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Bulbs from Seeds

 

Fleshy seeds of the amaryllis family are not a problem with germination; most of them cannot be forced into dormancy. They will germinate spontaneously, even lying bare on top of the bedroom dresser, although that is not necessarily the best way to germinate them. Still, they can be germinated lying on any handy surface. Once germinated, they should be planted on the surface of potting medium with the radicle buried in the soil. Papery seeds of amaryllids are started in a different manner.

Seeds of hardy bulbs are another matter. This is a fascinating topic. Most seeds have a dormant state that they can enter, and many have an obligatory dormancy requirement. Some will germinate at once if planted fresh, ie. not dried out thoroughly yet; but they can go dormant if dried. Almost all seeds will go dormant if dessicated as the alternative might be death. Breaking dormancy in seeds can be tricky, and the conditions required are likely to vary wildly from genus to genus, and even from species to species. In general there are really only 3 variables that you need to manipulate to break dormancy of most species - moisture, temperature and sometimes light. A good place to start is by considering the climate where the plant comes from.

My "default" treatment for seeds from temperate climates where there is a cold winter, is stratification. This is the treatment of seeds with a period of damp cold. Dry cold does not work - dryness is an environmental signal to most seeds that they dare not germinate. Store the seeds slightly moist in a zip-lock bag in the fridge at about 4C for 30 to 90 days. My next step is to try to germinate the stratified seeds at a constant temperature of about 21C under fluorescent lights (16 hours/day) and this often works. Where it fails, I then try moving the pots into an area where they experience temperature fluctuations of about 10C between day and night - about 12C at night and 22C during the day. This gets most seeds to germinate for me. There are still some seeds which resist germination, and I try leaving the pots of ungerminated seeds outdoors in a protected spot for a year or two. I'm mostly still waiting for results on some of those trials!

Once you get your bulb seeds germinated, they need to be kept growing in the same contianer for at least two growing seasons. Most bulb seedlings do not take well to being disturbed. Prematurely repotting them can lead to severely stunted plants.

Jim Shields

 



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James E. Shields, <shieldsgardens@gmail.com>, webmaster

Last revised: 10 February 2012

© Copyright 2012 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.