Overwintering hellebore sprouts

Loretta NJ Z6October 13, 2005

Some of my Elizabeth Hellebores are just starting to sprout. I am intending to overwinter them indoors. Any opinions?

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mikeybob

I have some seedlings and I plan to overwinter them in a coldframe. Have you considered that? Last fall I potted up some hellebores and overwintered them in a little coldframe (just a hole in the ground with a clear plastic covered frame sitting over it) and the plants did excellent.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 8:03PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

How big were your seedlings? Most of these do not have their true leaves yet and the weather is getting cold. They seem to like the temps right now but I am not sure if they would like to freeze yet. Did you have a cold winter last year?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 8:44PM
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mikeybob

Well, if they are just sprouts and you have room to overwinter them inside, then what's there to lose by doing so? In my case, I have 40 or 50 seedlings potted up, and that's too many houseplants, and I think also they'd grow better if I dig a hole and put them in it and cover it with clear plastic. I suppose a coldframe may also be an option for you, assuming that the sprouts would grow significantly before the coldest weather and snow cover.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 11:50AM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Melting water filling up the hole has not been a problem for you I suppose. It might be a problem for me. I should get a coldframe going and I say so every year. I've even pulled some old windows out of my neighbor's garbage. I think though I may take them in for the winter. Writing this has cleared my memory of losing seedlings previous winters. I've lost seedlings indoors as well but hopefully I won't have any renegade mice this year that have it out for hellebores.
Helleborus foetidus on the other hand germinated outdoors last year during the coldest part of winter under a light mulch without any help from me.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 2:46PM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Hi Loretta,
My advice would be at least to overwinter some of them indoors. Might I ask how you germinated the seed? I'm a bit surprised they germinated now. Presumably you received them last winter or early spring?

A couple of years ago I germinated ET seed in the refrigerator that I received in January. By April they were putting out first true leaves. I overwintered most of them indoors, but it certainly isn't necessary. The southern hemisphere seeds do offer different options.

It might be interesting to leave some outdoors just to see how they deal with the winter at their stage of development. I don't often see cotyledons in autumn.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:56PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Yes, I did receive the seeds last spring. I can't remember exactly when I planted them but it was on the late side. I noticed in summer when I poked around the pots, many of the seeds had send down a root but the cotyledons were still tight in the seed coats. I figured these were doomed. Mostly it appears they were. I only got a couple of sprouts in two of five pots. I am not sure if the seedlings are some of these same seedlings and the cold triggered them to open or others that germinated in the cool fall.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2005 at 11:25PM
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covella

I talked to Barry Glick at Sunshine Gardens the other day. He said you could overwinter hellebores indoors in a cool spot because they don't need a dormant period to bloom. They grow out their babies for a couple years in greenhouses that never freeze.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 7:42PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Thanks alyrics for passing that on. I remember a year or two ago, a few posters mentioning they did the same and got larger plants faster that way. I opted to bring them in for the hard freeze and leave them out on the porch otherwise. I also have a few cyclamen seedlings that are a little less than a year. I am treating them the same. That gives them the best of both worlds I think and hopefully it will keep any indoor molds in check.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 12:50PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

This is a bit late Loretta, but I leave my seedlings outside with no problems. As other posters have noted, under the right conditions indoors they will continue to grow for you.

And yes Joseph, here in zone 6 for whatever reason I have consistently gotten "fall sprouts" from spring or winter planted seed. But I only have 3 years of hellebore sowing under my belt. The cooler temps seem to get some relunctant seeds to sprout after a warm summer cycle.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:05PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Not to late, I appreciate the input. They continue to germinate indoors. I mentioned above those that germinated in summer seemed stuck to their seed coats and I wasn't sure if those that appeared in fall were them or new ones. I am still not sure but apparently they do seem to be 'stuck' in the seed coats for a while. The radicle (is that the right term?) appeared quite a while before the cotyldons. The cotyldons developed slowly and even before the seed coat was shed, you could see the stem seperate into two parts. It worried me because I have seen other types of seedlings strangle themselves this way, never shedding their seedcoats but this seems to be their way. What was a little odd too was the fact that the radicles appeared in the warmth of summer and the leaves in cool weather, opposite of most other plants I've grown that needed to stratify.
This batch did not germinate the same way as my first batch from Elizabeth Towne. The first batch was moist in vermiculite and germinated that same spring, early summer. These weren't in any medium, just ziplocks.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 6:22PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

