Digitalis Starts - What do I not understand?

thinman(Z5 MI)April 28, 2009

Although I'm still pretty low in the experience department, I generally have good luck starting seeds under lights. Usually they look like this dianthus and salvia:

This year I started a tray of digitalis Camelot, and these little guys are just having a tough time growing up, although a few of them are looking pretty decent.

Clearly I'm doing something wrong, yet, if I am, why are a few doing so well? The inconsistency seems odd to me. They have been kept very moist with bottom watering, and I did water them once with Miracle Grow when they started looking so peaked. Could I be over-watering them?

I moved them to my greenhouse about a week ago, hoping that would perk them up, but nothing much has happened yet. I am perplexed.

If any of you smart people can help, I would appreciate it very much.


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flower_farmer(5/6 MI)


From a recent post regarding growing medium, I think you mentioned that you use Pro-Mix BX. That is a general purpose growing medium to be used when bumping up seedlings into larger containers. Its purpose is bedding trays, hanging basket containers, potting flowering plants, perennials, and can also be used in cut flower beds.

If you are going to use Pro-Mix be certain to use PGX which is formulated for plug and seed germination.

We have found the germination on the digitalis to be a little spotty. We usually put more than one seed in a cell. We also use plug trays which have a cell diameter of 1 1/8" which seems to help alot. The plugs from these trays go directly to the field. If three or four seedlings have germinated in a cell, we don't thin them. It's survival of the fittest. Some seed is relatively inexpensive. Time and labor are not.

Pro-Mix contains macro nutrients and micro nutrients. Rather than using a Miracle Grow solution, I have heard some growers have had good results with watering with chamomile tea.

All of the above information is, of course, for future reference.

From the photo, it appears 40% of the seedlings will be fine. The red coloring is most likely from too much nitrogen and low light levels (which Michigan is notorious for in April).

The growing medium looks to be pretty damp. When we plant the seed, we cover the cells with vermiculite. Light aids germination. Again, with the low light levels in Michigan, we have to provide artificial light for the 14 hours required.

Warmest Regards from the flooded west coast in Michigan.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 4:45PM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Thank you, Trish, for your information-packed answer. You are exactly right that I am using ProMix BX, and I'm pretty impressed that you would remember that. Although it's been working pretty well for me, it does seem a little coarse for seed starting. I will be looking for something else to use next year.

Chamomile tea? That's interesting! I could sip the brew as I watered with it.

As for light, I've had all my starts on 13 hours until they go in the greenhouse. It sounds like I should have bumped that up an hour, huh? And the medium is more than damp, it's been just plain wet, which is why I was suspecting that it may be part of the problem.

Sorry about all the rain you've been getting. It was a wet weekend for us in MW MI, but not like you were getting. I hope you have good drainage.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:31PM
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Hi, ThinMan,

I am curious how your digitalis are doing? Have you planted them out yet?

I am thinking of starting some D. camelot white seeds now, although it is a little late. I am thinking they will bloom next year...

What do you think? Any suggestions?

Thanks. f.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:37PM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Thanks for asking, and sorry it took a few days for me to reply. The digitalis plants are definitely looking better, though some of them are goners. Here's a pic from today.

I'll probably be setting them out next week, along with the bulk of my other starts. I got burned (more like frozen) last year by a late May freeze, so I'm being cautious this year.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 9:03PM
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