Aloes From Seed
I ordered some zone 8- and zone 9-hardy Aloe species this fall. Most have come up (winter and summer types) with 70 F nights and 82-84 F days. IÂll keep them under fluorescent lights for the winter, but in a bright window. If the winter growing-types get large enough I might put them outside for sunny days in January and February.
The all seem to be doing well in a mix that is about 40% compost, 25% perlite, 35% coarse sand. I put them on the surface of the compost, and watered them in and then put about 1/8 inch of sand over the seeds. If the sand washed down into the soil mix I put another 1/8 inch. I placed them in a plastic container with clear plastic over the top, and misted them every few days with Consan Triple Action 20 (1 ounce per gallon of water). I placed the seed pots so that the soil surface is 8-10 inches below four 40 Watt bulbs (4 foot long bulbs). The first seeds were up in 10-12 days; two hybrids are just coming up now after about 3 Â½ weeks, a few more types have not germinated.
Overall, I have tried about 4 dozen species and hybrids this year. I purchased seed from Silverhill Seeds (http://www.silverhillseeds.co.za/) and from a another source in South Africa (http://storm.prohosting.com/farm4u/index.htm).
The latter place was interesting to me because of the low prices featured. Seeds cost anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar (US) for packets. The packets are generous, they all arrive with 50 or more seeds per packet (some had 70 or more). So far, the germination rate for this new seed source has been very good. I planted 15-20 seeds of each type, and over 70% of the varieties have produced seedlings. I suppose the others might germinate this week or next, or perhaps IÂll have to try the nonresponders again.
I measure the germination success in terms of "percent of species that germinate", as opposed to "percent of germination per species." Thus, if Aloe ferox gives only 2 seedlings (out of 15 planted), I count that as a success. IÂve sort of developed this way of measuring over the years. The best success IÂve ever had is with Mesa Garden seeds (www.mesagarden.com), but even there I would say the overall success rate is about 75-80%. Succulents just come with their own set of rules about germination, sometimes I get it right and other times a species just will not germinate.
So, if you like Aloes, and want a choice that is different from Silverhill Seeds or Mesa Garden, do try this new source. The Web site features a good FAQ, has wonderful habitat photos of Aloe species, and I found the owner very responsive. She sent the seeds via registered mail so that they could be tracked. Additionally, she was happy to provide advice and make suggestions when I asked for help.
IÂm looking forward to trying these new plants outdoors in a couple of years. I tried to choose plants that might survive our occasional frosts, but I suppose some will not be happy with Texas...