The Q&A Archives: Houseplants From Seed

Question: What are the best houseplants to grow from seed, and how should they be cared for?

Answer: You can start houseplants from seed indoors the same way you start vegetables and annual flowers for transplanting to your garden. Plants that can be easily started from seed include flowering maple, asparagus ferns (not true ferns), palms, crotons, false aralias, and freesia, though there are many, many more.

Seeds can be started in pots or seed pans. For the growing medium, prepare a mixture of sand and peat moss in equal portions by volume. Use fine sand and peat moss for small seeds. Larger seeds can often be started in slightly coarser mixtures that can include vermiculite or perilite. It is also possible to start seeds in commercial sterilized potting soil; if this is used, pack the soil down firmly, sprinkle the seeds evenly over the surface of the soil, then sieve a small quality of the soil mixture over the seeds. This will assure that the seeds are in close contact with the soil.

As a general guideline, plant at a depth that is twice the diameter of the seed. Very small seeds such as begonia seeds are left uncovered.

After planting, moisten the medium without disturbing the seeds. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. To keep the moisture level high, cover the pots or pans with a sheet of glass or place them in clear plastic bags and tie. For seeds that take a relatively long time to germinate, you may have to add water occasionally to keep the medium damp.

Many houseplants will take more than 3 weeks to germinate - so be patient. The seeds can be kept in the dark or given indirect light, but it is important that they receive a bright, indirect light upon germination. When the seeds germinate, be sure to remove the plastic or glass; otherwise the seedlings will be susceptible to dampening-off and other problems.

Seed packages will usually have directions about recommended care of the seedlings, and of mature plants.

Good luck with your new plants!

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