Limnanthes douglasii

  • Position: full sun
  • Soil: moist, well-drained soil
  • Rate of growth: average
  • Flowering period: June to September
  • Hardiness: hardy annual
    A profusion of fragrant, yellow-centred white flowers appear throughout the summer above the fleshy, fern-like, bright yellow-green leaves. This pretty, poached-egg plant makes a fabulous informal edge for a sunny, well-drained border. Highly attractive to beneficial insects including bees and hoverflies, it will help reduce pest colonies in the vegetable garden. An easy to grow annual, it is ideal for the children’s garden and will self-see freely. It will also make a wonderful green manure crop.
  • Garden care: Early sowings can be started under glass into good seed compost, which should be kept moist but not wet. Gradually harden off before planting outside. After the frosts, they can be sown shallowly, directly into well-prepared, sunny beds outside. When the seedlings are large enough to handle thin to 10cm.
  • Sow: February – May or August – September
  • Flowering: June – September
  • Approximate quantity: 30 seeds.

There has been a trend recently of people wanting to fight insect infestations by organic/natural methods with the emphasis on companion planting and using Poached Egg Plants in particular. The problem with that as far as I can see is that there doesn’t seem to be much relevant information out there so I thought it was about time to dedicate a post on the subject.

What Is A Poached Egg Plant

The Poached Egg Plant (Latin name Limnanthes Douglasii) is an annual plant with open flowers that are white around the outside with a yellow middle that resembles a poached or fried egg (as seen above). The Poached Egg Plant has a very shallow root system which means you don’t have to worry about struggling to get rid of them if they begin to overcrowd the growing area. The main reason the Poached Egg Plant has become so popular is because of the benefits it can bring when companion planting.

So what does it do?

What Is Poached Egg Companion Planting And Why Do It

One of my attracted hover flies from companion planting with poached egg plants!

First I want to give a brief explanation on Companion Planting. Companion planting is a system of growing plants of various varieties together as a means of using each other to grow better, stronger and healthier (more on that here).

The main benefit of Companion Planting with Poached Egg Plants is that they attract beneficial insects like: Hover flies, Lacewings and Ladybirds (Ladybugs).

These beneficial insects along with their larva will feast on the Aphids (which attack plants) leaving your plants in a much healthier state and able to grow unimpeded.

What Do Aphids Do To Your Plants

Aphids feast on the soft growth of plants – either the leaves, stems, flowers or stalks and suck out the sap which is intended to feed and nurture the plant. This, of course, leaves the plant vulnerable to all number of viruses and infections. If the plant survives the attack it will be unable to produce good quality fruits or vegetables.

On another note

Aphids secrete a faecal liquid known as Honey Dew which is a sweet, sticky substance that ants feed on. Ants often “farm” aphids, moving them onto plants just so they can produce more honey dew for them to eat. Honey dew can also develop into a black mould that can hinder plants ability to photosynthesise.

What To Plant Poached Egg Plants With

Companion Planting With Poached Egg Plants to help keep Aphids at bay

I can’t think of many plants that don’t get attacked by aphids of one type or another, so companion planting with poached egg plants is almost always going to be a good idea. There are hundreds of different types of aphids that attack different plants, the good news however is that the hover flies, lacewings and ladybirds don’t discriminate – they’ll eat them all. Some plants are more prone to attack than others and in my own personal experience the main plants at risk are:

  • Broad Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Dwarf Beans
  • Roses
  • Squashes
  • Cucumbers
  • Melon
  • Potatoes
  • Beetroot
  • Chard

Bare in mind, this is not an inclusive list, just what I have had good results with (let me know about your experiences too!)

How To Grow Poached Egg Plants

Poached Egg Plants are fairly resilient and will grow pretty much anywhere, however
they prefer to be planted in full sun light and in soil that drains easily.

In the UK sow seeds between March and June and expect flowers from June to September. Poached Egg Plants can be sown directly into the soil. Simply prepare the soil by clearing weeds and raking to a fine tilth (a fine crumbly texture). Make a trench roughly half an inch deep and sow your seeds, cover with soil and water in.

Keep the area moist but not waterlogged and in about ten to fifteen days your Poached Egg Plants will start appearing. Once they have established, even though they are annual plants (only grow for one year) they are very prolific seeders so you should maintain a steady supply every year.

If you don’t have much room and you’d like to grow poached egg plants in pots for more information.

Alternative Plants To Poached Egg Plant Companion Planting

Sacrificial Nasturtium Plant

Other plants can be used as attractors for hover flies, ladybirds and lacewings these include:

  • Mint
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Yarrow

Although I have always found my best results have come from Poached Egg Plants, which are also much prettier and pleasing to the eye.

Another way to deal with aphids without going down the chemical route is planting a sacrificial Nasturtium plant which seem to attract aphids like no other. This means that the Nasturtium plant will take the brunt of the attack leaving your plant you are trying to protect, safe. This is an effective way but slightly unfortunate as Nasturtiums are also extremely pretty (and edible).

There are many other plants that can be used as companion plants, if you want to find out more click here.

