Sunday, February 15, 2009
Starting Perennial Seeds the Cold Moist Stratification Way
I love growing perennials. How can you not be grateful to a plant that returns year after year despite your neglect. Not only that but it gets larger and more beautiful along the way. I'm particularly enamored with perennials that are native. They are especially suited to the natural conditions of where i live and thrive despite my lack of care. So, you will tend to see a lot of posts on my blog about growing perennials.
This year, I've decided to start some perennials from seed. There are several ways to propagate plants, planting seeds is but one. Some of the seeds that I got don't require any pretreatment and I will just start them in seed starter when I'm ready. However, some of the seeds need to believe they have been in the ground over the winter in order to sprout. One way to do this is to actually plant them in the fall. This is a great way, it's easy and reliable. However, I want more control over where I plant the ones I'm keeping and also, plan to sell some of the extra plants. So, I'm going to start mine using cold, moist stratification. This will trick the seed into believing there has been a winter.
I'm experimenting with a couple of different ways to see which gives me better germination. The process is fairly simple but takes some advance planning. You need to start the seeds about 4-8 weeks in a cold place before you can plant them in your seed starter. All in all, this means it will take about 2-3 months before your seeds will actually germinate. To start the seeds you will need some baggies, paper towels and some sterilized medium - such as vermiculite or seed starter. I've chosen seed starter medium. Some seeds will need to be scarified before you start them, this means to scratch or weaken the seed casing. This should be noted on your seed packet if it is necessary.
For half of the seeds, I wet a piece of paper towel and just put the seeds directly on top of it. Make sure the paper towel is just damp and not soggy, once you put it in the plastic bag you do not want a lot of water sitting in the baggie. The water will not evaporate and you don't want your seeds sitting in water or they will rot, not sprout. For the other half of the seeds, I put a small amount of seed starter on the damp paper towel. I then placed the seeds on the medium, dampened a little more and then folded up the paper towel and put it in the baggie. Again, make sure the whole package is not too wet.
Then place in the refrigerator, I put mine in the fruit crisper drawer. They will be in here for several weeks, so you should check on them periodically. You want to make sure they don't dry out, or that they aren't staying too wet. Also, if they start to sprout while in the refrigerator go ahead and take them out of the refrigerator and plant them in whatever you are going to start them in.
In about 4-6 weeks, I'll be pulling these out and getting them planted in pots. So, stay tuned for more tutorials.