Did you know that the leaves, flowers and roots of dandelion are edible or that the dandelion has purported medicinal properties? Bees and other pollinators also rely on them. So, what are you waiting for? Find out how to grow dandelion seeds here. While some home owners obsess about ridding their yards of dandelions, this sturdy perennial plant feeds pollinators, breaks up compact soil, and is edible. Seedman’s Dandelion seeds
Dandelion Seed Growing: How To Grow Dandelion Seeds
If you’re a country dweller like myself, the thought of purposely growing dandelion seeds may amuse you, especially if your lawn and neighboring farm fields are bountiful with them. As a kid, I was guilty of propagating dandelions from seed by blowing the seeds off dandelion heads – and I still do, on a whimsy, as an adult. The more I learned about these perennial herbs, however, the more I began to appreciate them, seeing them less as a pesky weed and more as an amazing plant in their own right.
Did you know, for instance, that the leaves, flowers and roots of dandelion are edible or that the dandelion has purported medicinal properties? Bees and other pollinators also rely on them for a nectar source early in the growing season. It’s true! So, what are you waiting for? Let’s find out how to grow dandelion seeds and when to sow dandelions!
Propagating Dandelion from Seed
It is said that there are over 250 species of dandelion in existence, though the variety known as “common dandelion” (Taraxacum officinale) is the one that is most likely populating your lawn and garden. Dandelions are quite resilient and, as such, can withstand a lot of less than ideal growing conditions.
If you’re growing dandelion as a food source, however, you will want to grow it in conditions that are conducive for yielding high quality, and hence better tasting, dandelion greens. And by better tasting, I am alluding to the bitterness factor. The taste of dandelion is a bit on the bitter side.
Hardy to zone 3, dandelions grow in sun or shade, but for better tasting greens a partial to full shade location is ideal. The best soil for dandelion seed growing is characteristically rich, fertile, well-draining, slightly alkaline and soft down to 10 inches (25 cm.) deep because dandelion roots grow deep.
Seeds can be obtained from seed companies or you can try propagating dandelions from seed by collecting seeds from the heads of existing plants once the head transforms into a globe-shaped puffball. Now, let’s talk about planting seeds of dandelion.
How to Grow Dandelion Seeds
You may be wondering when to sow dandelions in the garden. Seeds can be sown anytime from early spring to early fall. In terms of spacing, it is recommended to maintain a spacing of 6-9 inches (15-23 cm.) between plants in rows 12 inches (30 cm.) apart for dandelion seed growing. If your intent is to just grow young leaves for salads in a continual harvest, then sowing seeds more densely in short rows every few weeks would be a workable alternative.
To help boost germination rates, you may want to consider cold stratifying your seeds in the refrigerator for a week or so prior to planting seeds of dandelion. Given that dandelion seeds require light for germination, you will not want to completely submerge your seeds into soil – just lightly tamp, or press, the seeds into the soil surface. Another tip for good germination, and for a tastier crop, is to keep the planting area consistently moist throughout the season. Seedlings should appear within two weeks after the seeds are sown.
Planting Container Grown Dandelion Seeds
The process for growing dandelions in pots isn’t much different than for growing in the garden. Use a pot with drainage holes that is at least 6 inches (15 cm.) deep, fill it with potting soil and locate it in a bright indoor area.
The width of your pot, the number of plants you grow in that pot and how densely they are planted really depends on your purpose for growing them. For example, you will want to give plants you intend to grow to maturity a bit more space than those you are growing just for salad greens. One recommendation is to space seeds 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm.) apart in the container for full grown greens, more densely for baby greens.
Lightly sprinkle a scant amount of potting soil over the seeds, just barely covering them, and keep the soil consistently moist. Fertilizing occasionally throughout the growing period with a general purpose fertilizer will also give the dandelions a boost.
The much maligned dandelion actually has a lot to offer. It has been vilified in our culture as the invader of lawn spaces, thrusting its dazzling yellow colour into an otherwise tranquil field of green. Homeowners pour millions of gallons of weed control chemicals into their lawns each year in a vain attempt to vanquish this foe. So what is it about dandelions that most homeowners hate so much?
There is a degree of old fashioned thinking of lawns as symbols of wealth and status. This historical memory seems to harken back to England in the 17th Century, when tightly controlled, expansive lawns revealed how much wealth an estate owner could spend on them. Before mechanical lawn mowers, many lawns were clipped by hand by teams of gardeners. The bigger the lawn, the wealthier the estate. This odd association of lawn and status extended to vast developments in suburban North America, making normal the idea that the landscape could be tamed and made uniform through labour, water, fertilizer, and weed control.