Interesting, isn't it? I had all kinds of new growth on well established plants (7 years old) when the cold weather hit.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 11:17PM
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cynthia_gw

I had fall germinating seeds in '03 and brought them in to light tables in a cool basement in late November. They continued to germ in the relative (55F) warmth of the cellar. I transplanted them to deep cells and continued with them on the light tables until spring '04. Normally use 4" pots for everything, but I had 55 of these so had to conserve space for other things. They put on good size in the deep cells. Then into the beds that spring and summer as I had time and the right spots for them. A few bloomed in spring of 05!

At transplant 1/14/04

2 months later 3/14/04

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 11:46AM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Wow! Those grew fast. Did you use fertilizer? Mine are going pretty slow.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 5:02PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

Great pics! What seed did you use? Bloom in 2 years, fantastic!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 11:16AM
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covella

I'd like to bump this thread and get back to Loretta to find out what happened. I bought a bunch of seedling hellebores from Sunshine Gardens and I've been having trouble with my indoor conditions. It looks like I've lost a few - I think I've not done a good job with watering - either too wet or got dry. They were in a cold sunny spot which I thought would be ok. I repotted them all into 4" pots a couple weeks ago and put them in a new place in a cool sunny spare room to see if this will improve my survival rate. I think in general keeping perennials indoors is hard in the winter. Its very dry at our house.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 10:52AM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Hi Alyrics,
I'm sorry to read about your plants from Sunshine. That is so disappointing. Are you sure they are gone? I had a young small plant that lost its leaves but eventually grew another one. Do you think maybe they got a little too much sun at the window. I've burnt a few plants this way over the years, even cactus.

So far I haven't lost any plants though they aren't glowing like Cynthia's pics either. My hellebore and cyclamen are still in their original 4" tall pots, planted in groups. There are 16 hellebore seedlings in three pots unevenly divided. Two are still stuck in their seedcoats (out of at least 9 this fall) and I don't think they will make it as they don't grow.

I kept them outdoors until the ground really froze - I think that was a little past Thanksgiving. Then they went in the cool basement under lights. They continued to show growth but a fungus gnat population started to increase, favoring the hellebores and cyclamen. Since we had a turn of mild weather, the tray went back outdoors again, coming in at night though I forgot a few times. The gnats went away from those pots for now. The plants seemed to appreciate some time outdoors and a little fertilizer though I may be getting too daring with the temps.

If it is a cold day, I leave the tray on my window seat. I don't bring it in the basement under lights anymore as that real estate has been taken. They are handling the lower light fine as the armature of these plants isn't weighted on a single stem.

One pot seems to be suffering. The cotyldons have died off and the true leaves have some brown. I am not sure if that is from forgetting to bring them in or a fungus in that pot or because I started to fertilized a little. I should have took some notes when it started. I am going to repot them today and see what happens.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:18PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Well, I guess I pushed the limits on these, letting them go outside during the day these last few weeks even though the pots didn't freeze. They really scorched from the cold. They are now happier under lights until temps stay in the forties. The cyclamen is much more hardy, even the florist type. I think I might lose a few.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 4:33PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

I hate to say but many are slowly dying. Whether the roots got too cold or they have a pathogen, I don't know. I did notice when I repotted, that some had nice white roots and some were dark and although they were all growing at that point, that wasn't a good sign. Those that had trouble throwing off their seed coats were the first to go so maybe that had something to do with it after all. A few appear to still be healthy but they have a little brown and I feel it will slowly spread. Since this is not the first time this has happened to me, I think I will have to forgo the organic method and use a systemic if I want to try growing hellebores from seed again.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 8:30PM
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