Growing from seed

Jane McGary
Tue, 19 Nov 2002 16:10:42 PST
Uli Urban mentioned pretreating seeds to break dormancy, in connection with
Cyclamen seed. This is a subject that does not come up too much with bulb
seed but alpine growers are maniacs about it. Dishwashing detergent, as Uli
mentioned, is sometimes used. Hydrogen peroxide at the "household use"
dilution may be recommended, although Josef Halda recommends a stronger
solution. Some growers experiment with gibberelic acid (GA3), with mixed
results; I have not had good results with it.

The boiling water treatment Uli mentioned for Fabaceae (pea family) is
used, but some growers prefer to scarify the seeds mechanically. I put them
on a pad of sandpaper and brush over them lightly with a fine metal file. 

Some seeds contain germination inhibitors that have to be leached out.
Perhaps the floating method does this. A technique for germinating certain
Iris species is to place the seeds in the cut-off foot of a nylon stocking
and suspend this in the tank of a toilet (water closet). Every time the
toilet is flushed, the seeds get a fresh bath. Doing this for 2-3 weeks is
said to improve germination of, e.g., Iris missouriensis.

Most bulb seeds don't seem to need pretreatment. The most recalcitrant
germinators are Colchicum and the irises of the Juno, Regelia, and
Oncocyclus sections.

Jane McGary
NW Oregon

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