metasequoia from seed, Part II

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)April 22, 2014

I am growing a couple dozen Metasequoia from seed. Starting in late March, I presprouted a bunch of them in a bowl of peat covered with saran wrap, then moved the sprouting seeds into individual Rootmaker cells.

I initially placed them where they got about 5 hours of direct sun. After the first few emerging seedlings dried up in the hot sun, I moved them to an area that's mostly shade with just a few peeks of sun in the morning, about an hour of sun in mid afternoon, then shade the rest of the day. They stay moist several days this way so I think I found a good balance. The remainder have started to break the surface, and I also presprouted a few more that I've since transplanted to the cells.

The odd thing is - I have noticed a strange phenomenon which I mentioned before. I have 2 Metasequoia seedlings that have actually lifted completely out of the "soil" in the cells they are planted in. Others still have the "arch" coming up but have not fully emerged.

Of those two, one left the seed coat behind and pulled the cotelydons out. The other looks like a tennis racket with a green handle - it has stood straight up, but with the seedcoat still firmly attached with no sign of it breaking or being pushed off. It's been like this for a week.

Will the seed coat eventually come off, or will the seedling struggle and eventually die? I *very* gently tugged on it and didn't want to break the stem or uproot it.

The other thing is -- when I pulled up the few that had shriveled in the hot sun, the root was barely 1/4" long, is that normal at first?

I will try to get some pics up later.

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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

In front, the "tennis racket" seedling. In the far back you can see the one with the cotyledons spread.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:01PM
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jayhawkfan56

Here's a shot of 1 of my metasequoia with the seed coat actually still on it. So regarding the seed coat, it will do just fine still on. It's my best one of about 6 or so, probably 2 months old.
RE: the roots, it's taking forever for them to really spread out so the 1/4" depth seems like that may be normal.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:21PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Did that seedling just grow through the top of the seedcoat and keave it intact? From the pic I can't tell.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:41PM
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jayhawkfan56

Here's a good look at it from a month or so ago. The cotyledons push out of the seed coat about halfway, and the rest of the plant finds it's way out through a very small opening

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:03PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Weird! Looks like a vigorous little sucker, though. I'll remain optimistic.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:09PM
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jayhawkfan56

Oh yea man. Just give it a few weeks. Keep the seed coat as moist as possible as to soften it up, letting the leaves emerge easier.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:27PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I did notice this morning that there is a small âÂÂgapâ at the bottom of the one with the stuck seedcoat, the bottom of the cotyledons is showing, so it looks like the seedcoat has been pushed âÂÂupâ at least a little bit.

Looking at some of the ones that are just now breaking the surface (like the one to the left in the pic), it seems that it has to do with the position of the seed in the potting medium as to whether the cotyledons pull out of the seedcoat as it emerges, or after standing straight up. The seeds that are angled in the soil to where the emerging root end is turned âÂÂupâ a bit, seem to leave the seedcoat behind in the dirt. The ones more horizontal are bringing the seedcoat up with it.

ThatâÂÂs not a scientific study, just an observation from a handful of sprouting seeds.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 8:27AM
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coachjohnsonlp

This is the one species of tree that I haven't had much luck with growing from seed. It seems like most of the seedlings that have sprouted get limp and topple over. I started with about 50 and am down to 3! I really wanted to plant one on my property eventually. I heard they are very hardy once established but I am killing them like it is my job. I thought I might be watering them too much but then I heard that they have actually sprouted out of standing water. I am growing them indoors and putting them under florescent lighting. Is it possible that I am giving thm too much light? They are in a peet moss, vermiculite ,ix with a little sand mixed in.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:04AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Thanks for the observations. I sometimes blamed it on a lack of wind in our controlled environments.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:05AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

A bit over 2 weeks since I posted that pic, I now have 17 seedlings sprouting. All but 2 have shed the seedcoats, some almost immediately, others did the âÂÂtennis racketâ thing for a while.

The one in the pic with the seedcoat was strange. One day it was firmly attached, the next day it was gone and the cotyledons fully spread apart. Almost as if it just âÂÂpoppedâ off. A few other seedlings did this too ��" lifting the seedcoat, but never really âÂÂpushingâ it off, instead, after a few days, it just kind of splits off all at once. Others still lifted the seedcoat, but the cotyledons expanded upwards, slowly lengthening, pushing the seedcoat up and off the tip, much like a Pinus or Abies seedling. Several of the others did like the other one in my first pic, leaving the seedcoat behind in the dirt.

