All Things Gardening forum: I'm trying to grow seeds 50+ years old!

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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Mar 30, 2017 2:12 PM CST
I found a few unopened seed packets in my Grandparents basement, some are about 50 years old and one from 1920! Being its extremely rare to find old seeds preserved I want to attempt to grow them, I don't know but some might be heirlooms you can't find anymore.

Any helpful tips to get best germination are appreciated.

Thumb of 2017-03-30/keithp2012/700705

Name: Rob Duval
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robertduval14
Mar 30, 2017 2:18 PM CST

Plants Admin

that's pretty cool.

Seeing the 'Detroit Dark Red' beet is very telling about how good it is...it's still one of the most grown cultivars in home gardens today.
Name: Elena
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bxncbx
Mar 30, 2017 2:34 PM CST
And here I was all proud of myself for germinating some pansy seeds this year from 2001! I think it's great that you found those seeds and want to grow them! I have absolutely no experience growing seeds that old. The oldest seeds I've grown was last year with seeds from 1997.

The only thing I would suggest is starting them indoors. I don't know about you but I have too many critters pecking and digging in my yard to risk planting them directly (which is normally perfectly fine for those seeds). Plus you can control the temperature, moisture level, etc much better to give them the best chance of germinating.

Good luck! Let us know if you get any to germinate! I'd love to see pictures and know how you did it!
Name: Karen
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plantmanager
Mar 30, 2017 2:42 PM CST
I've grown a lot of old seeds, but never any that old, Keith! I'm sure at least some of them will grow, and you'll have the fun of knowing you're planting something your grandparents chose.
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Mar 30, 2017 5:56 PM CST
Keith Thumbs up lucky you !
Look to be perfect condition.
Basement, perty good storeage.

I've keep some of mine in refrigerator. Some 20 years. Still germinate.

I'd wait before opening any packets.
They could be worth some bucks to a collector.

And if ! There heirlooms, that cant be found anymore. A GOLDMINE !!!

I'd check it out !😁!
😎😎😎
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Zinnias Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Annuals Spiders! Hybridizer Garden Photography
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keithp2012
Mar 31, 2017 1:09 PM CST
Is there any advice you can offer to endure best seed germination besides pre soak or plant indoors?
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Apr 1, 2017 6:24 AM CST
Nope ! 😁😁😁
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Zinnias Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Annuals Spiders! Hybridizer Garden Photography
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keithp2012
Apr 4, 2017 5:38 PM CST
@ZenMan any zinnias rare?
Name: Linda
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LindaTX8
Apr 4, 2017 6:22 PM CST
Well, when it comes to large commercial seed companies, there's a good chance that those kinds are still around. I did hear about somebody who got decent germination from 20-year old zinnia seeds. But I guess it probably depends on how well they were stored...and some kinds don't store well under normal household storage conditions and some do. It never hurts to try old seeds, just don't count on them germinating, Keith!
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DrGardener
Apr 4, 2017 8:30 PM CST
You can cut the bottom of a gallon milk jug and leave it about 3 inches tall. Place one paper towel inside. Place seeds on top. Add water enough to soak up. Place another towel on top. Add more water if needed. Store away from sunlight. If they germinate you should seed it splitting the seed within a few days. Once you see it, place the seed in potting soil and lightly cover.
Name: ZenMan
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ZenMan
Apr 5, 2017 1:35 AM CST
keithp2012 said:@ZenMan any zinnias rare?


Hi Keith,

I don't know of any zinnia that you would call "rare", but there are quite a few varieties that have simply disappeared altogether. There used to be a strain of zinnias called "Crown of Gold" that had a patch of gold color at the base of each petal. The petals themselves came in several zinnia colors.

Another zinnia was called "Black Ruby". It was an extremely dark purple/cerise that actually appeared black in incandescent light.

There was a strain of mixed pastel colored zinnias called Luther Burbank that is now gone. Burpee introduced those.

There was a strain of F1 hybrid cactus flowered zinnias called "Zenith" that is no longer available. Also from Burpee.

There was a series of twisty flowered zinnias called Fantasy, some colors of which won awards, that is no longer available.

The bicolored strain of zinnias called Zig Zag vanished in recent years.

