Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trying My Hand at Propagation

It is not like I haven't made attempts before. This time, however, I feel more of an interest and urgency in learning how it is done. Part of the reason is that I want more of the plants I already grow, and because I grow mainly North American natives I find it difficult to locate a diverse assortment of plants. The nurseries started selling and promoting natives about eight or ten years ago and then within a couple of years they stopped. Not profitable enough?  Native plants often require multiple steps of cold or warm, moist, stratification. Some may take a year or two of looking after before they germinate. I was not up to that. The other reason is that I want to challenge myself more. I have a diploma in horticulture, not a degree. I know a lot. More than most people, but now I feel it is time for more education. So, propagation.

Back in the fall I started collecting some seeds from three plants I want to increase. They are pentemon hirsutus, delphinium exaltatum, and verbena hastata. Photos follow in this order. Photos are not mine.

Hairy Beardtongue

Tall Larkspur

Blue Vervain
 I must have a thing for Blue!
All three of these plants require cold moist stratification. If all goes well they should germinate in spring.
This is how I am trying to propagate them:

I am using clam shell salad containers. Cleaned and dried well. Add seed starting mix already dampened. Top with seeds. Set outside in January. Wait to see what happens.

I am a bit concerned about the seed soiless mix. It is wet. Has been all winter, even though I put holes in the lids and bottoms of the containers. In each case the seeds are small and sitting mainly on top of the soil so I am hoping that once the weather warms up and things dry up the wetness of the mix won't matter too much. Wait and see. This is actually the part of the learning experience I am looking forward to and dreading. Have I done things correctly? Could I or should I have done something differently? Does it matter?

I also collected seeds from my solomon seal plants. Starry solomon seal, false solomon seal and the common solomon seal. I watched these plants in the fall, checking on the colouring of their fat fruit. Polygonatum biflorum (common) fruit are blue, Maianthemum racemosum (false) fruit are a mottled green and brown colour with some red spots which turn red when ripe, and Maianthemum stellata (starry) fruit are initially green with purple stripes and ripen to solid reddish-purple. In all cases you plant the seeds directly in the ground when ripe. You can never have enough plants of this family!

And finally I also collected and planted when ripe the fruit of my elderberries, Sambucus pubens or American red elder.

So there is a lot to look forward to, although I might not see much happening with the solomon seals' or the elderberry for a year or two.  In another week or two I will be doing some indoor planting of seeds I bought of scabiosa - important - white scabiosa, and white vervain. I am also on a blitz of white plants. More on that later.


  1. Good luck with you propagation efforts Patty. Plastic containers are a good idea. A few Penstemon hirsutus have selfseeded here, perhaps ibecause it is native to the East of the continent.

    1. Thanks Alain, I also had a backup plan for my containerized seeds-I planted some in the ground near the parents. Can't be too cautious.

  2. What you're doing is winter sowing and it should work quite well, since this is how Mother Nature sows her seeds. I've used this method with great results. :o)

    1. Wonderful, some positive input. It is nice to know I am on the right track. Thanks Tammy.

  3. Exciting! You have chosen some beautiful plants to propagate. I also have a thing for blue.

  4. Love the blue plants Patty! And of course the white will be beautiful in your garden too. Looking forward to hearing how things go. Great article, BTW. :-)

  5. Forgot to say how much I like the banner at the top! Gorgeous!Where is that from?

  6. Forgot to say how much I like the banner at the top! Gorgeous!Where is that from?