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How to Grow Fireweed

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Fireweed, also known as rosebay willowherb and narrow-leaf fireweed, is a perennial wildflower that grows in many areas of the United States. The plant can reach a height of 5 feet and produces small pinkish-purple flowers. As long as you live in a climate with adequate moisture, you can grow this plant by planting the seeds directly in the ground. Fireweed can become dormant during hot summer weather. The plant will require some care to promote health and growth.

Select an area with full to partial sunlight. Ideal locations include areas near drainage ditches or near bodies of water in full sunlight. These areas will be high in humidity, which is ideal for fireweed. Make sure the soil is moist to slightly soggy.

Pull up any weeds in the area before planting the seeds. Mix an all-purpose fertilizer in the soil according to the package directions. Use a small tiller or shovel to mix the soil and fertilizer about 5 inches in depth.

Smooth out the top of the soil without packing it down firmly. Spread the fireweed seeds over the soil. You can place the seeds about 3 feet apart, as the plants will grow fast and fill in the bare spots. The optimum time to plant fireweed seeds is during the fall season. Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch of soil. Due to fireweed’s rapid reproduction rate, only plant a few seeds at a time, as stated by the University of Washington, until you determine how many plants you will need.

Water the seeds after planting, then only water when the soil feels dry or when drought occurs. After the plant is established, little to no water is needed.

Keep fireweed trimmed to avoid it from becoming invasive. The plant spreads quickly by reproducing both rhizomes and seeds at a quick pace. Keep the plant trimmed to avoid its rapid nature.

How to Grow Fireweed. Fireweed, also known as rosebay willowherb and narrow-leaf fireweed, is a perennial wildflower that grows in many areas of the United States. The plant can reach a height of 5 feet and produces small pinkish-purple flowers. As long as you live in a climate with adequate moisture, you can grow …

Alaska fireweed seeds

Fireweed is an exceptionally colorful plant, its native from the sub-Arctic down the Rocky Mountains across the upper Midwest and down the Appalachians to Georgia. Many people are inspired to try and grow fireweed after they see it in Alaska. It is sometimes called giant showy willow herb.

I got my seeds while in Alaska from Seeds of Alaska. The packet for 1995 read:

Fireweed is the most colorful wildflower to be seen in Alaska. It takes over recent clearings, burned areas and along roadsides. It is a tall plant, up to 8 feet, with long terminal spike-like clusters of red blossoms. The tender new shoots from older roots are edible. They are eaten raw, cooked, or in the Eskimo matter, soaked in seal oil. The Eskimo name Pahmeyuktuk, describes the edible shoot. Plant with a thin soil cover and keep moist until the tender young plants are well started. Fireweed seed does not germinate well at high temperatures. Fireweed is a perennial and begins blooming the second season.

How to Grow Fireweed

Fireweed forms cottony seeds (like cottonwood seeds only smaller and lighter) in thin seed pods that are spread by the wind. So far I have not seen any plants that have come up from seed however I’ve been harvesting seeds before too many blow around. Moreover starting seeds has been kind of iffy, it seems to me they need a great deal of care to get going.

I managed to start some plants from seed even during fairly hot weather by filling a pot with dirt, sprinkling the seeds on top and coating with very fine dusty soil. Then water from the bottom and/or spray with a fine mist. Do keep the pot out of the hot sun and make sure the pot is cooler at night. Once I tried starting them in a cool basement with a fairly constant temperature and this did not work. A couple of times I tried starting the seeds by placing them in the ground and this did not work. I also managed to start them by putting some in Park’s Starts (rubbery peat-like cylinders) on a windowsill in late Winter. Also do not attempt to plant plants you do manage to start in hot conditions, I did this and very few (or none? I forget) managed to survive.

Fireweed is in the Evening Primrose family meaning that it can spread rapidly. My first experience with fireweed led me to think it would soon be all over the place however it is not nearly as aggressive as some other members of the family (like showy primrose, Oenothera speciosa, one heck of a spreader that has been in many seed catalogs in recent years). It forms a limited number of shoots in the spring and if you pluck them out you will not get new sprouts all over the place. If you dig up a sprout in the Spring it will only grow slowly that season and not bloom until new sprouts come up the following year. It also has does not compete well against other perennials like Helenium, New England Aster and Bee Balm so in a wild setting it will not take over as far as I can tell. Also deer and elk are supposed to like the plant and they would control it in the wild.

Dwarf Fireweed, Epilobium alpinum

Fireweed plants are available from:

Seeds are available from:

As of 1995 you could get seeds from:

Seeds of Alaska Box 3127 Kenai, Alaska

My packets were bought in 1995 at Chilkoot Gardens in Haines, Alaska and some store in downtown Juneau. These seed packets were not easy to find in stores, most did not have have them. I believe Seeds of Alaska also sells dwarf fireweed. A guy in Alaska tells me fireweed seeds are available at Wal-Marts in Alaska. A 1995 catalog from:

J. L. Hudson Star Route 2 Box 337 La Honda, California, 94020 USA

catalog requests to:

J. L. Hudson P.O. Box 1058 Redwood City, CA 94064, USA

lists fireweed and dwarf fireweed seeds. An old catalog (1980s) from:

McLaughlin’s Seeds Buttercup’s Acre Mead, WA 99021-0550, USA

also lists fireweed seeds. Since I collect the seeds from my plants I can probably send you some as well.

If the fireweed in seal oil does not appeal to you here is one for Alaska honey someone gave me in an email, it is also found at http://www.cookbooks.com (search on fireweed):

ALASKA HONEY

  • 10c.sugar(5lb.)
  • 1 tsp. alum
  • 21/2c.water
  • 48 clover blossoms
  • 18 fireweed blossoms or rose petals
  • 5pt. jars

Boil sugar, alum and water for 8 minutes. Remove from stove; add blossoms. Leave for 20 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth. Fill jars. Makes 5 pints.

Music and Poetry Once upon a time I wrote here:

If MacDowell can do a nice piece for a wild rose then certainly someone must have done or soon will do a piece of music for fireweed, at least a sonata if not a concerto, when you find it let me know. Likewise there must be some poetry on fireweed somewhere, if you find it let me know or write your own so I can post it here.

Fire, furious, fast flames, famine land

Insistent plant, intricate details, inspiring life, increasing itself,

Replenishing the scorched earth, refuge for animals, regenerating the ecosystem

Edible, enchanting, exuberant, elaborate

Willow leaves, wondrous flowers, wafting in the end, willful weed.

Enumerable seeds and flowers, emanating fragrance and beauty.

Established on the earth, beaming red as embers, embedded in the soil, exalted by others, exhaling oxygen, expanding its borders.

Delicious honey, delicate flowers, dignity as it stands, dominating the countryside, developing in dry climates and areas of disturbance, released seeds, rapid dispersal, dazzling performance.

-Elizabeth K. (a college student).

In addition to this poem a few months before I received a link to a video of the song “Fireweed Mountain”:

If you have any questions or comments, write me.

Alaska fireweed seeds Fireweed is an exceptionally colorful plant, its native from the sub-Arctic down the Rocky Mountains across the upper Midwest and down the Appalachians to Georgia. Many