Those are just some "extinct" zinnias that come to mind. There are undoubtedly others. I am trying to re-invent the black color of Black Ruby in my zinnias, so far with no luck. Unfortunately, the germination of 50-year old zinnia seeds would be vanishingly low, unless they were stored cryogenicly.

ZM
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Apr 5, 2017 2:00 AM CST
DrGardener said:You can cut the bottom of a gallon milk jug and leave it about 3 inches tall. Place one paper towel inside. Place seeds on top. Add water enough to soak up. Place another towel on top. Add more water if needed. Store away from sunlight. If they germinate you should seed it splitting the seed within a few days. Once you see it, place the seed in potting soil and lightly cover.

Hi Matthew,

I do a similar thing, using Ziploc Snack bags and a folded paper towel, that is moistened.
Thumb of 2017-04-05/ZenMan/19bb34 Thumb of 2017-04-05/ZenMan/ed2eca
Click on the photos to see them uncropped. I keep the Ziploc bags in a student report folder, which I can close to keep them in the dark. I take a peek at the bags daily and plant the seeds as they begin to germinate. Zinnia seeds take from 2 to 6 days, depending primarily on temperature.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Apr 5, 2017 2:25 PM CST
@ZenMan Are any of zinnia varieties I have here rare or extinct?
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Apr 5, 2017 10:25 PM CST
keithp2012 said:@ZenMan Are any of zinnia varieties I have here rare or extinct?


The Burpee Super Giants have not been available for several decades.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.

Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Zinnias Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Annuals Spiders! Hybridizer Garden Photography
Vegetable Grower Tomato Heads Native Plants and Wildflowers The WITWIT Badge Daylilies Dog Lover
keithp2012
Apr 6, 2017 12:08 PM CST
ZenMan said:

The Burpee Super Giants have not been available for several decades.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.


@ZenMan
Great! Would you like some seed to try? I've got so much, I can spare a few if you think they would be helpful in your breeding process.
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Apr 6, 2017 1:54 PM CST
keithp2012 said:@ZenMan
Great! Would you like some seed to try? I've got so much, I can spare a few if you think they would be helpful in your breeding process.


Hi Keith,

Thanks very much for the offer, but my breeding objectives don't include giant dahlia flowered zinnias. Do keep us informed if any of those 50-year-old seeds do germinate.

I wish one of those packets had been Crown-of-Gold. I would have had a try at them. I doubt very much if any of the seeds themselves would have germinated, because that would have required a still-living embryo. However, I would have tried tissue culture on the embryo removed from the seed, because that could work if there was just a single living cell left in the embryo. There could be living cells long after the embryo itself died. These are pictures of some zinnia embryos that I removed from seeds and planted as embryos. Click on the pictures to see them un-cropped.
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
Image
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
Image

That graph paper is ruled 10 per inch. If you are interested in dabbling in Tissue Culture, this would be a good time to give it a try.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Zinnias Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Annuals Spiders! Hybridizer Garden Photography
Vegetable Grower Tomato Heads Native Plants and Wildflowers The WITWIT Badge Daylilies Dog Lover
keithp2012
Apr 6, 2017 2:30 PM CST
@ZenMan crown of gold is a giant dahlia shaped zinnia variety, it's just a matter of color difference. http://forums.gardenweb.com/di...
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Apr 6, 2017 9:12 PM CST
keithp2012 said:@ZenMan crown of gold is a giant dahlia shaped zinnia variety, it's just a matter of color difference. http://forums.gardenweb.com/di...


Hi Keith,

Ironically, I wrote that post in GardenWeb that you linked to. When we lived in Maine, my username was maineman. Over the years I have grown a lot of dahlia flowered zinnias, hoping to see a recurrence of the Crown of Gold yellow based petals, but no luck on that. As many zinnias as I have grown, I am kind of surprised that I haven't seen it. Just one specimen would be enough to go on.

