The Q&A Archives: Stratifying Seeds

Question: I have to Prairie flowers I would like to plant. They require that they be stratified. I would like to know what would be the best pocedure. Or am I to late and should wait till next year?

The flowers are: Midland Turks Cap Lily (Lilium Michiganese)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia Cardinalis)

Answer: Stratification is a cold treatment. Some seeds need a period of moisture and cold after harvest before they will germinate. Usually this is necessary to either allow the embryo to mature, or to break dormancy. This cold period can be artificially stimulated by placing the moistened seed in a refrigerator for a certain period of time. Lobelia requires a 3 month stratification, and Turks Cap Lily needs a warm period, followed by a 2-3 month chilling period. If your seeds are properly stored (in an airtight container, kept in a cool, dark place), you might want to wait until next year, rather than trying to start them this late in the season. For perfect timing, count back 6-8 weeks from the average last frost in your area, then add 3 months. Mix the lobelia seeds with moistened growing medium, seal in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for 3 months. At the end of the chilling period, sow the seeds in trays or pots on the surface of moistened seed starting mix. Press them in slightly, and place in a warm area. The seeds should germinate in 15-21 days at 65F -70F degrees. You can start the lily seeds indoors in autumn. Soak seeds for 24 hours, then place in a bag together with moistened growing medium and seal lightly. Keep at about 70F. After 4 weeks begin to check for growth. Move the bag to the refrigerator when the first bulblets appear and chill for 2-3 months. Then remove and plant bulblets in individual pots.

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