what it is? the oddball biennial, angelica gigas

IT’S THE PLANT THAT MAKES ME THINK OF Mark Knopfler singing “What It Is,” or (going back a little farther) a 1970s-ish expression of greeting–maybe the precursor of What up?

What it is, in the photo above? It is Angelica gigas, blooming in August for weeks.

To succeed with Angelica gigas, you need to get it started in a spot that’s at least part shade, and where the soil isn’t too dry. And you need something more: You need two “generations” of genetic material, both a one-year seedling and also a batch of seed.

Since it’s biennial–meaning blooming in its second year, and simply producing foliage its first–you also need to keep a strict eye on the spot where you spread those seeds. They’ll be tiny sprouts at first, if all goes well, easy to overlook and inadvertently rake up during spring cleanup. Mark off the area where you sowed them the previous fall, and let them be.

There’s a full profile and more photos here on this oddball, chest-high wonder that always has late-summer garden visitors asking, What it is? Enjoy…or just sing along:

  1. Miss Becky says:

    thanks for the tune ~ I love it! I also love this plant you are showing off. Your show and tells are always interesting and I usually learn something new. The color of this is to-die-for. I’ve never seen it, and now it’s another thing I want. shame.

  2. susan says:

    The picture of these are fab, but the in person viewing is spectacular. Purple the color of my world. I am so intrigued by these plant. Will attempt to find a place in my little garden for them next year.

    Sailing to Philadelphia one of my favorites.

  3. jeg220 says:

    I love, love, love Angelica Giga! I planted six this spring which were inadvertently ripped up by a well-meaning friend who was trying to weed (sob). Is it too late to plant a few now? Can I sow seeds now?
    Your blog is the absolute best.

  4. denise says:

    this is sooooo weird. i watched an old gardener’s diary on hulu yesterday and the lady had one of these. i had never heard of it and really didn’t know what she was saying. googled for over an hour trying to find it……i could have just waited for your blog post. it is beautiful!!!!

  5. liv says:

    I had a lovely giant angelica three years ago. It disappeared last year and this year I saw a few sprouts in odd spots. Should I move those sprouts to where I want it now or wait for spring?


  6. Sally says:

    Could me Angelica Gigas have been marked wrong. It has lovely green flowers that I was waiting to turn burgundy. Now, one is browning and fading? Help! Please.

  7. Jill Larsen says:

    I love the Gigas too. Planted 4 Fall 2014. All healthy pants the next year but only one bloomed. Following year the other 3 bloomed and wow did they drop a lot of seeds. I can attest bees really love these. This year, 3 yrs. after planting, there are babies growing everywhere. Quite a few are a good size to bloom next year. Hundreds more stayed very small and I must get them out or I’ll be overwhelmed the following year. A really interesting plant and wonderful color. But beware, if you don’t use a seed germinating preventer or keep an eye on it, it could be invasive.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Jill. I have had many plants here for 20-something years in Zone 5B, and I have never known it to create a nuisance in all that time. I wonder what Zone/region you are in? So often the willingness of a plant to go mad is weather-influenced, of course. Just curious.

  8. Eva says:

    I mulch so heavily that I don’t seem to get much re-seeding, at least I think that’s the reason. I don’t deadhead after the first few weeks that something blooms. Have you any advice for me, Ms. Queen-of-all-she-plants?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Eva. I definitely manage differently in areas where biennials and self-sowing annuals produce volunteers. I don’t clean up too vigorously there (disturb the soil) or let too much debris accumulate or mulch heavily. I sort of try to take inspiration from how/where they like to sow themselves — in crazy lean spots like edges of beds and in the driveway and cracks in pavers (so not covered by any means!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.