The Q&A Archives: Starting columbine seed

Question: I can't get seed from my beautifully colored columbines to germinate, either indoors or out. What's the secret? Mrs. James Harris Fairview Heights, IL

Answer: Replant freshly collected seed within one month. If you wait longer, a dormancy inhibitor takes over, says Dave Bowman, co-owner of Crownsville Nursery, growers of more than 10 varieties of columbines in Crownsville, Maryland. The easiest way to grow columbines is to plant immediately after you collect the seed, either in a nursery row in your garden, or broadcast it where you want volunteers. If the seed goes dormant or you are starting with a packet from a seed company, sow seeds in a slightly moistened soilless mix in plastic trays or pots. Hold them for six to 10 weeks in a 32 F to 40 F location - a refrigerator or outdoors in the shade in early spring. Bowman notes that you may not get seedlings of the same color as your mother plants. Seedfrom hybrid varieties won't come true, and even open-pollinated species types will cross and give you a mix of colors.

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