Starting from seeds vs. from bulbs

Lee Poulsen
Fri, 26 May 2006 00:47:13 PDT
I know that many people recommend starting new, unfamiliar, or  
unusual species from seeds rather than from mature bulbs for a  
variety of good reasons, including things like freedom from viruses,  
the plant gets to adapt to your own particular climate starting from  
birth so to speak, no need for changing hemispheres for seeds from  
the opposite hemisphere, etc.

I've started many different species from seeds over the years and  
have had great success.

However, there seem to be the odd few where I have been spectacularly  
unsuccessful trying to start them from seeds while  simultaneously  
and sometimes surprisingly having had no problems growing them  
starting with an already mature bulb.

For example, it is almost embarrassingly easy for me to grow and  
multiply the various varieties of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus starting  
from just one bulb each. I treat them virtually identically to how I  
treat my Cape Bulbs on an annual basis. I've germinated seeds of T.  
cyanocrocus a number of times, and I germinate and grow them with my  
other Cape Bulb seeds that I'm germinating and growing. However,  
unlike the mature bulbs pots where each fall it seems that each bulb  
has added 2 or more additional offsets, very few to none of my pots  
of T. cyanocrocus seedlings bother to emerge in the fall/winter even  
though their neighbor Cape Bulb seedlings return to growth just fine.  
The few Tecos that do return grow just fine, but then finally  
disappear the second summer never to be seen again.

 From a different land of origin, Central Asia (aka the "-stan"  
countries), come some desirable bulbs. I debated even trying any of  
them because even though their springs, summers, and falls appear  
climatically similar to southern California's springs, summers, and  
falls. Their winters are much colder, freezing in fact, because of  
the very high elevations in that area. I've tried several different  
species from seeds from different sources several different times,  
and either because they need to be stratified or need the freezing  
winters, or something else?, they never germinate. However, in the  
case of two, the opportunity arose to obtain a mature bulb of each.  
These were Colchicum luteum and C. kesselringii. They both grew and  
bloomed their first year, but of course I expected that. But they  
have come back for two more years and both bloomed again each time.  
And they appear to be slowly getting larger in size. They both appear  
about halfway through our (relatively mild) winters. I've never  
gotten seeds of either of these to germinate.

So I wonder what other bulbs might not germinate under my conditions,  
but the bulbs, if germinated and grown to maturity elsewhere, will  
find my conditions acceptable or even likeable to grow in and  
multiply once they get past a certain indeterminate stage?

Have others experienced similar or analogous results with other  
species? Any good explanations as to why?

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA, USDA Zone 10a

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