in Wesrern Washington

    1. margaret says:

      I can’t see whether they have buds about to unfurl and bloom, but I suspect not (you would have noticed). If they are all foliage, with no flower stalks about to unfurl, then those will overwinter and bloom next year, Dianne. The trick is to get multiple generations going so you always have blooming-size plants as well as youngsters on hand each year.

    1. margaret says:

      I think you will like them — and remember to help a little multi-generational community get going by watching for those seedlings!

  6. Nancy says:

    Last year, I had three gorgeous huge blooming angelica gigas whose blooms were always covered with wasps. I couldn’t wait until this spring to see how many new plants I would get because everything in my garden re-seeds readily. Not one seedling. Is it still possible some will germinate next year? Is that common? I am certain I didn’t pull them out because I didn’t disturb the area just for that reason: I wanted more plants.

    1. margaret says:

      I just got a new batch of babies start to sprout this month in the cracks in my patio, near one stand of adults from last year, so I suppose it is possible, but probably good to try to score an adolescent plant that will bloom next year, plus some seed. I have nearly lost my population a couple of time in the last 25ish years, and every other year or so I make sure to bring in a nursery plant or two just in case.

  7. Rocky says:

    I tried to get this going for a few years with big plants and also spring sown seeds but to no avail. Then I read somewhere fresh seed was key.
    Filched some from a municipal park just as it was falling off the dried blooms and sowed them right away. Success!
    To atone for my sin I’ve become a Jonny Angelica seed. Every year at an event in a garden I planted with them I spend the whole time answering “what is that and where can I get it?” Seedlings seem to move ok if they’re still tiny.

  8. Loretta says:

    These plants will start germinating during winter for me (NJ Z6) like hellebores and ligularia. They look kind of like little parsley plants. I have also germinated 2 year old seed (collected by me) via the baggy method in the fridge. If I remember right, the seeds take about 5 months to germinate and will start growing in the fridge so don’t forget about them. I don’t do that anymore because it is a weed in my yard. They grow everywhere. Also, the roots are small so easy to transplant.
    Vicar’s Mead looks very nice. I’ve bought angelica sylvestris “Ebony” seeds before but no germination. Ordered Angelica stricta purpurea from a nursery but not only was it covered in aphids, it just kept dying back. It regrew a few times but conked out.

  9. Inger Knudsen says:

    I think the seeds loose viability very soon after ripening, so it might be important to seed it right away and to mark the spot where you did it. Also seed it in many different places because you will have lots of seeds especially this year with the wet weather

    1. margaret says:

      Sometimes I get seedlings emerging around now (August) so I know the seed where it self-sows remains viable and waits for the right moment — whether the spring after sowing, or a year or more later. One seed-seller explains (at this link) that it can even require two cold dormancies to sprout if the seed is not fresh, and I was not surprised based on my 20-plus years of growing it, to read that’s the case.

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