Yet they all look the same, more or less, once the seedcoat is gone, although IâÂÂve noticed a big range in the size of the cotyledons ��" some are longer than the others.

The first two to sprout now have small true leaves growing now as well.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 10:22AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

So it appears the water requirements of these Metasequoia seedlings is QUITE high. To the point that even if the soil appears moist it may be too dry. IâÂÂve been erring on the side of TOO MUCH water ever since the âÂÂshrivelingâ incident. Unless at least a .15â rain falls, I water about every 2 days. Considering these plants can grow in seasonally flooded areas I figure IâÂÂm OK doing this, plus itâÂÂs a very well-drained potting mix as IâÂÂve stated.

However, I did an experiment. We got a good quarter-inch thunderstorm Saturday evening. ThatâÂÂs more than enough in this loose, well-drained mix to wet enough to drain out the bottom drain holes.

Monday morning, May 12, I watered all but 2 of the plants. Monday was 85 degrees F and sunny, and Tuesday we hit 88F or so with mostly sunny skies (some evening t-storms were around both days, but none that hit us).

Last night, all the plants looked fine around dusk.

This morning, one of the two that I did not water, looked like the pic you see here. Edges brown, dried up. Even so, the surface of the dirt looked still a bit moist. It could be something else entirely causing this, but it seems coincidental that this is one of the âÂÂunwateredâ plants. I did water this AM. The other seedling that I didnâÂÂt water looks OK, however.

1-will it recover

2-do you think it was a lack of water

3-if not could it be a disease that may spread to my other seedlings?

As a side note, one of my seedlings seems to have unusually short needles, about 1/3 the size of the others. IâÂÂm curious to see if itâÂÂs able to properly photosynthesize and grow, and if it will continue to exhibit that trait as it grows and be worth keeping around as a potential cultivar.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 11:07AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

That seedling looks albino.

I don't know what the difficulty has been for you. Maybe it's partly the mix.

I grew over 100 Metasequoia's from a sample pack sold to me from F.W. Schmaker's maybe eight years ago. It was obviously "good seed."

The whole key to growing any seedlings is to not let them dry out ever. I over water...........

I've always used 75% perlite to 25%. One year I used 50/50 and I didn't care for all that peat moss. It's a really good mix. It's not cheap, but man are the roots being produced awesome. I top dress with generic osmocote once I see movement in my greenhouse, maybe 10% of the stuff has come up.

As far as I know Metasequoia grow like weeds from seed. Keep them watered man.

Dax
P.s. is that potting mix Schultz's? I hate that stuff with a passion, and my mother potted some dwarf conifers of mine in it one time and I lost most of them, and got the others in the ground when I saw what was happening. That could be your problem right there.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 5:12PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

The mix is a modified 5-1-1 - with smaller sized fines and shredded fines added to it for water retention. Interestingly, the one seedling that is growing in "regular" 5-1-1 is growing faster from what I can see so far.

The whitish colored seedling did die - it's shriveled to nothing. No idea why as the others all look great.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:47PM
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the_yard_guy(6A)

hairmetal4ever,

Thanks for providing this interesting thread. I have never tried to grow metasequoia before, but it sounds like you are doing a good job of detailing your process.

I was thinking of trying to start some conifer seeds and was wondering about perhaps using that "modified" version of 5-1-1 mix, with more fines and fewer large pieces of bark. I know the big thing is to not let the seeds and seedlings dry out, but not to give them so much water that they rot either. A fine line for sure.

Keep us posted.

TYG

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:28AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Some of my montezuma cypress seedlings got toasted a few weeks ago from not watering. With 5-1-1, I pretty much have to water every day... Wait one day too late, bye bye seedlings. That's with plenty of shade... I fear damping off disease so I try not to over-water but it sure is a fine line. I recall that I had the most success with Actinovate when it comes to damping off disease.

Here is a link that might be useful: Actinovate

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:08PM
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maple_grove_gw

Where did you get the pine bark for your mix? The big box stores around me sell products called "pine bark mulch" which are 95-100% shredded sapwood, and it looks very similar to your picture. Using that stuff will kill grown plants in short order, as I found out when I started working with Al's mixes.

Alex

This post was edited by maple_grove on Mon, May 19, 14 at 11:24

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 11:23AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I use Landscaper mix that I get from Lowe's. I have to filter it out though. It works good enough.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 5:28PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Well, I lost just the one - the rest are growing like gangbusters. It seems that the bigger they get, the faster they grow, although it's also been much warmer, and I believe Metas prefer warm but moist conditions.

