St. John’s Wort, also known as Tipton’s Weed, Rosin Rose, Goatweed, Chase-Devil and Klamath Weed, is a perennial plant with extensive, creeping rhizomes. Its stems are erect, branched in the upper section, and can grow to 3 1/2′ feet high. It has opposing, stalk-less, narrow, oblong leaves that are about 1/2 inch long or slightly larger. The leaves are yellow-green in color, with transparent dots throughout the tissue which appear translucent when help up to the light. (se photo on right) When the flower buds (not the flowers themselves) or seed pods are crushed, a reddish/purple liquid is produced.
Starting by Seed or from the Wild – St. John’s Wort is so easy to grow that it’s considered a pernicious weed in many locations. You may find it thriving wild in a meadow or ditch near you. If you try cultivating it in the garden, keep a close watch over it. Given a chance, it’ll crowd out more delicate herbs. You may even want to consider growing it in a pot and then burying the pot in the soil to overwinter in cold areas.
The best times to start St. John’s Wort are in spring and fall, from either seed or small root cuttings taken from the wild. To help seeds germinate more quickly, soak them in warm water for a few hours or overnight.
Soil – St. John’s wort likes a slightly acidic soil of pH 5.5 to 7. Plant in soil that is well-drained, light but moist.
Container – A clay pot is probably best as it will help to keep the soil at the root level from becoming too wet. Be sure there is plenty of space between your St. John’s Wort plant and the rest of your herb garden, whether in the garden or on a windowsill. The plant spreads in the wild by use of stolons and can quickly over-run a garden area if not watched.
Light Requirements – St. John’s Wort prefers sunny or partly-shaded positions in the garden or on a windowsill.
Watering – Water regularly but do not water-log it. If planted outdoors, it requires more water during long dry spells.
Lore – On Midsummer Eve saint icons were protected by hanging St. John’s Wort over them. This is also the origin of the English common name, for in the calendar of saints, the feast of St. John the Baptist is June 24, a date on which the plant was supposed to be in bloom.
Traditionally the herb buds were gathered on St. John’s Day and soaked in olive oil to create an anointing oil called the "Blood of Christ". It is said that the red sap "bleeds" in August on the day when St. John was beheaded.
Another tale says that dew falling on the plant overnight could be collected on the morning of June 24 and rubbed on the eyes, which would safeguard one’s peepers from disease. In addition, St. John’s Wort was hung in the home, and carried as a talisman. It was also used to protect from lightning strikes.
It is traditionally burned in the Midsummer Fires. Flowers brought into the house on Midsummer Day are said to protect the household from a myriad misfortunes, including invasion by evil spirits, the evil eye, illness and fire.
To see St. John’s Wort growing in the wild please view this video: http://youtu.be/Qj6jVX3ZuWg