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Age Old Columbine Seed

Posted by sapphireiris Z4b~5a (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 29, 10 at 18:44

I am posting to see if anyone is familiar with Columbine seed viability past one year- 2 years since collection. I collected Columbine seeds and saved them in an envelope, they were forgotten along with moving from apartment living to our permanent home. My husband and I found them in a special keepsake box from a few years ago. I am pretty sure they are over 2 years old.
My thought was giving them a chance and broadcasting them onto bare sandy soil in early May and seeing what happens. I believe it's still better to give them a chance now than never.

Also if this fails, would a fall sowing of fresh seed directly into the sandy soil bed, or pampering them inside over winter work better for a winter that is known to hit -15?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Age Old Columbine Seed

Columbine in general will benefit from a cold period. Old seeds especially do so, so you might want to chill them in the refrigerator (not freezer) for a week or two.

Here is the smart part of seeds. If they are fresh, they "know" they have time to germinate and grow a little strong before the cold weather arrives. If they are a little old, they "know" summer is almost over and if they germinate, they might get killed by the cold weather, so they wait until winter is over. In other words, they want to experience some coldness and then warm again.

RE: Age Old Columbine Seed

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 30, 10 at 15:55

Hi Sapphire,

Columbine seed thats only a couple years old should still easily be viableassuming its been stored cool, dark, and DRY. Different species of Aquilegia have different germination requirements, many germinating very quickly and easily, but some germinating sporadically over a long period of time (months). Assuming you have more than a couple seeds, I recommend you "proof" a few of them to get an idea of what youre dealing with! I agree that most columbine benefit from a cold stratification, and none will be hurt by it, so moisten a small piece of paper towel, put 3 or 4 of your seeds on it and fold it in half, seal it tightly in a zipper baggie, and stick it in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. Then take it out, leave it warm up for a couple hours, and then put it in a warm placeout of direct sun. After 3 or 4 days start checking every day or two to see if youve gotten germination by opening the baggie and unfolding the paper towel. Be sure the paper towel is still moist (not saturated) before you reseal the baggie, and then just keep checking till a couple of them germinate.

At that point, if you want to, you can gently "prick" the germinated seeds off of the paper towel and carefully plant them, or you can throw them away. Assuming you did get germination at some pointremember, some species can take months!start again by stratifying the seed you want to plant using the moist paper towel/zipper baggie/in the fridge routine for 2 to 3 weeks (leaving them in longer won't hurt them!), and then plant them! I recommend starting them in small pots first, which makes it much easier to keep track of whats going on (if you plant them directly in the ground it can sometimes be hard to know if what youre looking at is what you planted or a weedand if you have a species that germinates erratically, you might forget about them and "lose" them!), and then transplant to the ground when they have at least a couple sets of true leavesor more. If you start them in pots, as soon as you can see them, start leaving the surface of the soil dry out before watering, and as they grow, leave it dry gradually deeper and deeper before watering. That draws the roots deeper and deeper into the soil as the surface dries, so you develop a really good root system. And once theyve germinated, if you have them in pots, keep them in the SUN until you plant them out.

I have seeds that are 30 years oldI NEVER throw out seeds without proofing them firstand I still get germination on some of them, sonever give up! Parsley seed is only supposed to be viable for a couple years, but Im still using seed thats ten years old, and its just fine! Some seeds do loose their viability in a year or two, and a few are no longer viable after a couple months, but most seed, if properly stored, will be viable for a LONG time!

Have fun,

P.S. I dont know if youre expecting these to be a certain color or not, but columbine cross pollinates, so if the plants you collected the seeds from were hybrids, you could wind up with any color! Any straight species Aquilegia will come true from seed.

RE: Age Old Columbine Seed

Here is a hint, that was presented by another member...

Instead of trying to prick the seeds out of the paper towel, just cut or tear the paper towel, seed and all, and then plant them like you would seed tape. No need to disturb the delicate seedling.


RE: Age Old Columbine Seed

Columbine/aquilegia is an excellent candidate for Wintersowing. Check out and search the Wintersowing forum for much advice and opinion.

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