Pics to follow - FYI the other conifer you see in the first pic below is Abies hollophylla, and the broadleaved seedlings are Acer rubrum - I just threw those in to fill in where Metasequoias did not sprout.

What's interesting is how several seem just a bit "different" than the others:

This one has by far the longest needles. Also it is just starting to push a "side" branch (probably really just one of the deciduous stems with needles typical of Dawn Redwood).

This one appears to have an ALTERNATE leaf arrangement! Yes, I'm sure it's a metasequoia, but I wonder if this is just some odd juvenile trait that will go away.

This one is more "typical" and also starting a side "branch".

This one appears to have very small needles, but is about the same height as the others that sprouted around the same time. Not sure if it's a permanent trait or it's actually just stunted somehow.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 8:35PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

It often takes 2-3 years to see if they are unique esp in the ground. I noticed that one of my Montezuma cypress seedlings, it has very short needles compared to others and not growing fast either. *Praying for dwarf MC*. That would be awesome!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 6:16AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

The weird alternate-leaved one still has that trait and has not branched at all.

The big-needled one has a setback. A @&*$&&^%*& squirrel (I think) bit or broke off the growth tip and one of the emerging side branches - took a good 3/4 of an inch off...in your experience, will it be OK and send up a new leader at this young size, or is it a goner?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:33PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

It's OK - two new buds are sprouting in the axils of the two uppermost remaining needles where it broke off.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:12PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

So they are growing nicely.

However, most are branching only from two opposing points along the stem, making the three dimensional view of the tree "flat".

Is that normal?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:28PM
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jayhawkfan56

Mine is certainly doing that too.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:57PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Seeing as how everyone else seems to start theirs indoors early, and have trees much bigger than mine, I'm concerned mine (sprouted directly outdoors in April) won't have time to harden off properly this fall...am I worrying about nothing?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:50PM
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coachjohnsonlp

All my sequoia trees are doing the same thing as well.... Those are some good looking seedlings. How many made it from your April batch? I have to take a page from your book. I started 15 different types of trees from seed and they all did very well except for the metasequoia. They all died and I sprouted fifty plus......

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:28PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I have 13 survivors. All doing well.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 7:56AM
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jayhawkfan56

I'd say don't worry about it. They will start growing like weeds here soon. Mine is 18" tall now. Think the last time I made a post a few weeks back, it was 11". What's your plan for hardening off for fall? Planting in the ground or storing in garage?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:27AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I have an area against the wall of the house that is pretty wind protected. I will probably just sit them there, mulch around the pots with shredded leaves, and I think that should be sufficient. I don't have a garage, and I have overwintered potted Japanese maples this way with success.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:34AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here is the one that lost its leader in early June. Got a nice single leader now. I'll bet that by fall it will barely be noticeable.

The furnace filter behind it is just for contrast for the photo.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:25PM
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coachjohnsonlp

This is a truly exciting tree. There aren't too many conifers that you can grow from seed that will become giants in our lifetime. My neighbors down the street planted this tree as a three foot seedling in 1996 and it is 50 feet tall with a trunk over 30 inches in diameter!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:11PM
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coachjohnsonlp

Twenty years old with a trunk this wide!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:13PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

My seedlings have these little reddish gnat-like things around them. Some seem to settle on the plants at times but don't appear to do damage.

Anything to worry about?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 7:45PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here is one that looks nice and symmetrical.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:02PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Is it typical that only the lower 1-2" of the stem is even semi-woody at this point? The remainder is still very green and pliable.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 8:13AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

They should turn more woody in September when it starts to cool down significantly.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 4:49PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Thanks, Lou. I hope to get some more good growth until then. They are between 6 and 9" tall and some have tertiary branching.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 8:10AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Hairmetal,

I've been potting up Montezuma cypress seedlings from 32 cell tray into 5g Rootmaker. Man, that requires a lot of materials... The seedlings have not completely filled up these small cells when I pulled them out... The bottom part keeps falling off. I need to remember to go with 5-1-1 with perlite for the starter trays so it won't be too heavy compared to zeolite, etc.

The ones that I potted up a few weeks ago look like they are getting ready to grow rapidly. It will be interesting to see the difference between 1g, 3g and 5g rootmaker containers. I'm going use all of 5g rootmaker containers for MCs so they can last till fall of 2015 since I started so late and seedlings are rather small. Root escapes are brutal if you're not careful with them...

