Helleborus from seed: preventing mold during fridge cycle?

maryneedssleep(5a (PA))November 15, 2009

Any tips for preventing mold and mildew during the cold wet fridge cycle?

I used 8 weeks of warm (72F)/ moist followed by 8 weeks cool/moist (in my fridge, ~40F). I did not soak the seeds first (I now know to do that next time), but I watered the medium pretty well -- it was wet for the 1st couple days.

I used new, unopened, supposedly sterile growing medium in double ziplocs. Most seeds grew mold during the fridge cycle. None germinated.

For the next attempt, I first microwaved the growing medium for 10 min on high before using it (once it cooled). I also sprayed the seeds & medium with Captan fungicide. No luck -- still had mold. Again, very few seeds grew mold during the warm cycle (and I threw out those bags); the fridge cycle seemed to be the worst. So no germination with my 2nd attempt either.

Any suggestions? Should I just give up and buy plants?

Last question: how long does helleborus seed last? If I can get 2008 seed (which must be 18 months old now!), is it worth another attempt?


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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm only guessing, but I wonder if your sowing medium could be too moist?

I haven't found seeds mildewing or molding to be an issue but my technique is a little different than yours...and I don't use a commercial fungicide.

Seeds from my own plants are sown within a month of harvest, pots are left outdoors. Seeds that are not from my own plants that arrive dry are soaked overnight, then put into a 2x3" zip lock of sterile moist (like a well squeezed sponge, not soggy) sand or sterile moist vermiculite. The bag doesn't need to be filled, just a teaspoon or two of medium is plenty for 20-40 seeds. The bag is dated and stays on my desk for 6-8 weeks.

When the moist warm period is completed, I sow the seeds (4x5" deep pots to allow for root growth), top pots with grit, and either place them outside, or wrap in saran and put into my refrigerator.

If you are ordering seeds, you might ask what year they were harvested - it should be close to the time that this years seeds are available.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 11:45AM
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maryneedssleep(5a (PA))

Thank you for your help. I think I will buy a few plants to start out, and maybe I'll have better luck in the future with fresh seed from my own plants.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 11:02AM
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loretta5_gw(Z6 PA)

I just saw this post so this won't help you this year but next year when you put the seed in the refrigerator, use only vermiculite in the baggie with the seeds. With damp (not dripping wet) vermiculite I've never had any mold or mildew problems. I also put the seed in baggies with vermiculite for the warm moist stratification period. Then just transfer the baggie to the refrigerator. They germinate in in the refrigerator in the baggies. When I see green leaves I transplant them into pots.

I'm not certain but I think 18 month old seed may be too old for good germination. I've sown seed the January following its ripening and gotten good germination but eighteen months may be too long. The longer the seed is stored dry the more dessicated it becomes and at some point viability is lost.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 12:00PM
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maryneedssleep(5a (PA))

Thanks Loretta! Next summer I will try again with just vermiculite.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 10:18PM
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