To sow or not to sow....

adidas(6/7)October 6, 2012


I have a somewhat checkered history of growing from seeds and decided to give winter-sowing-in-containers a whirl...well, I think I've already created a mess and it's not even Halloween yet!

Some seeds I have, for example, magnolias (variety of wild types) and Lindera benzoin (spicebush) seeds were supposed to require stratification and were supposed to be sown immediately for best germ rates....well, some of these have germinated (I guess no one told them to stay put til spring). I think I can put them in a non-heated area of the house so they don't freeze...will they be ok?

I'm also wondering what would happen if I sowed some Chelone glabra and Asclepias in containers now? My days are in the 60s and nights in 30-40s. These seeds require strat, too, I think. Would they stay ungerminated til the spring? Should I wait til Dec? I'd rather do some now because I can spread the work of sowing over a couple of months. Would this be ok?

Thanks for ANY input!

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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

I think Dec. 21 is the first day you're supposed to wintersow to safely avoid early germination.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 7:25AM
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Oops just started my first jug of the season(mock orange) Oh well my count is one.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 2:23PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

I've started quite a few things - Mostly Northern trees and shrubs that require up to 4 months of winter cold to germinate well.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 6:45AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Adidas, the only seeds I've started this early were trees and shrubs that require months of cold stratification, as Jimbob has mentioned.

I would not start Asclepias seeds this early. They might do okay, but all the milkweeds I've started germinate just fine when I sow them in March or even April.

Other possible problems with starting containers so early, is that if the containers stay very wet, which they are prone to do in this climate, then the seeds may rot or the potting mix starts to grow green slime and such.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Thank-you all for your input! Most of my seeds are probably similar in type to jimbobfeeny's. I have spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Magnolias (tripetala, asheii etc), milkweeds, clethra, calycanthus etc etc. Mostly seeds of trees/plants native to northeastern forests and "most" of these things require some sort of stratification. Interestingly enough I sowed some seeds in early Sept and the only ones that have germinated are a couple of spicies and, weirdly, a couple of magnolias! However, it has been very cold and I live at the top of a mountain so I'm sort of in a microclimate...10 degrees colder up here than at the bottom of the mountain. I think I've also probably created too many ventilation holes as my pots all dry out fast...I water about every 3 this normal?

As for the asclepias, I wanted to mix the asclepias in a "wild" bed. I could have cleared the ground but the butterflies seem to love the dogbane and other flowers already established there. I thought if I grew the milkweed in containers I might give it a better chance to grow and thus it might have a better chance in competing w/already established species? Does this make sense? I did scatter some A. tuberosa seeds around just before Sandy arrived so they got a darned good soaking...probably got washed away :(

Please give me some feedback...does anyone else ws mostly natives?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:24PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have used the WS technique to start many natives from seed - probably well over 100 species but never counted. About 10 or 12 Asclepias spp. alone. Not all these have thrived in the gardens however.

I agree that starting some milkweeds in containers and transplanting is more likely to be successful. A. tuberosa is easy to WS in containers but it has also seeded itself for me out in the garden a little, so you may get some seedlings in your wild bed.

This fall I collected lots of A. syriaca (common milkweed) and have scattered some in a couple wild areas where I would love to see more wild colonies of this milkweed get started. I try to scatter the seed heavily - probably very few (or perhaps none!) will actually successfully germinate with all the competition from other plants.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 5:55PM
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Thanks for your input! You are lucky to have collected seeds! I have a patch of A. syriaca but EVERY single seed from EVERY single pod had been munched on by those orange/black milkweed bugs...not a single seed survived!! A friend of mine had a few patches of A. tuberosa w/these bugs on them but they still have many seed pods intact. I wonder why A. syriaca is more vulnerable? Or maybe it was just my luck? I found a single Asclepias incarnata growing in the dogbane but it appears that pods either never formed or were chewed off by something.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 9:09PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Adidas - wow that is too bad that the milkweed bugs ate all your seeds. I get some of those bugs, but they aren't out of control. The truth is, I patrol my milkweed all through the season - and remove all insects including aphids, slugs, beetles, spiders, earwigs, ants, etc. I raise Monarch butterflies and try to maintain high quality plants to use as food for the caterpillars.

I have a few small patches of A. syriaca in my gardens. It planted itself and I let it grow! Try to make it looks like it belongs there, but really it's better suited to a wild or naturalized garden. The patches are slowly increasing and I got a few pods this year. As well, they do attract female Monarchs who lay eggs regularly on the plants.

I also continually scout wild patches of A. syriaca, where I collect eggs, leaves, and seeds. Most of the seed I collected was from wild plants.

I try to grow about 10 other species of Asclepias - with greater or lesser success. It's not the easiest genus to grow.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 9:25PM
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