Starting winter growing seed/Veltheimia seed

Mary Sue Ittner
Mon, 09 Feb 2004 08:06:27 PST
Dear All,

I looked through all my records of starting Veltheimia seed and saw my best 
results came from starting seed in early October when it would have been 
very warm here. The next time I have a chance at V. bracteata (bi-color) 
seed I'll try bottom heat since I have no survivors from my other attempts 
at that seed. Over the years I've been collecting hints for particular 
kinds of seed so will add this suggestion about Veltheimia.

There are so many factors to consider in starting seed. Some seed is 
notoriously short lived and needs to be started right away and other seed 
needs a curing so to speak before it will come up. Vic Girrard in a talk on 
growing bulbs from seed offered a helpful rule that often works. If a bulb 
comes from an area with winter rainfall start the seed in fall and if from 
summer rainfall start in spring. This is why Alberto suggested we add 
information to the BX offerings so people would know when to start their 

Rachel Saunders has said many times that a number of the South Africa 
species (especially Irids) from the winter rainfall Cape area need a change 
from day and night temperatures to germinate properly. They are best 
started in the fall when days are still warm and nights cool. Bottom heat 
for those might make the temperatures in the soil too uniform. Veltheimia 
bracteata is not a winter rainfall Cape species however. In my experience 
you can keep those first seedlings of this species growing for a year or 
more before they go dormant which may give you more flexibility in timing. 
Some seedlings go dormant when the weather gets warmer (again a lot of the 
South African irids) so starting them in early fall (instead of winter) if 
you live in a climate with hot summers gives your seedlings more time to 
grow and form a larger bulb or a corm before they go dormant which gives 
them a better chance of surviving that first dormancy. If you live in a 
climate with cool summers you may get by with starting seeds later. I know 
someone who has success with some of the seeds I've been talking about with 
a late winter sowing, but his summers aren't hot.

Last year I started most of my Calochortus seed in February and I had my 
best survival rate yet. I used to start seed in fall or even early winter 
and most would come up during our wettest coldest time of the year and go 
down rather promptly as well.

I wonder how long the seed of Veltheimia bracteata remains viable.

Mary Sue
Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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