Irises forum: Starting iris seeds.

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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Oct 18, 2014 3:52 AM CST
Marilyn asked about starting iris seeds, and I thought it might be a good topic for a new thread. I'm not an expert here, just doing it for a couple years. I read what Paul had put in a thread on Cubits. I let them soak in clean water for a week, changing the water every day. Then I put them on a damp paper towel and wrape them in aluminum foil and place them in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks or so. I check on them periodically after about a month, and sometimes you will see a tiny white root showing. Then I plant them in pots about a half inch deep and put them near a window. Last year I had some that really had a high germination rate, and some that didn't germinate at all. Sometimes they can can take up to 3 years to germinate I hear. I was told that Ghio's Staring took three years. Maybe Paul, Kent, Brad, and some others will add their techniques and we can all learn to be better at it.
This is what they look like when they first start to come up.
Thumb of 2014-10-18/tveguy3/48764e
This is what they looked like in June when I planted them into their beds
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I would have liked to get them in the ground before then, but I didn't have the bed prepared. I'm making the bed for next years this fall, so it will be ready. As you can see I'm stealing space from the veggie garden for this.
They're doing quite well now, some have lots of increases. I think the one with the most has 6, but many have 2 to 4 increases already. I hope some of them bloom next year.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
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Muddymitts
Oct 18, 2014 5:53 AM CST
That's interesting -- they increase before blooming!!
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
Name: Leslie
Durham, NC (Zone 8a)
Region: North Carolina Irises Cat Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers hot summers Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Lestv
Oct 18, 2014 7:19 AM CST
They were quite large by the time you planted them in June, so when did you actually start the process Tom? When did you start soaking the seeds - right after collecting them from the plant, or did you wait? Also, since some seeds can take years to germinate, do you re-pot the starts and leave the rest of the ungerminated seeds in the original pot in case they start growing later? If that is the case, then it sounds like a large amount of window space might be needed.
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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
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tveguy3
Oct 18, 2014 8:16 AM CST
After the pods dried out, I took the seeds out and put them on paper plates with their ID information on it to dry. After they were dry I put them in envelopes with with the ID info written on the outside, and stored them until I was ready to plant. I didn't start soaking them until the end ofJanuary last year, and them put them in the fridge in early Feb. I potted them in April, and now that I looked up my notes, I didn't line them out until July 31. Much later then I should have I'm thinking. I don't know what would happen if you would start them right after harvesting them, but I think they need to dry out before starting the planting process. I'm hoping to get the ball rolling earlier this year, maybe in Dec. It would be much nicer if I had a green house, I'm sure. I did keep the two pots that had none germinate, and I'm leaving them outside this winter, if they grow next spring, they grow, if not then they don't.

Mary Ann, I was surprised to at how quickly some of them started to increase.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Marilyn
Central California (Zone 9b)
Region: California Bee Lover Butterflies Birds Enjoys or suffers hot summers Composter
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Moiris
Oct 18, 2014 1:50 PM CST
Thanks Tom, that's very helpful! Thank You! I'd love to hear from Paul, Kent, Brad, or anyone else about how you prepare and plant your seeds.

I've been told that in our area we can plant the seeds in early December. Doug Karanowski said he plants them directly in the ground. Rick Tasco and Roger Roger Duncan plant them in pots that they put in a sheltered area (if I am remembering correctly). Of course we don't have the severe cold and long winters that many of you have to deal with.

Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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tveguy3
Oct 18, 2014 4:55 PM CST
I tried putting seeds into pots and setting them outside over winter. Didn't work well. Got one bee pod to germinate 3 seeds, and that was it.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Marilyn
Central California (Zone 9b)
Region: California Bee Lover Butterflies Birds Enjoys or suffers hot summers Composter
Annuals Dog Lover Cat Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Moiris
Oct 18, 2014 5:35 PM CST
I think that's probably due to the difference in temperature, the length of winter, difference in latitude (day length) etc. I'm hoping to hear from others who live in different parts of the country. Thanks for starting this thread! I tip my hat to you.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Oct 18, 2014 5:58 PM CST
We start them in pots outside. there is plenty of cold weather to give them the chill which they need. Probably not as many germinate as with the refrigerator work, but for us that wouldn't be fun. We have a trench & the pots are in that for the winter. Screen over the top for protection, but when DH redid the area this summer, the sides were left open. I don't like that & will use some boards to block the opening.
Name: Marilyn
Central California (Zone 9b)
Region: California Bee Lover Butterflies Birds Enjoys or suffers hot summers Composter
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Moiris
Oct 18, 2014 6:59 PM CST
Lucy, when do you plant them...and about when do they sprout?
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
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Paul2032
Oct 18, 2014 9:44 PM CST
I haven't been chatting here for some time but will add my 2 cents. My goal was to see bloom as soon as possible and I can be obsessive.......I gathered my seed as the pods matured in the fall. I let the seed dry for a few weeks on paper plates and then in late Oct or early November I soaked them for a few days in luke warm water in plastic cups, changing the water daily. After a week or so of soaking I dumped the seeds on to several thickness of paper towel, folded in to a packet, moistened it, folded the packet into a square of aluminum foil, labeled with the cross, put the whole works into a sealable plastic bag and put them into the vegetable keeper. After 6-8 weeks I started checking the seed and found some crosses had started to germinate. I started potting them up in a seedling starting mix, made certain they were moist but not to wet, put the container into a plastic bag, seal, then I put them on top of my kitchen cupboards where it is warm. As the little green leaves began to show I removed the plastic bags and moved them to sunny windows and then under lights as I ran out of space. I pushed them with dilute fertilizer as I watered. Again, being obsessive, mid-March I started transplanting them into individual pots and continued to grow them on. I had prepared my bed the previous fall.....In mid-May I lined them out. At this point in time a number were several inches tall and many had increases. As I took them out of the pots they had nice root systems and didn't suffer any transplant shock. This step wasn't necessary but........They grew vigorously all summer. When I cleaned them up the following spring I actually found 3 that had tried to bloom the same summer as I had planted the seedlings out but had frozen as winter came on. I think I had nearly 100% bloom the year after they germinated. in the ground it takes 2-or 3 years to bloom. I will look for pictures.....
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Oct 18, 2014 9:56 PM CST
They germinate in May. I want they out into the garden by early June. That is not as quick as plants from people having done much more work, but frankly, it would take all the fun out of it. Also remember we do not work with tall bearded iris, although I do work with borders. SDBs & MTBs are our main interests.
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
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Paul2032
Oct 18, 2014 10:25 PM CST
Crosses made in 2010.....Seed started in 2011.......Bloom in 2012 using my method....
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Thumb of 2014-10-19/Paul2032/55657bHere are some I discarded after bloom. I have limited space......

Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
[Last edited by Paul2032 - Oct 18, 2014 10:31 PM (+)]
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Name: Brad
iowa (Zone 5a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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ARUBA1334
Oct 18, 2014 10:51 PM CST
Marilyn I followed Paul's advice on starting them so I use the same procedure as Tom the only difference I think may be the soil we use a growers mix similar to potting soil and mine are grown in a Greenhouse to help speed them along. I went 5 weeks this year in the fridge and had many that had rooted right through the paper towel so we planted them paper towel and all and they grew just fine as the paper towel will dissolve. I don't have much advice for planting them outside have seen it done this way but I prefer the greenhouse in our climate the winters are just to harsh, I'm sure I could get some to grow but the greenhouse gave me a really high germination rate quickly. I used Azalea pots for just about everything because the roots grow so fast in a perfect conditions and I wanted them as big as possible in May to plant outside. I was hoping to expermient with some this year and try to get them started now in October and push them to see if they grew all winter and then I set the pots outside for a month to chill in early March could I get them to bloom early Shrug! or in the same year the growth is so fast in perfect conditions, but that project will have to wait for another time still have lot's of yard work to get done before the ground freezes here and need to take care of what is growing. Here are some pictures that show the growth from seed till the end of August will get some updated ones tommorrow. These pictures show you what can be done in 6 months from seed.

