The gas plant – Dictamnus – few perennials give longer continuous bloom.
One of the subtle joys of gardening is enjoyment of fragrant scented flowers – not only of flowers but of leaves. The variety of plants with leaf fragrance is amazing.
Remembrance of the aromatic smell of the leaves of herbs comes easily to the mind of the gardener — the rue, basil, savory and the many varieties of thyme, which at the slightest touch or step make their presence known.
When working in your garden of flowers, have you ever brushed against the leaves of the dictamnus (gas plant)? The result is surprising. The thick leaves throw off a strong scent of lemon.
Its popular name – “gas plant” or “gasplant” name comes from its flowers, which exude an volatile, aromatic, lemon-like fragrance scent, most intense during the early seed-pod stage, and very noticeable on still evenings.
The “gas” the may be ignited with production of a momentary flash, making bluish flames on sultry summer evenings.
This ruins of course to the seedpods, but always a matter of considerable interest to the untrained.
It comes from the Rutaceae family with Dictamnus albus being the single species.
Dictamnus seem to thrive in full sunlight or partial shade, are not demanding regarding soil, and withstand drought to such an extent that during dry periods the only visible effect on old clumps is lack of development of the terminal four or five seed pods out of a possible 20 or 30.
Dictamnus does not seem to require any special or fussy culture. Any well balanced garden fertilizer might be used to advantage in the Spring, but no spraying or dusting is required.
The season’s growth of Dictamnus stems should not be removed in the Fall till fully withered and paper-dry.
The Dictamnus plants are also noted for their resistance to diseases and sturdy, bushy growth habit. This vigorous, symmetrical herb with glossy, leathery foliage blooms in early June with long showy racemes of fragrant flowers, individually not unlike small orchids.
An old plant may attain a size of over three feet in height and 10 feet in circumference. When well established, suitable for the border or background.
The clumps, both the white flower and rosy variety, are ornamental throughout the season – in flower, in seed-pod stage or minus the terminal racemes. The rosy variety carries seed pods with brilliant red tints that some consider sufficiently ornamental to avoid removal till near maturity.
Besides the white flowered form, Dictamnus albus ‘alba’, there is the pink to reddish type, Dictamnus albus ‘rubra’. Some of the pink blossoms have purple veining. Both varieties are excellent June cut flowers.
Although it is not an especially attractive plant, it is grown inside for a house plant and summered outside, or grown in tubs for tub gardening. The fragrance is enticing and more than makes up for its somewhat straggly appearance.
Gas Plant Propagation
Growing From Seed
The seed pods follow soon after flowering, open gradually and, when dry, expel the seed away from the plant.
Gathered seeds are easily grown from seed sown soon after ripening in late July, germination occurring in the following Spring, the seedlings should be potted and so kept till planted where desired for permanent placement.
Established plants certainly resent transplanting.
Growing From Clumps
The dictamnus is easily propagated by slicing through the fibrous rooted clump as one does with phlox. Plant in a permanent bed, large clumps resent transplanting. It does best under clean cultivation, grows happily in rich open clay soil in full sun. It roots deeply and can stand scant moisture.
Dictamnus albus – the gasplant, its stately spikes of the common white form are particularly effective at twilight. The red variety is actually an attractive purplish-pink. Both attain two and one-half to three feet of sturdy growth in sunny, well-drained spots, and prosper indefinitely without attention. Ash-like leaves, remarkable flower heads, showy seed pods, a pungent aroma and an iron constitution favor much wider use of this enduring perennial.