Q. We’re renovating our landscape to be more water-thrifty. The local nursery suggested some matilija poppies, but I’ve read conflicting information on their water needs. What could I expect?

A. The matilija poppy, Romnea coulteri, with its huge white blossom and yellow center is one of our showiest and easiest-to-grow water-wise plants. Because of the striking appearance of its flowers, it is also referred to as the fried egg plant.

Matilija poppies are best planted in fall in a location that gets full sun, but because they have invasive roots and can spread, choose your planting location carefully. A mature plant can get as large a 6 to 8 feet wide and tall, so they are best reserved for garden backgrounds and open areas. If irrigation is limited, they will stay smaller and are less likely to invade non-irrigated areas. When they are grown under rich, well-irrigated soil conditions, they will become difficult to control.

They are not fussy about soil and water, and adapt well to most climates, whether cold and rainy or hot and dry, which is why you may have found contradictory cultural information. In Southern California, they will require regular irrigation during the first year, especially if winter rains are scarce. Once they are established, they should need little summer irrigation. After the first year, you should cut the stems back almost to the ground in the fall to refresh the plants; new growth will resume with the winter rains.

The matilija poppy may be propagated from seed, but it is much easier to take root cuttings or separate parts of an old clump during the winter. Certainly, purchasing a good-sized plant at the local nursery is the easiest route to take when getting started. I think you and your gardening friends will be impressed with this plant’s ease of culture and garden presence. Don’t be surprised if friends start asking for divisions from your matilija poppies.

Q. Each year, the rosemary plants in my herb garden have wet-looking white masses of bubbles on them. What is causing this?

A. I hear this comment a lot about rosemary plants. Very likely, your rosemary, Rosmarinus offinalis, has spittlebugs attacking it. If you probe within the frothy mass, you should be able to find tiny greenish bugs. These insects suck the sap of plants, but are not likely to damage your rosemary plants. Therefore, no control measures are necessary.

At the Granada Native Garden, we have coffeeberry, milkweed, miner’s lettuce, and even a plant that gives off the savory aroma of sauteed onions and peppers! To continue the foodie theme, currently in bloom is the so-called “fried egg flower”, properly named the matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri). That’s “ma-TIL-i-ha”, by the way. And you can easily see how it gets its whimsical nickname! Or “sunny side up” flower, if you prefer? “Queen of the California Wildflowers” is another title that has been justly bestowed on the matilija poppy because, as Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren have said, “Drama is Matilija poppy’s first, last and middle name.” It is in good company with our famous California poppy, belonging to the same botanical family (Papaveraceae). The genus name “Romneya” has no relationship to a recent presidential candidate, nor even to a botanist, but rather to the Irish astronomer John Thomas Romney Robinson (1792-1882), who also happened to be the inventor of the anemometer, a device for measuring wind speed. We’re not sure how he happened to get a flower named after him, except that it might have been given to him by an admirer because of his efforts as an active organizer in the British Association for the Advancement of Science. However, even tho the matilila poppy is truly a California native which luxuriates in hot, dry weather with no water except whatever has fallen during the winter, it has apparently acquired an extensive following in England, with its wet weather, cold winds and overcast skies. Several gardeners in England report having grown it successfully there, where it is a showstopper wherever it has been successful.

Hard to Start, Hard to Control The matilija poppy insists on special treatment when transplanted from a pot. Be careful not to disturb the existing roots any more than necessary. Water thoroughly once, then withhold more water for a month, or until the leaves seem to be stressed. Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas Nursery confided that he “plants three to get one successful plant”. But be careful what you ask for! Once the matilija poppy gains a foothold, it takes over — literally. In a single season, it can reach 6-10 feet tall and just as wide. It spreads by means of underground rhizomes (plant stems that grow horizontally under or along the ground and send out new roots and shoots, which become new plants), so it will pop up all over the place. It has even been known to tunnel under a house and come up on the other side! (You can enlarge the pictures below by clicking on them.) However, this very characteristic of sending out runners can be used to control erosion on a slope.

Just two months later

New growth in March

The matilija poppy usually blooms from March thru July. The flowers are said to have a faint apricot scent. After that, the plant starts to die back, and in the fall or winter it should be cut back to about 3-4 inches from the ground, except for any new shoots that have begun to appear. Winter rains will start the growth cycle all over again. But needless to say, the matilija poppy needs its space and isn’t a good match for a small garden.

Nonetheless, this matilija poppy growing in a parking strip on Fifth Street in Livermore insists on defying the odds!

Propagating the Matilija Poppy For all the toughness and resilience that this poppy possesses, it can be difficult to start new plants. While seeds are readily obtained from the blossoms, they refuse to germinate unless they have experienced the heat of a flash fire. (See our Newsletter article “About Fire Followers”, posted in July, 2014. ) The common way to accomplish this in the nursery or at home is to sow the seeds in a flat, cover the soil with a layer of dry pine needles, and carefully set them on fire. The heat provides the stimulus for germination, which is said to take place within a few days. Another approach is to propagate from root cuttings. Marjorie G. Schmidt recommends selecting young lateral roots in November or December, cutting them into small pieces, placing them horizontally in a sandy rooting medium in flats or large, shallow pots, and keeping them moist and shaded. Roots should develop within a month, followed shortly thereafter by new shoots. The plants can be moved to “permanent quarters” and should begin to flower the following year. (Growing California Native Plants, 1980 ed., p. 148.)

