What's YOUR method of growing hellebores from seed?
It's been mentioned elsewhere that this would make a good post as we can all get involved and compare our different methods used to grow hellebores from seed. I'm happy to start the ball rolling so here is how I grow hellebores from seed. Bear in mind that I'm in England so the methods that I use suit our climate. Also, it would be a brave person to claim that their methods are the only correct ones. Hellebore seed is very flexible and responds to many different techniques regarding germination. As more and more people share their methods, this will become apparent.
I sow seed as soon as I have it. For my own this will be early June and for bought seed this is usually mid July. I sow the seeds in square 1 litre pots, 20 seeds to a pot. I use a peat based multi-purpose compost with a little perlite added for drainage. I sow the seeds approx. 10mm deep and top-dress the pots with a 5mm layer of fine grit, just to stop mosses forming on the compost surface.
After watering the pots, I then put them on the floor underneath the staging in the (unheated) glasshouse.
I check the pots every couple of weeks just to make sure they haven't dryed out. Germination usually starts for me in December and carries on until March. When I move the seedlings into their own pots depends on how many seeds have germinated in the pot. If all or nearly all have germinated (H.x hybridus seems to germinate all at once for me), I move them into 3 inch pots at the seed leaf stage. I tip the whole pot out on to the bench and break away the seedlings one by one, making sure that as much compost as possible is surrounding the roots. I find that moving the seedlings this early spurs them on and they soon produce true leaves.
The treatment for species is much the same as above except that I find that germination occurs over a longer period of time. Some seedlings may be well on their way to producing their second true leaf and other seeds in the same pot may be just starting to germinate. Rather than potting the seedlings up in multi-purpose compost, I prefer to use a soil based mix with sharp grit added to aid drainage.
The young plants stay in their 3 inch pots until May/June when they are then moved into 1 litre pots. The hybrids and a few of the species will stay in the 1 litre pots until early September; they will then be planted out into rows where they can be studied and compared with each other. Most of the species are slower than the hybrids and therefore will stay in their 1 litre pots until the following year; they are then either planted out or moved into a 2 litre pot.
And that's how I grow hellebores from seed. Not as complicated as some methods but I do like to keep things simple and I'm satisfied with the germination percentage that I get.
If you use a more complicated method or even a more simple method, then stick with it if you have a satisfactory amount of seeds germinate. If not, then perhaps this posting will be a good place to pick up some tips.