In recent years I switched to California Giants because I want to incorporate their large plants in my zinnia gene pool. They also have an uprolled round-tipped petal form that I like.
Thumb of 2017-04-07/ZenMan/2fb7d0
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
Image

If I ever do spot a Crown-of-Gold zinnia petal coloration, regardless of what the flower form is, I will multiply it. And I would move that color effect to some more exotic petal shapes. I was never very excited by the dahlia flowered zinnia flower forms, and, ironically, they look a lot less like dahlias than some other zinnias, including some of the California Giants.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Apr 6, 2017 9:31 PM CST
keithp2012 said:I found a few unopened seed packets in my Grandparents basement, some are about 50 years old and one from 1920! Being its extremely rare to find old seeds preserved I want to attempt to grow them, I don't know but some might be heirlooms you can't find anymore.

Any helpful tips to get best germination are appreciated.

Thumb of 2017-03-30/keithp2012/700705



I suggest you contact http://www.seedsavers.org/ about these possibly rare seeds.

If you want to just grow them, I suggest prespouting them in damp paper towels at room temerature. It is possible tham none may sprout. If none of smple do, they are probably all dead.

Best of luck!!!

Name: Rick Corey
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RickCorey
Apr 19, 2017 4:52 PM CST
>> best seed germination besides pre soak or plant indoors

Here is my opinion:

I agree that some form of "starting indoors" or "in sterile mix" is probably much better than starting outdoors in soil. You can create optimum warmth and humidity indoors. Far fewer germinated embryos will die indoors before becoming seedlings, since they don't have to push their way through heavy soil loaded with plant pathogens and insects.

Try doing whatever-you-do (pre-soak, Deno-style coffee filters & baggies, or vermiculite-in-a-tub), but use dilute hydrogen peroxide instead of just water.

Probably use it very weak, like 0.1%

Sometimes peroxide seems to "stimulate" seeds to germinate faster and more vigorously, especially older seeds.

And I think that watering with 0.1% or 0.2% peroxide might delay any rotting of the seeds and seedling stems. It helps prevent damping-off once weak seedlings are growing in mix or soil. Other people fight damping-off with strong, cold chamomile tea or powdered cinnamon.

http://www.using-hydrogen-pero...

Starting with typical "drugstore peroxide" (which is 3% H2O2):
1/2 cup peroxide + 1 gallon of water
1 ounce peroxide + 1 quart of water
1.5 teaspoons + 1 cup of water.

Once space-saving way to pre-soak many seed varieties is to use a very clean plastic ice-cube tray. Soak one seed variety per ice-cube-cell.

Thumb of 2017-04-19/RickCorey/efcfdc Thumb of 2017-04-19/RickCorey/41ca2f

- Cut some tiny squares of white plastic and write a number or letter on each.
- Drop one square into each cell of the ice cube tray.
- Assign one of those numbers or letters to each kind of seed you plan to soak. (Write it down!)
- drop the seeds you want to pre-soak into the pre-labelled ice cube cells
- (You could skip the little-white-plastic-squares, and just make a "map" of the ice cube tray on paper. But make sure you can tell which way the tray FACES (left-to-right or vice-versa). And don't LOSE your map, the way I would!)
- make up the 0.1% peroxide "encouraging solution"
- gently pour or spoon some of the solution into into each cell
- store the tray where the cat can't get at it! Cover it to keep dust out.

- if you soak them for more than 24 hours, check daily and plant anything that might have a radicle emerging.

- I found it easiest to remove one seed at a time with a tiny measuring spoon, like 1/16th tsp. To sow, tip the spoon over the seedling cell or planting hole. If capillary action holds the water and seed in the spoon, use a medicine dropper or tiny spray bottle to add water to the spoon until it flushes out into the planting hole.

- If you plant before the radicle emerges, remember that the "floaters" are more likely to be non-viable. Plant several per cell if you have enough seeds.

Since old seeds may have used up most of their stored food, and will be weak at the cotyledon stage, make life as easy as possible for the embryo. Don't plant it deep or make it push aside heavy, deep seedling mix or bark chips. Pre-germinating in a near-sterile environment, then surface-planting so the baby leaves are already in the light, may help a feeble embryo survive to become a seedling.

Look up the fastest temperature for germination, or the temperature that produces the highest eventual germination RATE for fresh seeds. Try to keep the seeds at that temperature, then cooler once they have any leaves at all.


These are just my opinions. They are how I've done it a few times and seemed to have better luck.


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