Feb 7th (took them out of the fridge) & Feb 26th ( multiple showing)
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March 8th ( about a month after planting) March 20th ( same pot as above)
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March 20th & April 1st
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April 9th & April 28th
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May 6th I got the new bed ready this week and trucked in multiple loads of dirt we spread it with a bobcat and tilled it in which was great on my back but hard on the grass Hilarious!
Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/393af9 Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/cfd7a0

May 12th I started Lining them out and figured out I need more space Smiling
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June 1st (good growth) Aug 2nd ( plants have taken now)
Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/a49147 Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/37645e

Aug 2nd ( my additional space) Aug 28th ( They are starting to set increase still growing)
Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/74a1fa Thumb of 2014-10-19/ARUBA1334/4fe7b6

Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Annuals Echinacea Vegetable Grower Hybridizer
Tomato Heads Garden Photography Birds Cut Flowers Foliage Fan Plays in the sandbox
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Paul2032
Oct 18, 2014 11:05 PM CST
Great info Brad........I am anticipating seeing your seedlings next spring. Is their a special cross you are looking forward to?
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Oct 18, 2014 11:21 PM CST
Paul -- that entire bed of gorgeous flowers are all your own hybrids????? They are bea-U-tiful!!! Lovey dubby

And BTW -- why don't you talk to us anymore?
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
Name: Marilyn
Central California (Zone 9b)
Region: California Bee Lover Butterflies Birds Enjoys or suffers hot summers Composter
Annuals Dog Lover Cat Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Moiris
Oct 18, 2014 11:37 PM CST
Wow Paul and Brad, that is amazing...thanks for all the detail and and photos! That is a huge help! Thumbs up I'll need to move things around in order to make window space if I decide to give them a head start inside.

Lucy, I might try the intensive method the first year...then decide if I can keep up with the work in the following years. It's good to know that there are many options and the process seems to work whichever way you choose (within reason). Hurray!

I really appreciate the time all of you have taken to share your methods. Thank You! Hopefully there are others out there who will benefit from your posts too! And by starting it as a thread under a new name Tom we will be able to find it easily for future reference! I tip my hat to you.
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Irises Vegetable Grower Butterflies Region: Wisconsin Keeps Horses Cat Lover
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tveguy3
Oct 19, 2014 3:42 AM CST
Great information! Thanks for sharing! It's good to know that the seeds will do well that quickly after harvesting them. Paul, I notice that a lot of the same colors are grouped. I'm guessing it's because they were the same cross, and a lot of them look alike? I haven't had a bloom season yet, so I kind of expect a lot of them to be alike from the same cross. It's interesting that out of a group of one color, there is sometimes one that is completely different every once in a while. I'm hoping to get some to bloom next year, but thinking most likely they will need two years. That culling part is what I hope I'm able to do. I know I can't keep them all.

Brad, thanks for sharing, I know you are in your busy time for work yet, so it's great that you had time to tell us about your process. I got to see Brad's bunch of seedlings in the green house the year before last. They were some really nice big ones growing then. Those are some very nice beds of seedlings going there Brad, I can't wait to see them blooming next spring. I sure hope I can make it down there again next spring. I know how long it took to plant just the few I had last spring, it must have taken you a long time to get all of those lined out. Now you have me all excited about getting my new seeds started. I don't have as many crosses this year as last, I had to be selective due to space and time. Having a goal or a few goals, allows me to choose my crosses more carefully, and to limit the number of crosses I make. It's so fun making crosses though, that it's hard to limit them. Maybe we could also talk about the "goal" part of it, as well as just making crosses randomly.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Susan
Keenesburg, Colorado (Zone 5a)
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MileHighGardner
Oct 19, 2014 7:00 AM CST
Thanks so much for sharing your technique! I've started some the traditional way and we'll see what pops up next year. Right now I have chestnuts in the frig for 3 month!
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
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janwax
Oct 19, 2014 10:28 AM CST
I wasn't going to write about this. I kept thinking it would show up.
Apparently the envelope holding the six precious seeds from my beepod
has been lost! They were on a cool windowsill that was being cleaned by my
DH. Clearly written outside - SAVE - Seeds.
I was so pi...ed off! Now I'm just sad.
He swears he didn't throw it out. So where is it? Crying
Iris is the goddess of the rainbow.
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Annuals Echinacea Vegetable Grower Hybridizer
Tomato Heads Garden Photography Birds Cut Flowers Foliage Fan Plays in the sandbox
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Paul2032
Oct 19, 2014 10:49 AM CST
The last few years of my life have been very challenging so I haven't made crosses recently. I may make a few next spring and grow a FEW seedlings. I may also make a few extra crosses and offer them to the regulars here.
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah

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