The Q&A Archives: Starting viola seeds

Question: I've tried to start viola seeds indoors unsuccessfully for two years now. What's the secret? Paula Tehlewitz McGaheysville, VA

Answer: Viola seeds need it cool (40 F) and dark to germinate properly, says David Quatchak, seedsman at Park Seed Company in Cokesbury, South Carolina. If you're only starting a small number of seeds, you can chill them in your refrigerator. Fill a small container with a moistened soilless mix, and sprinkle the seeds on the surface. Cover the container with a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator for three days. Then remove the container to a 70 F room and cover it with black plastic or a piece of cardboard or heavy paper. The seed should germinate in 10 to 20 days, Quatchak says. If you're starting many seeds and don't have room in your refrigerator, place the seeds in a moistened paper towel in the refrigerator for three days. The moistened seeds may stick together, however. To separate them after prechilling, mix the seeds with dry sand and then plant them in the flats as previously described, advises Quatchak.

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