Starting from seeds

Jane McGary
Fri, 26 May 2006 10:13:23 PDT
I also have grown a lot of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus from seed over the 
years, having started with 3 bulbs of the "typical" form (which may 
actually be a garden selection) and one of the "leichtlinii" form (which 
may actually have occurred in all populations). My plants usually set seed 
well without hand pollination. I have about 20 flowering bulbs in the frame 
now and usually have some extras to sell every other year. I also send 
seeds to the NARGS exchange. I keep the seed pots outdoors on my roofed 
deck as long as the weather is not actually freezing them hard and bring 
them inside once they start germinating. The problem is keeping them from 
etiolating (getting long and floppy), and you have to watch for aphids. 
Most of the seedlings make bulbs, but not all. Before planting the seeds, I 
store them (and all other home-saved seeds of the current year) in a paper 
packet at the back of a kitchen counter, but our summers here are NOT 
HUMID, as they are in eastern North America, so the seeds stay nice and dry 
as they would in nature. As for growing this plant, after reading about the 
recent discovery of surviving wild populations, I realized that it grows 
pretty much like a deciduous Lewisia in the mountains of California; so if 
you're growing Lewisia brachycalyx, say, you could treat the Tecophilaea 
the same way, and by chance I have these two plants nearly adjacent in my 
bulb frame. In regard to offsets, I think my bulbs about double in number 
every 2 years, or sometimes triple. In nature, it probably depends more on 
seed than on offsetting, since it grows in vernally moist areas that would 
be conducive to germination, and these soils, at least as far as I've 
observed in the region (I haven't seen the Teco. populations!), are quite 
poor in nutrients, so it would be advantageous for the plant to move around 
over the years by seeding.

Regarding growing colchicums from seed, I have grown a lot that way, but 
the germination is almost always very erratic. You should keep the seed 
pots for many years. I keep them outdoors except during very cold weather, 
when I carry all the seed flats indoors. Some people think it's 
advantageous to dry the seed pots out in summer, but I don't leave them 
completely unwatered. When they do germinate, one tends to see several 
species emerge within days of one another, even if they were planted over 3 
or 4 years. Like John Lonsdale, I find C. kesselringii easy and C. luteum 
very difficult, though the C. luteum I got from Janis Ruksans has now 
flowered 3 years running (it was damaged by low temperature this winter, 

Mary Sue remarked that some Triteleia (and I suppose related genera) 
species offset well and others don't, and I also noticed this. Most of them 
produce a lot of offsets, though, and are well worth trying. I think this 
pattern must be an adaptation to being dug up by gophers, bears, etc., 
though I don't find rodent predation a problem on this group of bulbs here, 
where gophers and bears are, fortunately, uncommon. And yes, clones that 
offset profusely are of course selected for propagation in the Dutch bulb 
industry, and this is one reason why some of them are invasive or seem to 
offset at the expense of flowering.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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