Carefully managed lawns have a tendency to compact the soil beneath them, which produces the ideal conditions for dandelions to take root. The dandelion’s clever method of seed dispersal allows its seeds to float on the wind for miles, and to settle smack-dab in the middle of a lawn. The stage is set for battle between man and nature…
Generally, we are talking about the Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, but Taraxacum is a fairly large genus of plants, and there can be complex genetic diversity within a single species. Common Dandelions, in times when pollinators are scarce, are self-fertile, and can produce clones (genetically identical copies) of themselves. Between this ability and their tendency to colonize areas of compacted soil, the genetics of a single population can be quite varied. In many cases, numerous subspecies and micro-species have been identified.
Dandelions belong to the Aster family, Asteraceae. Like all members of this family, their flowers are actually composites, made up of hundreds of individual florets. Each floret has both male and female parts – the stamen produces pollen, and the stigma receives pollen in order to fertilize the ovary and produce a single seed. The florets open in a ring around the outside of the flower head. As they are fertilized the stigmas curl up, and the pistils fold backward, providing room for new sets of florets to open from the centre. The photo above shows a newly opened flower head, with many unopened florets clustered at the centre, waiting their turn.
This photo shows a fully opened flower head, with new stigmas extending outward, and fertilized stigmas curled up. This is exactly the same structure as the flower head of a sunflower. A fully mature sunflower head can push itself into a convex (dome-like) shape as its maturing seeds grow and push outward.
It’s not surprising that the densely packed group of florets, each producing a single seed, results in the familiar dandelion seed head. These can contain up to 172 seeds, but the plant blooms repeatedly through summer, and each plant can produce as many as 5,000 seeds in a single year. A dandelion seed is the plant’s mature fruit, known as a cypsela to botanists, and its parachute-like structure is known as a pappus. The pappus develops as the calyx of each floret dries and matures, so it serves two important roles for the plant.
Dandelions are particularly generous producers of nectar, which makes them highly attractive to honeybees and many other pollinators. The nectary is located at the very base of each floret, so bees need to stretch the plants’ floral structures apart to access the energy-rich nectar. In the process, bees become liberally coated in pollen, which they carry on to the next flower head.
About 90% of honeybees are “nectar foragers.” They eat some nectar themselves, but return the bulk of it to the hive for communal use. Any pollen they collect as they groom themselves, is kind of inadvertent. The other (roughly) 10% of honeybees are specific “pollen foragers,” and play a more active role in returning pollen to the hive. These pollen foragers have a greater impact on pollination since they leave more of an imprint on each flower. They also tend to go from dandelion to dandelion to dandelion, rather than dandelion to cherry blossom to dandelion.
The florets of the dandelion above are just starting to open from the outside-in. Dandelion pollen is short on certain proteins that benefit bees, but their lavish supply of pollen and nectar (over a long period), is reward enough for most hives.
All parts of the dandelion plant are edible, and some are highly nutritious. It is closely related to the chicory family, and its leaves have an endive-like bitterness. Early spring growth is probably the most palatable, and the flower petals can be pulled and scattered over salads. The leaves are a rich source of iron and vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, with more calcium and iron than spinach. They can be eaten cooked or raw, in soups, salads, or smoothies. Dandelion flowers can be used to make wine and jam – and dye for textiles. Its roots can be dried and crushed and used (like those of chicory) as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. The milky latex that emerges when its leaves or stem are cut has been used as a mosquito repellent, and was contemplated as a source for tire manufacturing during the Second World War.
The dandelion is thought to have originated in Europe and Asia, but it is a common weed in most temperate parts of the world. Of its medicinal qualities, the English physician Culpeper wrote:
It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them, as the jaundice, and hypochondriac; it openeth the passages of the urine both in young and old; powerfully cleanseth imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passages, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them; for which purpose the decoction of the roots or leaves in white whine, or the leaves chopped as pot-herbs, with a few alisanders, and boiled in their broth, are very effectual. And whoever is drawing towards a consumption, or an evil disposition of the whole body, called cachexia, by the use hereof for some time together, shall find a wonderful help. It helpeth also to procure rest and sleep to bodies distempered by the heat of ague-fits, or otherwise. The distilled water is effectual to drink in pestilential fevers, and to wash the sores.
The dandelion’s place in the public imagination over so many centuries has resulted in some quite descriptive colloquial names. Its common name famously comes from the French dent de lion (lion’s tooth). The English called it lion’s tooth, but also milk-witch, puffball, blow-ball, Irish daisy, canker-wort, yellow gowan, swine’s-snout, white endive, monk’s-head and priest’s-crown. The plant has well documented diuretic properties, thus the folk name piss-a-bed, and the French pissenlit. In the north of Italy it is sometimes called pisacan (literally “dog pisses”), since the plant is often seen growing out of sidewalks.
Perhaps it’s this last reason that puts people off collecting dandelion flowers and greens from the wild. No wonder. This is also the reason why dandelion seeds continue to be ordered alongside beets and basil seeds. Cultivated dandelions, grown with care in a garden row, produce beautiful, tall foliage, and perfect, almost parsnip-like taproots. The flowers are easier to collect at the stage needed – unopened for wine, just-open for salads.
