The poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii, is a popular plant for many UK gardens. This is an annual flowering plant that takes its name from the appearance of its flowers, which are open to a bowl shape, with yellow in the middle, and white towards the outside.
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About Poached Egg Plant
Limnanthes douglasii is a member of the Limnanthes genus, which has seven different species. Among gardeners, the most frequently grown species is Limnanthes douglasii, also known as Douglas’ Meadowfoam.
This species is as mentioned above, renowned for its striking yellow and white blossoms that give the plant its common name of poached egg plant. This small flowering annual grows around 15cm tall, with a similar spread. It flowers between May and July with a first flush of blooms and may flower on into early autumn.
This plant is native to California and Oregon, where it naturally grows in moist meadows and vernal pools. It was collected by the Scottish explorer and botanist David Douglas, who worked on the west coast of America in the 1820s.
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Why Grow Poached Egg Plant?
Poached egg plant has been given an award of garden merit by the RHS, and it is considered to be a good choice for wildlife-friendly gardens. These are cheerful plants that can brighten up your garden spaces and draw in beneficial insects including bees, hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds.
These plants can therefore be useful as companion plants for a range of crops because they help with pollination and because they attract predatory insects to help keep numbers of aphids and other pest species down.
Where to Grow Poached Egg Plant
As small and compact plants, Limnanthes douglasii can be grown in a range of different locations. They can work well along pathway edges and at the front of beds and borders, for example.
They can be excellent as companion plants in food producing areas such as annual vegetable beds and even the sunny fringes of a forest garden. But they can also work well in purely ornamental schemes.
Of course, when deciding where to grow poached egg plant, you need to think about the growing conditions that these plants require. It can also be useful to consider which other plants will be growing nearby, and which might benefit from the presence of this species.
Poached Egg Plant Growing Conditions
Poached egg plant is a relatively unfussy plant when it comes to soil type and pH, but it does need a location where the soil is moist but well-drained.
It can cope with a location that is either sheltered or exposed but will do best when it is provided with a position in full sun. a position with a south or west facing aspect will be ideal here in the UK.
As this is a plant with a hardiness of H5, it is a hardy plant that will not typically encounter any problems during the shoulder seasons. As an annual, however, remember that this plant will remain in your garden only for a single growing season.
So if you want it to return you will need to sow more each year or allow it to self seed. Fortunately, this is a plant that will self-seed readily, even in a lawn.
Poached Egg Plant – Companion Planting
One of the reasons to grow poached egg plant in your garden is, as mentioned above, that it can be a good companion plant. It is both a helpful plant for pollinators, and an attractant of predatory species that help to keep aphid and certain other pest numbers down.
In a vegetable garden, for example, this plant could be a good companion for any crops that require insect pollination, such as tomatoes, or squash, for example. It can also be a good companion for many other crops that can be bothered by aphids, since it will attract the beneficial predatory insects to keep their numbers in check.
Sowing Poached Egg Plant
What you need
- A packet of ‘poached egg plant’ seeds
- Gardening gloves
- A rake
- A trowel
- Plant label and pencil
Poached egg plant seeds are best sown straight in to the ground where they are going to flower between April and July.
When direct sowing outdoors, or in a polytunnel garden, it is important to make sure the space you are going to sow is weed free.
Rake the soil to a fine tilth (a fine crumbly texture) and make some drills 3mm deep and 10cm apart. Sprinkle the seeds in carefully and cover them up with soil. Remember to water the seeds gently. As they grow, if the plants are crowded, thin them out to about 10cm apart.
Alternatively, for a more informal look and feel, simply broadcast the seeds over a particular area where you would like for them to grow. Try to cover the seeds so they are around 1 cm) deep and aim for a spacing of around 5cm. Later, thin to around 10 cm apart in all directions for ground cover.
However, if you prefer you may also sow indoors before planting out the seedlings a little later into your garden. Seeds sown indoors in April or May can be planted out in May or June. The sowing depth will be the same in pots or seed trays as in the ground. And you can prick out and pot on the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle.
Planting Poached Egg Plant
If you have chosen to plant out poached egg plants sown indoors rather than direct sowing them where they are to grow, then you should plant them into their final growing positions while they are still relatively small, in May or June.
Make sure that you harden off your seedlings before you transplant them to their final growing positions, and bury the plants to the same depth they were at in their previous locations.
Caring for Poached Egg Plant
Poached egg plant can be a relatively low maintenance plant that does not require a great deal of care and attention throughout the growing season.
Once you have sown them and thinned them to the required spacing, or planting out indoors sown poached egg plant seedlings they will not generally need a huge amount of your time. Poached egg plant has few problems with pests or diseases.
Growing Poached Egg Plants in a Polytunnel
Of course, when growing in a domestic polytunnel you will need to take care of watering. While outdoors, in general, natural rainfall will be sufficient for these plants but you should of course water during prolonged dry spells, aiming to keep the soil or growing medium moist but not waterlogged at all times.
In the ground, it can be beneficial to mulch around plants with an organic mulch to provide slow release fertility and to reduce moisture loss from the soil. Other feeding will not typically be required when growing these plants in the ground.
Poached egg plants produce meadowfoam seeds. Find out the benefits of meadowfoam seeds now.
Benefits of Growing a Poached Egg Plant
Poached egg plants are a vibrant addition to gardens, instantly elevating any drab space. Their presence isn’t only attractive for gardeners to add to gardens, but are also magnets to certain wildlife insects, including:
By attracting these pollinators and predators, they enhance the health of neighboring plants. Those susceptible to aphid infestations or reliant on bee pollination for fruiting notably thrive when poached egg plants are planted in proximity.
How to Grow Poached Egg Plant in Pots
If you would like to grow poached egg plants in pots then they can be good candidates for a container garden so this can be a good idea. Just as they can make good companion plants in a garden bed or border, so too they can make good companion plants when grown in containers.
Remember to choose a pot that has good drainage holes at the base, but ideally one that will not dry out too quickly either.
Fill this with a good quality peat-free potting mix that is moist yet free-draining. Remember also that plants in pots will need more attention and will need to be watered more frequently than plants growing in the ground.
Spacing in pots should also be around the same as in the ground – though you may get away with a slightly closer spacing depending on the specific situation. You might combine these plants in pots with a range of other species to create pleasing annual displays.
Just note that since these plants self-seed readily, you may end up with new plants popping up in and all around your pots the following year.
How many species are included in the Limnanthes genus?
The Limnanthes genus encompasses a total of seven distinct species.
Are Limnanthes plants suitable for garden or landscaping purposes?
Indeed, Limnanthes plants are excellent choices for gardens and landscaping. Their vibrant and cheerful flowers have a strong attraction for pollinators, thus contributing to the overall health of the garden and ecosystem.
Where is the ideal location to grow Limnanthes?
Limnanthes thrives best in sunny areas with moist soil. It serves as an ideal choice for wildflower gardens or as an integral part of a garden plan that promotes pollinator activity.
Suttons. (n.d.). Poached Egg Plant Flower Seeds. [online] Retrieved from: https://www.suttons.co.uk/flower-seeds/all/poached-egg-plant-flower-seeds_MH-32437 [accessed 04/09/23]
Healthline. (2020). Meadowfoam Seed Oil: Benefits for Skin, Hair, and More. [online] Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/meadowfoam-seed-oil [accessed 04/09/23]
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.