If you're looking for an upright, impressive plant to add color, height and interest in your garden, look no further than the gas plant (Dictamnus albus). It's long-lived and resistant to disease, pests and deer, but it isn't an aggressive species.
Forming in clumps, this herbaceous perennial produces a profusion of light purple-pink or white flowers at the top of its tall, erect stems during the late spring and summer.
The glossy, deep green foliage offers interest through much of the year, and they provide a pleasing aroma, too. Even the seed pods that form after the blooming period is over offers ornamental interest.
It's these seed pods that are the inspiration behind the plant's common names—it's also sometimes referred to as Burning Bush. The lemon-scented oil the plant pods contain is flammable and, for some people, contact with the plant can cause a skin condition known as photodermatitis. On particularly hot days, the oil can begin to steam, and the scent can fill the garden.
This plant, which grows up to three feet in height, will look at home at the back of borders and bed and is a great fit in densely planted cottage gardens or as an eye-catching specimen. It also looks fantastic in cut flower arrangements.
|Botanical Name||Dictamnus albus|
|Common Name||Gas plant, burning bush, dittany|
|Plant Type||Perennial, herbaceous|
|Mature Size||Up to 3 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, sandy, chalky, clay|
|Soil pH||Neutral, alkaline|
|Flower Color||Pink-purple, White, Red|
|Hardiness Zones||3-8, USA|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Gas plants are well suited to a sunny, sheltered garden that has fertile, moist, and well-drained soils.
These plants have a sensitive root area that can sometimes mean they're tricky to establish. Because of this, transplanting should be avoided where possible. However, once mature, they're easy to maintain.
Gas plants do best when in a sunny position. They aren't fans of intense heat, though, so if you live in a region that has especially hot afternoons, they might do better in a partial shade location.
Well-drained, loose, reasonably fertile and slightly alkaline soils are preferred if you want your gas plants to thrive. However, they can still survive in poor soil conditions.
Gas plants have a long taproot, and this means they're relatively drought-tolerant. However, for best results, they prefer to be kept consistently moist, but not saturated, during hot and dry spells.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm days and cool night temperatures are best for gas plants. It's also best to avoid planting them in regions that suffer from strong winds unless you plant them in a fully sheltered position.
Because of their flammable qualities, some enthusiasts don't recommend planting these flowers in arid and very hot regions where wildfires are common, especially if you want to position them close to your house.
Gas plants don't need nutrient-rich soil to survive. For young plants or those in highly infertile soils, however, using organic fertilizer in the spring can be beneficial.
Gas Plant Varieties
There are several Gas Plant varieties, the most commonly available include:
- 'Caucasicus': growing up to four feet tall, this will work well for gardeners looking for an extra bit of height.
- 'Purpureus': the colors are what makes this variety stand out. The mauve blooms have distinct bright purple veins.
- 'Rubra': a rare variety, its flowers come in pink shades.
Ideally, if you want to cut back your gas plant, you should leave this until the early spring. That way you'll get to appreciate the decorative seed pods in the fall, and they could provide additional nourishment for birds in the winter.
Propagating Gas Plants
With their deep taproot, gas plants don't take kindly to being disturbed once they're established. For this reason, sowing from seed is preferable to division.
How to Grow Gas Plants From Seed
It can take a few years before gas plants are fully established and start to bloom, but they're long-lived and will provide interest in your garden for many years.
The primary consideration is that the seeds don't do well when stored for long periods, but they do need an extensive stratification period.
Some growers choose to sow them in the fall (if temperatures are mild enough). That way the seeds can stratify in the ground over the frosty winter period.
Alternatively, to guarantee optimal conditions, they can be bagged and kept in a moist, warm space for a fortnight to a month, before being removed and then put into the refrigerator for a month to six week period of cold stratification.
It can take six months to a year for gas plants to fully germinate and, ideally, they need to be kept warm and consistently moist throughout.