Seeds Sprouting in December!

mikeybobDecember 20, 2008

We had about a month of cold weather and now it's been warmer and the ground has thawed out. I have a few trays of hellebore seeds outside and I thought I'd better check them and they are sprouting already! We had a winter like this a few years ago and my planters of hellebore seeds didn't have a single sprout that spring. So I'm going to bring a couple of trays indoors for the winter. I think next time I may try planting the seed trays later, maybe in December, and see if that way they will be more likely to come up in the spring.

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Where are you - what type climate?

The self sown seedlings in my gardens have been germinating for the last 6 weeks or better. We're having unsually cold weather (daytime highs below freezing with some snow) the past several days and so far the seedlings appear to be fine - although I admit to not being out inspecting the beds daily :)

Sowing the seeds to place outdoors in December works well, if they have been moist stored. Hellebore seeds do best with a period of minimum 45 days warm moist before being exposed to cold - If you sow seeds that have been dry stored in December, more likely you would see germination about one year from December. They need the moist warm, followed by moist cold, raising to cool to germinate....in that order.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 11:55AM
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mikeybob

I'm at the most southern part of Zone 6. I don't see any self sown seedlings here yet, but I imagine the seeds are about to start cracking and rooting, as they are in my seed trays. I think that seeds sprouting this early would make it through the winter here if they were in the ground, but probably not in trays and planters. I may bring a tray or two indoors, and make room for a couple of trays in a little coldframe.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 12:59AM
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bubba62

Have to agree with morz8 re. seed storage - hellebore seeds stored dry until December would be very slow to germinate, if they did so at all. You'd be surprised at the cold tolerance of hellebore seedlings, but you may be right about bringing them in at this stage. A coldframe would be the very best option, if that's a possibility. I have a great folding model made like a tent out of clear, reinforced vinyl; it folds up flat for summer storage.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 3:28AM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

You've got another delimma now though don't you? If you bring them inside after they've sprouted they need light.

And I thought they had to have x amount of cold time before they would sprout? Did you have them in the fridge already? I've kept seeds in bags with moist medium for the warm period and then tossed them into the veggie bin for their cold period until I was ready to transfer them outside. And they do sprout in the fridge, so it is not necesarily the warmth that is triggering them.

I've buried seed trays in mounds of leaves to winter them over, but then you play the game of covering and uncovering, especially with new leaves showing. Make more room in that cold frame!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 11:59PM
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mikeybob

I have some shop lights and usually grow seedlings under them in the winter, but I already have a few dozen h. torquatus and h. viridis seedlings that I sprouted in the refrigerator, and also I have some rhododendron seedlings (scintillation x ruby hart), and several other little things. And now I'm going to also have a tray of 50 hellebores. I think what I'll do is put the hellebores under the lights at night and then put the other plants under the lights in the daytime.

The seeds that were sprouting outdoors were planted in trays when the seeds were fresh and kept outdoors. In november it turned cold here and the ground froze hard as a rock. It was cold for about a month. And then it turned warmer and one day I was watering the seed trays and noticed a few sprouts on the surface with inch long roots that had gotten heaved out of the soil or something, and I realized that the seed trays were sprouting and winter was about to come. A few years ago we had a winter like this, where November was frozen over and December was warm, and that spring I didn't get a single hellebore sprout from my trays or planters. So this time I brought a tray indoors and moved a couple into the coldframe. BTW, right after that, after my first post, we got a cold snap and it dropped down to zero degrees, so I'm glad I acted. And the trays I care less about I left outside, so I'll see if they make it through the winter.

I think it may not be just the cold that kills the seedlings, I think it may be that the containers will freeze and then thaw partially such that the top is way too wet and the bottom is frozen and they can't drain and the seeds rot.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 12:51PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

How about an update on your seeds/sprouts?

When I pot up my seeds and plant them outside, I use the deep black plastic containers that nursery plants are sold in. I have much more success with them because they don't dry out as quickly or need as much fussing as smaller containers.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 9:29PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

claysoil, also root development is better in pots. The first time I sowed hellebore seeds the note that came with them (Elizabeth Town) said the extra root depth gave 'far superior root systems' - I have sown them in 4x5s (5" deep) ever since.

I really hadn't noticed 'tray' in the first post on this thread until you pointed it out.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 1:50AM
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mikeybob

Well, I'm glad I tried several different things, because some of them may not be working so well.

