Monday, February 1, 2010

First germination of 2010

I checked on my first seed-starting projects of 2010 today and was excited to find some babies popping up! I started my Passiflora incarnata seeds a mere two weeks ago. My web research had indicated that germination could take months, especially for seed that wasn't fresh out of the fruit. As is typical of gardening advice on the web, germination instructions varied wildly: some sites recommended soaking seed in passion fruit juice prior to planting, some said to nick or pre-soak in water while others just said to plant directly with no foreplay. I suspect some of the confusion stemmed from people discussing "passion fruit" seed rather than the specific scientific name of the plant -- there is more than one Passiflora! The seed packet had minimal information, and said germination occurred at 30 days to 3 months, with only a 30% germination rate. I planted 9 seeds and left them on top of my fridge, which I hoped would keep it at a tight 70 degrees. Last week, when I pulled out my seed heat mat, I decided to stick the P. incarnata on there, as I suspected that even with the radiant heat of the fridge, my kitchen temperature was more in the 60's on average.

Ahead of schedule, I have two seedlings. Maybe more will pop up -- I am owed another one, if I am to trust the reported germination rate. I wasn't expecting such rapid progress -- now I am worried I started too soon. Fortunately, I saved some seed for this exact scenario -- when you are facing a spotty "days to months" germination prediction, one always needs to keep some reserves. I will be breaking out the grow lights sooner than expected, and hopefully I will have a nice healthy plant to put out in the spring. For all of the hand-wringing about the difficulty of propagating from seed, the Maypop passion fruit seems to be cheerfully resilient. Many gardeners in warmer zones complain about the plant's invasiveness, and by all reports the hardiness limits are underestimated. I will hedge my bets (if I only have these two seedlings) and stick one in a pot to bring in to overwinter, and one in the ground, close to the house to benefit from a warmer microclimate.

The other little seeds that popped up are my cacti -- I got a packet from Pinetree Garden Seed on a whim, and picked up a bag of cactus mix medium on sale at Lowe's. The seeds are incredibly small and must be sown on top of the surface since they need light for germination. I stuck these on my seed mat as well. At first, I had Saran wrap over the rectangular container, but when water condensed it drooped onto the medium. When I pulled up the wrap, little black specks were sticking to it, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me what was potting medium and what was a cactus seed. I scraped as much as a could back onto the surface, and put a seed starting tray lid on top. Here is the first germinator! The packet was a mix of several different types of cacti, so this is another "days to months" scenario. I will keep a close watch -- I may need to prick out the early risers and transplant to a different pot as environmental needs change.

Finally there are my hellebore, which are still in their cold stratification period. They currently inhabit the butter compartment of my fridge. I get to pull the bag of seeds and medium out on March 15th and send it into the homestretch of germination. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it works. If not, I have to repeat the 5 month warm-cold-warm process. Aargh! I am so desperate for some hellebore that I may just suck it up and pay the premium prices for a plant at the nursery. My passion fruit and cacti give me hope, though. Maybe my seed-starting stars have aligned for 2010.


  1. It is so exciting to watch our seed babies coming up; isn't it? I had no idea you could raise cacti from seed. I don't think it ever occurred to me... but that little one is so adorable, and so clearly a baby cactus, that I kind of want to try it, too. :)

  2. Meredith -- if I had extras I would send them to you! I planted all the cactus seed already. Pinetree had them for a few bucks, if you haven't ordered other garden seed yet!