The Q&A Archives: Starting Seeds For Perenials

Question: I have some dried Black Eyed Susan seeds that I robbed from my Plants last year.
Can I start them in potting soil and Egg cartons in the window sill?
I would like to start other Perenials as well by seed , is this a good method?
What would you reccomend?

Answer: Black eyed susan seeds can be started indoors, however they usually need a period of about three weeks in the refrigerator first. This will simulate a winter chilling period as they would receive naturally in the garden.

Place them in a closed plastic bag with some clean, barely damp, peat moss or vermiculite or fresh soilless potting mix and put that in the refrigerator for several weeks.

After their winter chill, plant them (barely covered with soil)in dampened soilless potting mix. Cover the pot with plastic wrap to maintain humidity and place it in a bright location out of direct sun; ordinary room temperature should be fine. They should germinate within a week or two.

Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic covering and place them in brightest available light. A south facing window might be sufficient, but for best results use the more intense light of fluorescent shop lights with the bulbs kept an inch or two above the plants. Keep the soil evenly moist but not sopping wet.

I would recommend using a larger container for the seedlings, primarly since the egg carton cells are very small and dry out very quickly. This particular plant also seems to grow relatively fast and would soon outgrow those little containers. You could certainly use recycled disposable plastic or styrofoam cups or containers, however. (A five ounce cup would be about right assuming you are able to transplant them into the garden in mid spring.)

Before planting them in the garden you will need to condition them or harden them off. This means gradually acclimate them to the weather and real sunshine. To do this, set them outside in a protected location in early morning sun and each day increase the amount of sun they receive, little by little for about ten days, then plant them in the garden. Keep in mind that these plants probably will not bloom until their second year.

These general methods will work for many perennials, however some have specialized temperature ranges for germination and different chilling requirements. Many perennials can also be propagated by division or by rooted cutting, and these methods will produce larger blooming sized plants faster than you will get them from seed. You may also find seedlings out in the garden and can transplant them to more desirable locations -- this works best if done in early spring.

Have fun with your seeds! Good luck with your project!

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