Phacelia sericea

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Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Ooh, nice.  Those plants are Big, Burly, and Beautiful!  Such a wonderfully variable plant, I would grow it in any form.

Mark McDonough Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5 antennaria at  

Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

Phacelia sericea has been on my want list. The lower elevation variety ciliosa occurs across northern Nevada it is taller with foliage that is not as hairy.

From the High Desert Steppe of the Great Basin and the Eastern Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7 John P Weiser

Title: Member
Joined: 2010-06-24

Ron Ratko (does he still have a seed list?) used to offer forms with flower stalks that were only a couple of inches high, and tight, ultra silvery cushions. They stayed that way in the troughs here. Until they died, that is.


extreme western edge of Denver, Colorado; elevation 1705.6 meters, average annual precipitation 30cm; refuses to look at thermometer if it threatens to go below -17C

Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Jane, thank you for your detailed description of your climate. It is very different from here, it is more similar to where we have our mountain cabin though and that's not very high (3000ft) compared to your place but we are further north! We have not that intense sunshine either but the days are longer. At the mountain cabin hoarfrost can occur every month and the winter starts in October, spring in May. Down here the spring starts February - with fallbacks - and lasts till May, the first birches leaf out in April. We seldom experience more than a few weeks with days above 75F in summer. In fact, we can have warmer weather at our mountain cabin than here by the coast where we live! The all time high in Norway  is 96F and 12 days in a row above 90F, and that were in the valley not far from our mountain cabin.

Regarding to combine the blue and white Phacelia I think that would work well. I prefere to use slightly different ones to identical ones. Then you can have better seeds and some thrive when others don't.

As I told Lori once, I have only grown annual Phacelia and then as green manure! I will try some perennial species now!

Trond Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

I am not surprised Phacelia is short lived for most people: there are only three perennial species I know of in the genus and dozens of annuals: I believe none of the perennial species are methusalahs.

Phacelia sericea is not purely alpine: it grows in the steppe areas of Northwest Colorado alongside cacti. That gives a hint (along with the fact that the bulk of its congeners are from hot deserts) that the plant is essentially a xerophyte.

No wonder it rots in wet climates! You will have to protect it somehow from excess water in the dormant season to succeed, and even then don't expect it to live forever!

The loveliest forms I have grown are from the Olympic Mts. of Washington: the rosettes are dazzlingly silver. The typical Colorado form is pretty nice. A single flower head produces thousands of seed, so there should be no problem in getting enough seed!

This is a common plant throughout much of the Western Cordillera...I'm surprised it's not commoner in gardens.

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Peter George
Title: Guest
Joined: 2009-09-03

It's not common in many gardens because most of us who don't garden in the dryland west prefer to grow plants that are reliably perennial. I've never kept it more than one winter, and as beautiful as it is, my garden space is better utilized by other beautiful plants that live a bit longer. I've had it sited right next to Eriogonum caespitosa, which has been in the garden for 5 years, and the Phacelia croaked sometime over the winter while the Eriogonum was in full bloom the next spring. As you point out, it must be REALLY xeric.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

cohan's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

I've admired this plant (in photos, not in person) for some time, Jane's and Panayotis' notes are very enlightening.. I'll definitely be trying seed of this one sometime!.. I don't mind shortlived if it provides seed as Jane's do ..While the purple is showier, Jane, I do think the white makes a great contrast-- and I am always drawn to plants with the 'wrong' colour for their genus :)

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F;

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Hmm, interesting observations.  It's certainly been short-lived in captivity for me here - can't say about in the wild (although the big plant on the way up to Elbow Lake would be memorable enough to keep tabs on...)  It doesn't seem so strongly xeric up in this area... Todd's photo shows it on a river floodplain, and I see it most often at higher elevations on scree slopes that have water running underneath, even keeping company with Epilobium latifolium.

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

Backing up Lori...whenever I've seen Phacelia sericea in Alberta, it has always has wet-feet at least...river beds, seepage areas, etc.  I never thought of it as xeric per se.

Todd Boland St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Zone 5b 1800 mm precipitation per year

Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

I remember river beds in the Altai carpeted with Orostachys spinosa, which also grew on rocky hillsides in the steppe: river beds may be periodically inundated, but the surface of a river bed can get mighty dry (hence the carpet of xerophytic Orostachys rather than grasses, say, or mesophytes)...their roots would never penetrate down to the wet levels.

Phacelia sericea has obviously adapted to regions of much higher rainfall: it's not a xerophyte in that sense. But I'll bet you that anywhere you see it the surface three or four inches would be extremely well drained and often dry.

In Colorado it's almost a joke how abundantly it grows on road verges at higher elevations (like penstemons): we often speculate on how rare it must have been prior to humans creating vast habitats for it. I often see it growing in rock crevices, however, and rocky screes--usually in full sun where they are well drained. I have never seen it in nivale settings or alongside the likes of Rhodiola rhodantha, which likes wet feet. Rhodiola rosea var. integrifolia can grow very dry.

I still maintain it is (at heart) a xerophyte.

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.


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