Anyone grow St. John's wort?

novice_2009(zone 6b)May 10, 2009

Does anyone grow St. John's wort? Does it grow best in poor, well-drained soil with full sun? Or will it grow in humus rich soil just fine? Any success or problems with growing it? Thinking about planting it along pathway to front door instead of bed.

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I have one large clump of SJW - my yard is very sandy and not much organic matter. It grows well with much neglect next to a wooden privacy fence with partial sun/partial shade (in the south US, zone 9B). I suspect it would do well with more hours of sun up north.

I remember a story about someone who went to a botanical garden and saw various types of plants grouped according to ecological niches - acid loving, drought tolerant, mesophylls, etc. That someone asked where they got the special soils the plants were grown in ... the answer was the soil was all the same - the soil that happened to be present in the garden. Some plants cannot compete with other plants unless they have special soil conditions, but can grow in a wide variety of soils if they are appropriately watered, weeded, and fertilized.

I have a row of tea shrubs (Camellia sinensis, for green and black tea). In theory, these plants need acid soil. In fact, they don't. They can get chlorotic, but a foliar trace element feeding every now and then keeps them in good shape.

Picking a plant is naturally suited to your conditions will reduce work and increase the chances of success, but a motivated gardener can grow a yard of plants that would not otherwise be there.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 9:12AM
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novice_2009(zone 6b)

Thanks apollog! I've heard all the "herbs will only grow" stuff. But it's important to me to have the St. John's wort leading up to my front and back door, and although I have clay soil, can add some sand to it at planting time.
Your post has completely opened my mind, since I have the time to take care of my plants, and know their basic needs- sun, moisture, and my challenges-clay soil, some shade, etc. I feel more confident about planting some of these herbs. Thank you! After all, they are found wild in my area, or used to be. So they should do fine. Once again, thanks apollog!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 11:52AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I'm sure there will be some useful information here: Herbs Forum: St. Johns Wort

St. Johns Wort likes it here and I'm in Zone 5/6 with heavy clay soil.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 5:11PM
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I planted one plant in partial shade in relatively unprepared soil in my back yard years ago, among some other plants similarly planted. Over several years' time it spread over the entire section, about twelve or so feet square. I have read that it can be invasive.

At that point, I didn't realize that there is more than one variety, and I had planted a less desirable one. I subsequently planted a horticulturally more-desirable one next to my driveway, still partially shaded, but in an even drier location. That one has remained in one little clump, but never flowered as well as it could have if it had more sun.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 7:23PM
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I have SJW growing wild in partial shade in clay soil and it is partially in a path. I had it growing in a raised bed with fertilized good soil and it seems to prefer my pathway. So i'd say go for it and good luck.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 6:59AM
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First, make sure you're growing hypericum perforatum -- it's the upright st. johnswort, not the creeping one. Around here, (zone 6), it grows on every roadside in the summer. Called St. Johnswort because it begins to flower on St. Johns Day near the summer solstice, it can be easily distinguished from its garden cousins by holding a leaf up & getting out your bifocals. The edges of the leaves will be dotted with the oil glands. Pinching them will leave a dark red stain on your fingertips.

The oil is most concentrated in the bright yellow flowers-- the oil glands are very easy to see on the edges-- pick & pinch if you're not sure you've got the right one. The flowers should be picked daily after the dew has dried but before mid-day-- the reason for this is practical-- the flowers last only one day & the oil evaporates by mid-afternoon.

To make a pain-relieving oil, drop the flowers as you pick them (they must be dew free!) into olive oil & cover. Make sure to leave plenty on the plant to reseed. Set the covered oil in a sunny windowsill until it's time to pick tomorrow. Do this every day for 2 weeks, then let the oil sit for another week, strain out the flowers & start again with the same oil. It will turn a beautiful-- absolutely gorgeous-- dark red. The oil can be rubbed on as is or made into salves. It can also be incorporated into foods, but the tincture works better for this.

To make a tincture, drop the flowers into vodka, brandy, wine or vinegar instead (your choice), put in a DARK cupboard between pickings & strain WHEN THE FLOWERS HAVE LOST THEIR COLOR (about a week), then restart with the same alcohol.

One St. J will grow 2-3' in zone 6 but spread only half that size. Like I said, it is a roadside weed up here, so it doesn't take much to keep it happy. I grow mine with a variety of shrubs & flowers because that's where it decided to prosper. While they are considered perennial, we get a lot of winter-kill up here, but they reseed easily & I just look around last year's plant sites for newbies in the spring. I can do 1/2 gal of oil & about the same of tincture off of two plants with diligent daily picking & still have plenty of seeds for new plants next year.
Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 9:57PM
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novice_2009(zone 6b)

Thanks , you guys, now i won't make the mistake of putting it into my carefully preprared, raised bed. The soil leading up to my front and back porch is heavy clay, with lots of sun towards the back. Now I now where and how to plant it! This way my packet of organic seeds don't go to waste. The pathway leading up to backdoor will be the perfect place. Thanks!!!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 1:28PM
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Thanks Mary for the info on Making SJW medicine.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 7:57AM
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Isn't it amazing...that it appears the when GOD / the Universe DOES something oh so well, those in political chairs who have been given 'authority' will find something WRONG with what GROWS WELL? Look at the clover, the Yellow Flag Lily... does well...then...well, "we have a problem". They do special attention and the bees, dragonflys, etc are happy...'THEY have a problem with what grows without chemicals'...surprise.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 7:44PM
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Actually, St. John's Wort does grow with chemicals ( and hypericin among them) that are thought responsible for its medicinal action.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 5:28PM
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