Watsonia from seed

Johannes-Ulrich Urban via pbs pbs@lists.pacificbulbsociety.net
Tue, 13 Oct 2020 01:25:09 PDT
´╗┐Hello Martin,

My own personal experience with growing Watsonia from seed is mixed. I find germinating them is no problem at all, the seed does not even have to be fresh. As with most Iridaceae properly stored seed lives for several years.
So far I have not grown many Watsonia from seed so my experience is somewhat limited. Mine are all winter growing and summer dormant.
When I repotted my bulb seedlings this summer to prepare their start into a new winter growing season, I had a seedling pot of Watsonia aff. laccata bulging with nice corms and another pot with few but strong bulbs of Watsonia borbonica, both from a November 2018 sowing. 
So I went on potting only to discover that a pot of Watsonia pillansii seedlings, the dry leaves were still on, had nothing in it. Same mixed experience with some winter growing Gladiolus species. 
The first dormancy is always the critical time.
I have kept my seed pots in shade and watered lightly every 3 or 4 weeks in constantly hot weather. In general I would say most losses during the first dormant period are due to desiccation. But for the Watsonia pillansii I had the feeling that they rotted as the tunics were still there. The pots are stored and moved around in crates so maybe with collective hand watering the odd individual pot received too much.
Sometimes the combination of very warm soil together with water at the wrong time can cause losses. But it is so difficult to find out the exact individual needs of each dormant species......
As you live in a cooler and moister climate than me, Martin,  my recommendation for you is to keep the dormant bulbs on the dry side without baking them.  They may also stay in the green for longer with a cooler spring which is very good for them. This gives them more time to build up their corms and shortens the critical period. Sometimes seedling bulbs do not at all go dormant for a year, then of course they need careful watering all the time.
As I have harvested a lot of seed from my Watsonia marginata, I will share it with the PBS and do a good sowing myself once the weather cools down.

Here are two pictures of both Watsonia, just sprouting. You can see my approach to combine different bulbs in one pot, Oxalis in this case.

Bye for now 

Uli 

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