How to Grow Hyoscyamus niger (‘Henbane’)

Hyoscyamus niger | 'Black Henbane'Here’s another of our short cultivation guides – this time describing how to grow Hyoscyamus niger from seed.

Hyoscyamus niger (commonly called by the names ‘Black Henbane’, ‘Henbane’ and ‘Stinking Nightshade’) is an alluring – yet deadly – poisonous biennial of the Solanaceae family, originating from Eurasia.

Growing to around ninety centimetres or so tall in full sun in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8, niger is prized for its gorgeously patterned, purple to cream, toxic flowers (the entire plant is poisonous if ingested, with some parts causing irritation to skin too). The plant also emits a strong to unpleasant smell, giving rise to the nickname ‘Stinking Nightshade’!

Hyoscyamus niger | 'Black Henbane'As with many other Solanaceae species (including Atropa belladonna, various Brugmansia and Datura, and Mandragora officinarum), Hyoscyamus niger has been used since ancient times in traditional herbalism and as a poison. In the present day, the plant is considered to be endangered in the wild, although is widely grown commercially, due to its great value as a source of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry.

If you want to find out how to grow Hyoscyamus niger, read on…


Materials

  • Container (or plant straight into the ground)
  • Hyoscyamus niger seeds
  • Potting soil
  • Garden trowel (optional)
  • Paper towel (optional)
  • Plastic sandwich or freezer bag (optional)

Method – How to Grow Hyoscyamus niger from Seed

  1. Prepare a suitable container (or flowerbed) with potting soil.
  2. Sow a few seeds on top of the soil. You can optionally then cover them with a plastic sandwich bag to improve germination rates, although this is not required.
  3. Place the container somewhere it will receive full sun to partial shade.
  4. Water regularly in average amounts, allowing the soil to dry out almost completely between watering.
  5. When the young ‘Henbane’ plants are a minimum of fifteen or so centimetres tall, they are ready to transplant to larger containers/the ground as necessary.

Method – How to Harvest Hyoscyamus niger Seed (Optional)

  1. Flowering normally occurs from around May, with the subsequently-formed seed pods ready to harvest by August. Wait until the pods dry and turn brown before harvesting them by hand, or using sharp, clean pruning shears.
  2. Split the seed pods open, remove the seeds and then place them on a sheet or two of paper towel in the sun to dry. The seeds should be coloured grey while still wet, turning to a darker shade once dry (if they’re a tan or light-brown colour then they’re not yet ripe).