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 7:04PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

A couple of the seedlings have curled new foliage at the very tips. I have concerns about herbicide damage...my neighbor was spraying Weed-B-Gon maybe fifty feet away. It wasn't windy but it smelled strong...could that be enough to cause damage?

This is the best pic I can get in the dark, of the one with the worst damage.

This post was edited by hairmetal4ever on Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 22:08

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 10:03PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here is the "nice symmetrical" one now. All but a few are affected. I posted at the Trees forum too (under heading "is this herbicide damage ?"

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:29AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Close up.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:30AM
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Eleven(Metro Detroit 6A)

I have some Metasequoia seedling that were born last spring. I potted them up in a kind of heavy mix of soil, peat, and wood chips, then just left them in the pots over winter. They were a little protected by a rhododendron and the corner of the garage, but winter was very harsh here. Come spring, I had to cut the sides of the pots, so the melting ice had somewhere to drain. 5 out of 8 survived, even though it sounds as if I did this all wrong.

Anyway, I had planned to plant the best one next month. Now I'm wondering if I should wait another year to determine which one is best? Just realized I don't have any current pics of them. They're all doing well, though one is smaller than the rest.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:53AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Well it sounds like they can take abuse!
Not trying to pick on you, but Michigan in winter in pots is pretty hard on a tree only hardy to about zone 5B anyway.

IâÂÂd see no reason not to plant yours in the ground. You could wait until around Labor Day when itâÂÂs not as hot (although if your summer has been anything like ours it has only been sporadically hot, and mild the rest of the time), or even earlier if you keep them well watered.
Labor Day planting would give them 2 good months of warm soil to root in before winter, giving them a much stronger survival than the 5/8 ratio you got this past winter. You could probably even plant now if youâÂÂre prepared to keep them pretty moist, but IâÂÂd wait until itâÂÂs a bit cooler to be safe.
IâÂÂd love to see some pics.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:16AM
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jayhawkfan56

Hair,
Just looks like new foliage emerging to me. That's what mine do too. I'd say in a week or so it'll look normal.
Maybe I'm not seeing something you are here..

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:02AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

The foliage was straight Saturday. Curled Sunday.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:18AM
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Eleven(Metro Detroit 6A)

I never meant to be so harsh on these seedlings, but I had back spasms in the fall and pretty much gave up on the garden. I'm very happy these guys are so tough! And sorry to be confusing, by "next month" I meant September. Here's the baby I will be planting:

And here are the others:

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 12:47AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Looking good!

My concern about the "curling leaves syndrome" is that they also seem to have stopped growing. Up until that day, they were growing at least an inch per week. Since then...none have grown at all from what I can tell.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:03AM
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jayhawkfan56

Do you think yours are getting enough sun? Are they still in that shady spot you mentioned at the top?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:45AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

They get 6 hrs/day now.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:11AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I was just out inspecting my big ones. No curling foliage on any of them, in the pots or not...interesting.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 6:18PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Some are now growing normally again. The worst ones have in fact grown, but ALL new foliage, even the stuff that was not expanded from the terminal growth points, is curled.

I may wait a bit, but wondering if those ones should be culled.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 6:20PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here are some of mine, loving the rain. All seem to be recovered.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 7:20PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

One more

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 7:21PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I'll get some more pics up.

The stems are woody almost to the top now on most. Still a bit of soft growth, but they have only put on maybe an inch in the last 3 weeks, so definitely hardening off.

The base of the trunks are pencil-thick now. Not bad considering how small and delicate they were just 5 months ago.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2014 at 10:28PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Very impressive. Them 3 or 4 footers I have in pots are hardening off in a similar manner. Think one I transplanted last month is still growing a bit more rapidly. Bet even in that CHEAP potting soil there was some fertilizer.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2014 at 12:14AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Hardening off now.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2014 at 12:00PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

How tall are they now?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 6:04PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Another question... did they keep growing in the starter tray the whole time or just stops at certain height? My montezuma cypress seedlings show huge differences between the ones still in the starter tray and in 3-5g gallons. The ones I moved into bigger pots the earliest are in the low 30s inches now while the ones still in the tray are less than a foot! Man, it requires so much materials for 3-5g containers... esp 15g Roottraper bag which requires sifting a whole 3 cubic feet of landscaper mix... Agh...

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 6:51PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I moved them all too soon out of the starter trays, but that had the added benefit of them NOT slowing down at all, really.

They range from about 18" to 21" tall. About a half-inch caliper at the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 9:07PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

That is true. The root system was not ready at all first time i pulled some out of the tray. Now they have fully developed root system. Go figure.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2014 at 8:12PM
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