How to Identify & Propagate Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

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How to identify & propagate fireweed epilobium angustifolium

A field guide on how to identify and propagate Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), a very hardy zone 2 perennial shrub native to North America.

Hardiness Zone: 2-9

Soil Type: Moist, well-drained sand, loam, clay.

Water: Low to Normal.

Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade.

How to Identify Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

Fireweed-Epilobium-angustifolium-Info-Chart

Leaves

How to Identify & Propagate Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) Leaves

Fireweed leaves are long and thin, with a pointed end.

They are green in color, with a white or pale green stripe running down the center.

The leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem and are alternately arranged.

Flowers

How to Identify & Propagate Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) Flowers

Fireweed flowers are small, delicate flowers that grow in clusters.

They have four petals that are usually pink or white in color. The center of the flower contains several yellow stamens.

The flowers grow on long, thin stems, are often surrounded by green leaves, or grow in clusters at the very top of the plant.

Flowering Season

Fireweed flowers typically bloom in the summertime, from June to September.

Habitat

Fireweed grows best in disturbed areas, such as clearcuts, burn sites, and along roadsides.

It is a pioneer species, meaning that it is one of the first plants to grow in an area that has been disturbed.

It grows quite aggressively and can soon colonize and whole disturbed site.

Wildlife Value

Fireweed is an important food source for a variety of boreal forest mammals, including deer, elk, moose, caribou, bison, and bears.

The plant is also used as a nesting material by birds, and its flowers are a major source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.

How to Propagate Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

There are two effective ways to propagate fireweed: by cuttings or by seed.

  • Taking cuttings means you will harvest a piece of plant from a mature stand and force it to root
  • By seed means you will either harvest seeds yourself or order them online to germinate.

Let’s get into the details:

How to Propagate Fireweed by Seed

To sow fireweed seeds, you will need to harvest them from plants first, during late summer when they start to fluff.

Fireweeds make fluffy seeds similar to dandelions that fly in the wind, so timing is very important to gather them.

How to Harvest

It’s quite simple, wait until the fireweed plants start to fluff and go collect the seeds before the wind takes them away!

Here’s what they look like.

Alternatively, you can order the seeds online here at Ravensong Seeds.

Cold Stratification

While it is possible to germinate their seeds without cold treatment, it will increase your chances greatly.

Cold-stratify the seeds for a minimum of 4 weeks before sowing.

Here’s how:

Fill a ziplock back 1/3 with sand, drop the seeds in, shake it up, then dampen the sand.

Tag your bag with the name and date, then put it into the coldest area of your refrigerator for 4 weeks.

How to Germinate

  • Fireweed seeds should be sown on the surface of a well-drained seed starting mix and lightly covered with vermiculite.
  • Place the seed tray in a warm, bright location but out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep the seed mix moist but not wet and wait for the seeds to germinate, which usually takes 14-21 days.
  • Once the seedlings have emerged, transplant them into individual pots filled with a well-drained potting mix.
  • Grow the seedlings on in a warm, bright location and water them regularly, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
Fireweed Shoots (Ebilobium Angustifolium)
Fireweed Shoots

How to Propagate Fireweed with Plant Cuttings

It’s possible to propagate fireweed by taking cuttings. Since they grow vigorously, it should be quite easy.

The best time to take fireweed cuttings is early spring before the plant flowers, vigorous growth will more easily root at this stage.

Here’s how:

  1. Fill a pot or container with moistened potting mix or perlite.
  2. Cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) stem from a healthy fireweed plant.
  3. Remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving 2-3 leaves at the top, snip off half of each leaf.
  4. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder, and knock off the excess.
  5. Prepare the wholes first then insert the stem into the potting mix or perlite.
  6. Water the pot or container well.
  7. Place the pot or container in a warm, bright location out of direct sunlight.
  8. Keep the potting mix or perlite moist but not soggy. You can cover the container to increase humidity and boost rooting.
  9. Roots should form within 4-6 weeks. Once roots have formed, transplant the cutting into a larger pot or into the garden.

That’s it! That should have you covered to propagate fireweed yourself.

Want to propagate like a pro? Check out our plant propagation guide

Looking for other zone 2 perennials? Check out our list of zone 2 plants.

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