(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 16, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

Reseda belongs to the Resedaceae family of plants. Some common names for Reseda are mignonette, sweet reseda, and Dyers rocket. There are many species of Reseda, originally thought to be an annual herb, there are also perennial and biennial forms of the plant. The less-than-beautiful plant is offset by the wonderful aroma of the blooms.

Interesting Facts about Reseda

  • The plant is native to the Mediterranean region.
  • In his 1876 book, The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom, Charles Darwin recorded his findings from using R. odorata, along with many other plants, in his experiments which proved self-fertilized plants produce inferior seedlings. [1]

  • Yellow dye was obtained from the roots of R. luteola by the first millennium BC, and perhaps earlier than either woad (Isatis tinctoria), or madder (Rubia tinctorum). Use of this dye came to an end at the beginning of the twentieth century, when cheaper synthetic yellow dyes came into use. [2]
Reseda luteola
by DG member 'growin'

Characteristics of Reseda

Reseda has been grown for its fragrance since before Victorian times. The aromatic properties of this plant were very popular in cottage gardens, as it was used to mask the city smells of early London. For this reason, it could be found in every Victorian garden. By the time it reached the western world in the mid 1700's, it quickly became a favorite to plant near outhouses and along pathways leading the way to the front of the home.

Blooms are white, green and yellow with orange stamens. The plant blooms on spikes with approximately six petals for bloom. Mostly though, the blooms are a yellow-green and not particularly attractive. This is, of course, subjective.

Leaves can be either clustered or alternate, depending on the species. Leaf color ranges from gray-green to nearly lime green, once again, depending on species. New cultivars do not always have the original gray-green cast to the leaves.

How to Grow

  • Soil and Light

Reseda prefer rich soil that leans toward the alkaline end of the scale and a sunny to dappled shade area of the garden.

  • Water and Fertilizer

Reseda likes regular watering and will not do well under drought conditions. Fertilize well and often for best blooms with the most ambrosia like scent in the garden.

  • Transplant

They do not transplant well so it is a good idea to plant them where you want them and thin them out as very young seedlings.

  • Seeds

In northern zones, seed in early spring after last frost. In warmer climates, seed can be put out in late fall for spring blooms but may also be planted in early spring for summer blooms.

Seeds can be collected from the small capsules found on plant after bloom period. Allow pod to dry on plant and store as you would any other flower or herb seed.

Short List of Reseda Species [3]

Reseda odorata
by DG member 'htop'

Reseda alba
Commonly known as white mignonette. Hardy annual.

Reseda lutea
Commonly known wild mignonette. Biennial grown as a hardy annual.

Reseda odorata
Commonly known as common mignonette. Hardy annual.

Reseda phyteuma
Commonly know as rampion mignonette. Hardy annual, biennial, perennial.

Reseda luteola
Commonly known as European mignonette. Biennial, herb, perennial.

Cautions When Growing Reseda

Plant may irritate skin in some people.
Some species may be invasive.


Reseda odorata
by DG member 'Weezingreens'

If you are searching for an old world plant to add to your cottage garden, this may be just the one. Seeds can be found here.

Happy Gardening~

[1] The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom, by Charles Darwin
ISBN-13: 9781404349308
*when looking for this Charles Darwin book, the spelling is as written above

[2] Domestication of plants in the Old World by Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf
ISBN-13: 978-0198503569

[3] Dave's Garden Plant Files

Photograph on top right, Reseda lutea in Norfolk, England 1970, by DG member, 'kennedyh'