The tray I moved inside has one sprout, while the tray in the coldframe and the trays outdoors have no sprouts. Also in the coldframe is a large windowbox, about two feet long and a foot deep, and that has seedlings coming up now, more every day, and they look healthy. And this is a good time for them to come up, I think, with three months left until the last frost date. The windowbox is a convenient shape, allowing me to plant the seeds in about 20 little rows and label each row. I think that's what I'd do again next year.

I also have a few h. viridis and h. torquatus seedlings indoors, but only 20% or so have come up. I think I'll move them out to the coldframe after this next cold spell. I think they don't like the warm dry indoors and much prefer the cold moist coldframe. I sprouted these seeds in the refrigerator and then planted them indoors and they just seem reluctant to come up.

And shortly after starting this thread I put some seeds in jars and they have been in the refrigerator for a few weeks now so I need to do something with them soon. And then I took the rest of my seeds, a generous amount of single flowering mixed hybrid seeds from Broughton Nursery, and put them into a container which I moved into the refrigerator last week. I have been using fired clay particles that are sold as a soil conditioner as a medium. I tried using perlite but I seemed to have more problems with mold and such.

I was thinking maybe I could take some of these seeds in the refrigerator and try planting them in an 8' row and then placing an 8' 2x4 over them, to keep the chipmunks off and to kill the grass, so that in the spring I could pick up the board and have a neat row of seedlings.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 9:05PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

You have quit a production going Mikeybob!

Your last comments...you mean you are going to plant the seeds where grass is growing? I don't think the 2 x 4 is wide enough to kill all the roots from grass growing around the board? And what's to keep it from growing back after you lift the oard? My seedlings don't get big enough the first year to compete with established grass. The grass would grow taller than they do!

You could think ahead to next year and lay out some newspaper and cover that with mulch. That'll kill established grass and get a wider bed ready. Or if you do it now, maybe it would be ready in time for transplanting? I give this a couple of months myself.

This is the first year that I've actually prepared garden beds for seeds rather than pot them up in some way. Probably because I now have areas where I am winning the battle with weeds and because I have many established hellebores to enjoy. Note that these were all collected seed and not anything I had purchased. I anticipate lots of seedlings with no fuss from me over watering and moving pots around, but we'll see if they are harder to transplant and I have more losses in the end.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:10AM
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mikeybob

I tried direct sowing hellebore seeds a few years ago. I planted them in nice little rows with labels, but in the spring nothing came up there. Nearby in some mulch I saw nice clumps of hellebore seedlings, and it was obvious to me that the chipmunks had collected the seeds I planted and buried them elsewhere. I haven't tried direct sowing since then, but I was thinking it might be easy to plant hundreds of seeds in a row and place a board over them, and then once they sprout I could dig up the seedlings and do something with them.

I am thinking of trading many of them ... sometimes people post pictures of the nicest hellebores, on this forum and elsewhere, and as that happens this season, I may reply with an offer to trade for seedlings or pollen.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 12:07PM
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susie-nc

Hi Mickeybob...............when you direct sow your seed make a square wooden box using 1x3 lumber..make it as large as you need.....cover(STAPLE) with rat wire or chicken wire........sit the box over your area ...nothing will get in it...it works for me......Diane

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 12:16PM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

I've read that ants carry the seeds around because there is something in the coating they like? I was thinking of throwing some chicken grit over mine....

I thought that if I had an over abundance of small plants I could take them to one of our local swaps, but you never know what you'll get at one of them. Hope you get enough seedlings for trading.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:43PM
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mikeybob

Direct sowing with a screen to protect the seeds sounds like a good idea. I had pretty good results planting seeds in a large container in a coldframe, but I am noticing that many seeds didn't sprout, and with some crosses none of the seeds sprouted. I am also noticing that whenever I had good germination the seeds came from the same plant.

One cross I made was between two plants with dark red flowers, and I can see in the little seedlings that some have dark red stems ... I think I could sprout lots of these next year and just pick out a few seedlings with the most stem color and grow them on. I am wondering if plants with deep yellow flowers would have yellow coloration in the seedlings.

One of my seedlings looks different ... the first true leaves are appearing, and the new leaves are light green in every seedling but one, and it has a leaf that is dark green with whitish ridges. Here's a picture of it with a typical seedling next to it for comparison:

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 2:28PM
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