Chinese indigo is an erect semi-annual herb. Native to Vietnam and Southern China, it is the original source for indigo. For thousands of years, Chinese indigo was used to make indigo until Indigofera became the dominant crop for blue dye. Today, most indigo dye is synthetic.
Plant seeds in starter trays covering with a thin layer of soil. Germination occurs in 10 to 21 days. They need warm temperatures, a heating mat will improve germination rates. Keep moist during germination. Water seedlings once a week with 2 T fish emulsion and micronutrients mixed in a gallon of water. Chinese indigo is a heavy feeder and a heavy drinker. Vegetative reproduction can be done with stem fragments.
Promote healthy leaf growth to obtain quality dye. Water frequently. Pinch tops often to delay flowering and encourage robust, bushy growth. A well-cared for plant can produce 5 pounds of fresh leaf. On the other hand, an unhealthy plant may produce 1/2 pounds of fresh leaf.
Dye is made in various ways: cold brew, hot brew, using additives, using no additives, using the woad from previous batches. The internet has a plethora of directions and recipes. The most important thing is fresh leaves. Be ready to dye your items as soon as the fresh leaves are harvested.
The brew made from leaves is colorless until the garment is lifted out. The magic of indigo color comes after a reaction with oxygen. Expect to see aqua green, aquamarine, jade, dark blue, sky blue, and all the colors in between. Natural fibers such as silk, wool, and fleece are recommended. Cotton does not work well.
- Cultural significance
- Cut flower
- No dangers