GNG Seasonal Update The variably red, pink and white Clarkias are in full bloom now (that’s why they are nicknamed “Farewell-to-Spring”; see the article “Clarkia – A Native Flower with a History”, published in May, 2014), but most of the other spring wildflowers have set seed and are gradually being removed, along with the superbloom of weeds resulting from this year’s rains. During the summer, we plan to install a few secondary pathways that will allow visitors to explore more remote sections of the Garden and appreciate some of the other native plants that are off the main trails. We will also be adding a few larger plant identi-fication markers, in addition to the more informative tubular ID markers. One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon. But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times. If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at [email protected] . Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Native Plants at Alden Lane Nursery As mentioned in our previous article about the “Water-Wise Buckeye”, the native plants section at Alden Lane Nursery has been relocated. There are now two places at the nursery where you can find California native plants. The original assortment of natives, mainly stocked with 1-gallon and larger specimens, is now at the rear of the nursery. A table containing smaller, 4-inch pots can be found in the main part of the nursery. Check both out!

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

Quote du Jour “Do not even bother trying to contain this plant, as it always escapes. You may be forgiven when you curse the day that you invited Matilija poppy into your garden, but the plant’s flowers and foliage are so beautiful that nearly everyone eventually succumbs to its charms.” Bornstein, Fross & O’Brien, California Native Plants for the Garden, p. 172.

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Better together: tips on companion planting

Companion planting is the practice of growing plants together to benefit each other, whether by attracting pollinating insects, deterring pests like aphids or slugs, or improving plant health and flavour. Although the jury’s still out on the science behind companion planting, there’s no doubt that it improves biodiversity, and it’s fun to do. Try it for yourself and see what works for you.

Plants that deter pests

While companion planting isn’t a magic solution to garden pests and diseases, plants with a strong scent do seem to help deter pests that find plants by smell.

  • Spring onions, leeks or mint planted near carrots can help throw carrot fly off the scent
  • Chives planted under roses help to deter aphids
  • The scent of French marigolds can deter whitefly

Sometimes just the physical presence of a plant helps to distract pests. Nasturtiums are often planted as a sacrificial crop, drawing aphids and slugs away from other plants. They’re also good at attracting cabbage white butterflies to lay eggs on them, rather than on brassicas like broccoli and kale.

Helping hands

Sometimes it’s just better to be together, and it’s true for plants as well as people. A good example of this is the classic planting combination of sweetcorn, climbing beans and courgettes. The big courgette leaves shade the roots of the sweetcorn, reducing water loss from the soil and discouraging weeds. The beans use the stems of the corn as supports to climb up, and like all beans, they fix nitrogen into the soil where the other plants can make use of it.

A clump of tall sturdy Jerusalem artichokes makes an excellent windbreak to protect smaller plants, as well as providing shade for crops like lettuce that do best out of the full glare of the sun. (But do dig up Jerusalem artichoke tubers each autumn, otherwise, they can spread and become invasive)

What to plant together

Planting pollinator-friendly flowering plants among your vegetables is one of the easiest ways to improve your crop. The fabulously-named Poached Eggplant (Limnanthes douglasii) attracts bees to pollinate flowers, plus ladybirds and hoverflies to tackle aphids – and it looks gorgeous too. Calendula, lavender, candytuft and coriander are also very popular with pollinators.

Basil is said to improve the flavour of tomatoes, peppers and lettuce when planted nearby, and the scent of the leaves attracts aphids away from other plants. Planting the annual herb summer savory together with green beans is another companion gardening classic – the scent of the summer savory deters blackfly, and the two plants make a great mealtime combination too.

Companion planting is well worth trying, no matter how big or small your garden. And with plenty of advice and plants available at our garden centre, now’s the perfect time to try some combinations of your own!

Plant Profile: Poached Egg Flower (Limnanthes douglasii)

The plant is native to wet, grassy habitats California and Oregon. It can also known as Douglas’

Meadowfoam.

Limnanthes douglasii is a lovely, charming addition to any garden! It is one of the earliest and showiest annuals. They are quick growing and very easy to grow- perfect for beginners! Simply sow the sees in the spring and watch the plant bloom in the summer, from June to September. These plants do best in full sun in most soil conditions, even poorly drained clay soils. Poached Egg Flower is also known to self-seed, producing more flowers for next year!

The flowers have a lovely fragrance, which makes them attractive to bees and insects. Poached Egg Flowers are ideal for ground covers, edging and borders. In additional, it is an ideal companion plant for vegetable gardens because the plants will attract hoverflies, which feed on aphids and will help with pollination.

Unfortunately, this plant isn’t suitable for cutting.

Climate Zones: 5-10

  • Fun Flower Facts: Butter and Eggs Flower (Linaria Vulgaris)

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