The Q&A Archives: Germinating Seeds

Question: I purchased Hellebore, orientalis hybrid seeds. The info sent states they need 2 periods of outdoor freezing to germinate. Can I do this by placing them in the freezer for several weeks to speed up the process? I live on Cape Cod.

Answer: The refrigerator is usually cold enough to simulate the cold winter weather (or they can be potted and set outside in a cold frame during the real winter). Plant the seeds in a pot of barely damp soilless mix and wrap it in plastic wrap to maintain humidity, set this in the refrigerator for a month or so. Open the wrap occasionally to allow for air exchange. Next, bring the seed pot into a bright and warm location and see if they germinate. Keep the soil moist during this time. If nothing happens after several months, repeat the cold treatment and try again. These seeds are somewhat notoriously difficult to germinate, although plants that are happy in the garden are known to self seed prolifically. The old Thompson Morgan seed starting book says these may take a year or so to start, which would indicate the possibility of needing a second chilling period.

On his web site,

Tom Clothier's instructions are slightly more specific:

"Helleborus argutifolius, croaticus, dyclophyllus, dumetorum, foetidus, lividus, multifidus, niger, odorus, orientalis, purpurescens, vesicarius, viridis, and x sternii , Pour hot water over seeds, let soak 1-3 days until swelling noticeable. Sow at 22?C (71?F) for 6 wks or more. Move to -4 to +4?C (24-39?F) for 6-8 wks. Then raise the temperature to 10?C (50?F). If no germination in 4-6 wks, repeat the cycle from the beginning. If the warm/cold cycles were not long enough, a new warm/cold cycle is needed. short viable. "

Good luck with your seeds!

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