woad | isatis tinctoria | wede

dye material: leaves




Yellow flowers, turning blue! Woad is historically significant, famous for producing the colorant indigo. It is a flowering, bushy plant in the mustard family and native to the clay-rich soils of Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and all the way to Siberia. It has long been cultivated as a popular source of blue dye around Europe.

In addition to its dye properties, it has also been used as a medicinal plant for wound treatment as well as in herbal medicinal tea in China. Some people also say that woad can be used for shape-shifting and as a remedy that can help study the past during magic rituals. However, woad is mostly known for the indigo blue color it produces. 

From the 13th century, woad was grown in industrial quantities along with madder for red dye. Woad and madder merchants became rivals as they each tried to dominate the dye industry. It grew to the point that religious frescoes began depicting hell and the devil as blue rather than red, in order to steer people away from the blue dye. Nevertheless, the blue color gained popularity and woad merchants became some of the wealthiest people in Europe for centuries.  

However, as the world became more connected and trade routes stretched further and further, other blue dye plants made their ways into the market. Once the more colorfast indigofera tinctoria, or true indigo, was brought to Europe from Asia, the value of woad declined. In long efforts to keep the woad business alive, laws were passed to protect the plant and competing indigo dye plants were declared the devil’s color and faced smear campaigns by woad farmers. However, in the end woad was taken over by the cheaper and stronger imported indigo until both dye plants were eventually replaced by synthetic dyes. 












planting period
September to October

harvest period
June to October, in the second year

pH around 7-8, well drained

full sun, partial shade

water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged



the seeds generally germinate within 7 to 14 days. When the seedlings have emerged from the soil, make sure to space them further apart if they are close together; the biggest ones should be spaced around 30-45 cm.

remove weeds regularly to prevent competition with the woad plants, you can mulch around the plants to help suppress weeds and simultaneously ensure an even moist distribution.

leaf harvest
harvest the leaves when they are fully grown after two years, but still young and tender which is in late spring/early summer, cut them near the base and leave some foliage to promote regrowth.

seed harvest
the seeds grow in the shape of large seed pods that are only viable for one year. They fall on the ground around August and will germinate in late October or November. 



mordant dyes

aluin mordant



2nd dye bath


3rd dye bath


4th dye bath