As organic gardeners we should testify to the dandelion’s utility. It feeds pollinators and it can feed us. It is a useful indicator plant of compacted soil. It is a perennial that deserves a spot in the permaculture garden. And it should be a welcome guest in our lawns, and as a harbinger of spring.
How to Grow Dandelions:
Direct sow from early March to early September. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 10-25°C (50-75°F). Seeds take 14-21 days to germinate. The flowering process begins 56 to 105 from sowing, and continues for the life of the plant.
Sow short rows every two weeks for a constant supply. Be careful not to plant more than you can use, as the flowers need to be controlled. Press seeds lightly into the soil’s surface and keep the seeded area moist until germination. Do not bury the seeds, as light helps to break dormancy. Thin seedlings to 15cm (6″) apart for full sized crowns. If you intend to harvest as baby greens, they can be planted 5cm (3″) apart.
Dandelions are perennial, so in theory, they can produce over a very long time. Preventing the flowers from going to seed is essential for obvious reasons — uncontrolled growth can result in them spreading as noxious weeds. For the best leaves, grow in rich, fertile soil with good drainage. A well cultivated dandelion plant is actually quite luxurious and attractive.
The youngest leaves have the mildest flavour and tender texture. Mature leaves need to be blanched or stir-fried. Bitterness in the leaves can be reduced by growing them in partial shade, or by placing a plastic or cardboard disc over the rosettes for a week prior to harvest. This is how some growers harvest endive, a close relative of the dandelion. For beer and wine making, harvest the flowers as soon as they open. Pull up whole plants at the end of the season and dry their roots for use as tea or dye.
Diseases & Pests
Dandelions are rarely the victim of pests or diseases, but they are loved by rabbits.
Dandelion Weed Seeds
Highly nutritious and known to treat a variety of ailments, dandelion is a great plant to grow in your garden.
From heart problems to acne, liver diseases to eye conditions, most people are unaware that this weed has higher amounts of potassium than bananas and more vitamin A than carrots.
Dandelion is also reported to have anti-rheumatic capacities. It is also a powerful diuretic with additional laxative properties. Good for hepatic and gallbladder conditions, digestive complaints, as well as general constipation.
Does well in virtually all US growing zones, with the exception of extreme conditions.
Plant the dandelion seeds in early spring in well-drained, fertile soil. Plant seeds directly in the garden 1/4 inch deep in the soil in single rows, about 8 inches.
You can harvest the greens throughout the growing season. Roots can be harvested in the fall of the second year of growth. Pull the entire root from the ground and avoid breakage.
Dry roots in an oven or in the sun. Leaves can be eaten raw, or blanched by tying them up and banding the leaves. This will cause the inner leaves to turn white and sweet. The outer leaves are edible, but as the summer progresses, become bitter.
Can be dried and stored as any herb or spice in an air-tight container.
Contains a vast realm of chemical compounds and plant carotenoids, including caffeic, linoleic, linolenic, oleic, and palmitic acids, as well as the minerals potassium, iron, silicon, magnesium, sodium, and zinc, and the vitamins A, B, C, and D.
What many consider to be an obnoxious weed is actually a versatile herb that many gardeners enjoy in their herb gardens! Dandelion seeds will grow everywhere, and they are easy to establish and maintain. The leaves are dark green, long and lance-shaped. The Dandelion herb plant grows from a tightly formed rosette and has a deep, twisted tap root that is rather brittle and breaks easily. The yellow flower is well-recognized and grows on hallow stems that reach 4 to 12 inches in height.
Dandelion herbs are a widely used in the kitchen. The leaves are best when they are tender in the spring and again in the fall. They are packed with nutrients like vitamins, beta-carotene, iron and other minerals. Dandelion leaves are often added to tossed salads and the taste is very complementary to other greens. The leaves can also be steamed or sauteed with other vegetables for a side dish. The flowers are used in wine making, and the taproot is edible as well. A perennial plant for zones 3-8.
A new type of green that is taking green lovers by storm. The large leaves are more tasty and nutritious than any green you’ve ever tried. For salad mix or bunching. Uniform strain. At baby-leaf stage, leaves are narrow with subtle spikes along the margins and a thin petiole. At full size, leaves are long, deep green, slender, and deeply cut with white midribs.
Pink Dandelion has a pink with apricot-colored center, rare. Said to be slightly less bitter than the common white variety. Vigorous plants with deep green leaves. Attractive for butterflies and other pollinators. Suitable for natural landscaping. Use for low maintenance plantings. Suitable for pot and planter. Easy to grow.
If you are growing dandelions, why not grow this unique, decorative variety that can be used as a medicinal plant, culinary herb, groundcover or as a honey-bee food plant. A perennial plant for zones 3-8.
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