With the arrival of February and warmer temperatures, I've been sowing seeds in earnest this week, perennials in particular. Seeds purchased or collected last year have the chance to sprout. My goal is to get them started for easy propagation in years to come for planting prairies here at the house.
Two species that I've had stratifying—a cool moist period to enhance germination in some species—in the refrigerator are Asclepias tuberosa 'Wild Orange' and Echinacea sanguinea. I've checked on them weekly in the little baggies by opening the moist paper towels and inspecting them. It's a nice way to also introduce some fresh air in the sealed vessels since seeds need oxygen for germination. For the Asclepias, I noticed swelling in the seeds and some rupturing of the seed coat, a clear indication they were ready for planting. The Echinacea seed held onto their dingy off-white color while the other detritus from the seed head turned black.
These made their way into seed trays earlier this week. With the Asclepias I was sure to sow the seeds in a tray deep enough (approximately 5–6 inches) to allow their roots to grow down. Allen Bush shared with me that shallow trays can cause their demise because the root doesn't have enough room to grow down.
Along with the seeds that have been chilling in the fridge, I also scarified some seed this week and allowed them to soak for a couple of nights to prep for planting. Scarification damages the seed coat and allows water to enter.
Last August, I collected some Baptisia sphaerocarpa seed from a location I saw it blooming several years prior. Fingernail clippers make quick work breaking the seed coat on a few seeds.
Another species that I scarified was Amsonia tabernaemontana. The seed came from my dad. Years ago, I found an Amsonia blooming on the roadside near home. The fear that it would succumb to the mower or herbicide like I had witnessed happen to many other plants inspired me to relocate the clump to our yard. It settled in nicely and started producing seed. A year or two ago, I asked my dad to collect any fruit he saw, and that Christmas I returned home to find the baggie on the windowsill. Now that I have a house of my own, I felt it time to try growing the northern provenance here. The germination requirements were unknown to me; however, from a quick google search, I discovered researchers at UGA demonstrated that clipping the end of the seed would allow moisture in to kickstart the germination process.
Today the seeds are in the garage instead of their cold frame. The forecast showed below freezing last night, and I didn't want to take any chances since I've worked hard to get them all started. Here’s to hoping they all germinate!