Stratification Question

lilaclily(z5IL)October 21, 2013


I no longer winter sow due to critters disturbing my seed containers. For the past several years, I have had great success sowing indoors under shoplights outfitted with UV bulbs.

For these past several years, all I have done to give perennial seeds their stratification period is keep the seed packages in the crisper drawer of the fridge in an opaque, sealed container. Everything I read however, says you have to put the seeds into some type of medium - or at the very least wrapped in a damp paper towel in a sealed baggie.

I have never done this and it's never been a problem.

My question, however, is due to my recent purchase of certain perennial seeds that were a bit uncommon and expensive, and I don't want to goof anything up.

Is just putting the sealed seed packs in the fridge for about 8 weeks not enough to "stratify" the seeds or MUST I open the packs, put the seeds into some type of growing medium, wrap in damp paper towels, etc?

Apologies if this is in the wrong forum. Thanks in advance!

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

lilac, storing dry in the refrigerator isn't stratifying. By definition, stratifying is a moist chill. It can be easily accomplished in your refrigerator by placing the seeds (yes, you must open the packet :)) in just a teaspoon or two of moist sterile vermiculite or moist sterile sand in a tiny zip lock (I buy the approx. 2x3" size at Staples in bulk) - date the bag, refrigerator. When it's time to sow, you can sow the contents of the bag, vermiculite and all, no need to extract the seed.

Not all perennials have the same requirements for breaking dormancy - they could need varying lengths of time, some will do better with a warm moist period (yes, moist again) before the chill. You could use the Clothiers database for suggestions, looking up each of your seeds if they are some that are important to you. If you don't find one or more there, post again with the name and chances are one of us can help you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Clothiers database

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 12:36PM
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Thanks so much for your response. Again, the fridge has worked fine for me but I think only because the seeds I was sowing didn't need a true cold stratification period.

One of the seeds I am sowing is Dictamnus alba. There is conflicting info on it.

One site says: "Propagation of Burning Bush plants can only be accomplished by seed. Fresh seeds should be planted ý" deep in the garden in late fall, for spring germination, or the seeds can be started indoors, after chilling for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator. Maintain a temperature within the planting medium of 55ð-60ð. Germination takes 30-40 days. It will take up to four years for your seed grown Burning Bush to bloom, so unless you are very patient gardener, you are probably better off to purchase your plants from a good nursery."

And the Clothiers database says: "Sow at 23úC (73úF) for 6-8 wks, move to +4úC (39úF) for 6-8 wks, raise temperatures slowly to10úC (50úF) for germination, recycle, as germination may take a second year. Short viable."

Obviously these are very different and only lend to my confusion. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 3:55PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

There is sometimes more than one way to accomplish germination, and the freshness of the seed can play a part too. The germination databases are suggestions for what has worked for germination, they don't necessarily cover every possibility but rather one method that has worked.

The Clothiers is pretty reliable. His warm, cold, cool suggestions would mimic Fall sowing like your first site suggests.

I will usually use Clothiers for commercial seed (dried), often Druse, 'Making More Plants' for fresh. Druse says of dictamnus, sown fresh, 42 days moist cold followed by as long as 30 - 180 days @ 60F for germination. Do you have enough seed to try more than one method?

I know you said you have 'critter issues' and I've got more chipmunks in this location than I've dealt with before this season, but I think if the seeds were mine I'd sow a few now and go ahead and put the (protected, chicken wire) containers outdoors. But I'm Z8 and you are 5 , we won't have frost for a while yet.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 6:26PM
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Thanks again for your response!

By critters, I mean mostly my own, lol. I have dogs that cannot mind their own business and anything left outside is usually interpreted as a toy. The good news is, I have a nursery owner friend that is giving me an old plastic-domed frame that will hold 6 flats, so I am going to take your advice and sow both indoors and out now.

I have been scouring Clothiers all afternoon and it seems like ALL the perennials I have sown indoors after chilling in the fridge did not need cold stratification. Way to pump up my ego there, seeds! There I was thinking I was a seed sowing guru! Hmph!

This year I am really aiming for perennials off the beaten path. In addition to the Dictamnus alba, I will also be sowing Asphodeline Lutea, Bear Grass, Trollius, and Primula (I forget which one). These are all out of my comfort zone. In addition, I am also sowing the more familiar (and easier to germinate) perennials such as sidalcea, scabiosa, lupine, delphinium, etc.

I think the frame will really, really help. I feel like a failed parent when seeds don't make it.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Campanula UK Z8

primula are generally easy - especially the common P.vulgaris. Generally, just chuck the seeds on top of your medium, moisten and leave outside (I also have a blind, daffy, aged collie and sympathise with your problems (try to keep trays and pots on a tabletop or even a bench). Trollius also, simply sow and leave - they will be up in the spring without worrying too much about recycling through warm and cold. In general, I don't do any special treatments - no gibberelic acid, no orange juice, peroxide and no keeping stuff in the fridge - because I forget about it. Everything is sown as and when I get it, whether bought or saved, as though it was simply happening in the wild. Had a major crisis, trying to muck about with my usual methods but have gone right back to my usual slack methods of sowing willy-nilly.

Of course, there will be major stress when all this stuff starts to germinate....

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 9:19AM
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