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Dictamnus (dik-TAM-nus)

Common Name:  Gas plant

Light:  - Full sun to light shade

Soil:  Average to rich, well-drained

Moisture:  Average to somewhat dry

Blooms:  Late spring and early summer

Zones:  3 - 8


Dictamnus albus 'Albiflorus'

Dictamnus albus 'Purpureus'

Dictamnus Description and Cultural Information

Dictamnus albus, gas plant. 2' - 3'. Gas plant is a long-lived perennial that forms a bushy clump of dark green, leathery, pinnate leaves on upright, sturdy stems. In late spring to midsummer the plants carry upright spikes of flowers with eyelash-like stames that curl out from the base of each flower. The flowers and crushed foliage have a lemony smell to them, but be careful as the oil that gives this plant its flammable characterstic can also cause photo dermatitis to those who are sensitive to it. The species is somewhat variable in its coloring, perhaps due to cross pollination and hybridization within its native ranges in Europe and Asia, though in most cases it is a purplish-pink color. The variety Dictamnus albus 'Albiflorus', also noted as Dictmanus var. albiflorus, is a pure white selection and is the showiest in the garden. Dictamnus albus 'Purpureus' is a lavender-purplish/pink with darker veins. It is the closest to the species coloring and might be named this way to differentiate the purplish flowers (purpureus) from the white roots (albus).

How to Grow:  Gas plant takes a few years to get established but is very long lived in the right soil conditions. They prefer average to rich, well-drained sites where the soil is never particularly soggy, especially in late winter and early spring while they are still dormant. They are native to prairies and open woodlands and in the garden can be sited in any good, well-aerated soil in full sun to light shade. Once established they may be hard to move since they have a deep tap root but if you can dig it they can be transplanted when dormant, planting with the crown and any dormant shoots buried and covered by about 1/2" of soil. Water deeply and let the soil dry between watering. Division isn't recommended so they are best grown from seed and self-sown seedlings in the garden are not uncommon.

Landscape uses:  Use gas plant as a backdrop to lower growing perennials such as hardy Geraniums, dwarf everblooming daylilies, or low growing asters. Or try combining it in the garden with other spring and early summer flowering plants such as bearded Iris, poppies, and peonies. If you are creating a butterfly garden, gas plant grows well with Salvia, butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa), and coneflowers (Echinacea and Rudbeckia), plus it is an important food source for the larva of the giant swallowtail butterfly. Don't use herbicides on these plants, especially during the summer, so that you can find the giant swallowtail larva happily nibbling away at the foliage.

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