Daylilies forum: My Germination/Seedling Growing Experiment So Far...

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Name: Amber
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Daylilies Region: Missouri Garden Photography
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amberjewel
May 26, 2017 9:29 PM CST
I decided to try a few different methods for seed germination and seedling growing this year to decide the methods that I like best. I thought I would share my findings and progress with you all in hopes that someone else might find it helpful...and also give me a chance to get some advice along the way.

Starting with stratification. I put about 400 seeds in moist vermiculite or a moist paper towel and put them in my fridge on April 15. I moistened both types with water with peroxide added in. I wanted to see the difference between the paper towel and vermiculite. What I found was that, as long as they stayed in the fridge both the paper towel and vermiculite seemed fine. Some of the seeds started to get the little root nubs in the vermiculite but none of the seeds in paper towels did that. I took a few bags out a little earlier than the recommended 4 weeks just to see what would happen. I got some germination in the vermiculite, but 2 of the 3 bags of seeds in moist paper towels got VERY moldy...

Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/44b6c2

I think that I prefer using vermiculite to paper towels for this reason. However, I am finding it hard to look through the seeds to find which ones are ready to plant because they blend in to the vermiculite. Next year I will try to perlite to see if it is as effective as the vermiculite but easier to see the seeds in.

I took the stratified seeds out of the fridge on May 15. I put the ones that were in paper towels into vermiculite so I wouldn't risk molding all of my seeds. I also put about 375 seeds in moist vermiculite or paper towels on May 15 and didn't refrigerate them...I want to see if there is more uniform germination after 4 weeks of moist stratification vs. no stratification. I bagged up each cross and put them in boxes...

Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/ada74f

I have been moving the boxes around a bit. I have had them in my closet (dark and warm) for some of the time and then in a sunny window area some of the time. In the 11 days since setting out the seeds, I haven't noticed that there is a big difference in the number of seeds that are germinating based on whether they had the four weeks of cold stratification or not. As of now, only around 350 of my almost 800 seeds have germinated. Is this normal? Should I keep the boxes of seeds in a particular spot for better germination rates? If I haven't seen germination by now, it is likely I will?

For those seeds that have germinated...I had planned on putting them all outside in seed trays and then plant them in their seedling bed late August/early September. Well...I put the first few outside and scorched them. D'Oh! We have also been having strange weather here, so I'm not sure how well outdoor growing will work. I went to Walmart and got the stuff to set up at least a small indoor grow area...enough room to grow four 72 cell flats. So I put some of my germinated seeds inside under lights (I have two 2-light fixtures, each with a daylight and cool white T8 bulb) and some outside in a small 4-shelf greenhouse that I can open when it is warm and close when it is cold or rainy. I am keeping the greenhouse/shelf in the shade for now (I was advised to keep them in the shade for around 2 weeks and then gradually put them in the sun). Here is what they look like after a week...

Indoor under lights...
Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/893aad Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/5311c6

Outside (you can see the scorched ones in the back Glare )
Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/5b8117 Thumb of 2017-05-27/amberjewel/eed76c

The ones indoors definitely look better and I have had better growth rate. I only planted seeds that at least had the radicle showing, but many had a small shoot already as well. However, in the indoor trays I still have 6-8 cells where nothing has come up yet, but outside there are a lot more that haven't come up. If I have the chance to get more lights, I may move the outside ones indoors as well. I read that I need to put fertilizer on the seedlings when they reach a certain size. Are the ones I have indoors about big enough yet for fertilizer? And is Miracle Grow an okay fertilizer for seedlings?

I will keep you updated on my progress and on any other things I do. I have about 100 other seeds that I think I will direct sow later this summer just to see how that works. Also, when more seeds germinate, I'm going to put them in 1 gallon pots and 4" pots just so I can see how the different sizes of pots affects root growth after a few months. Any other things I should think about trying?

Amber
Daylily Novice
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
May 27, 2017 5:07 AM CST
"I have been moving the boxes around a bit. I have had them in my closet (dark and warm) for some of the time and then in a sunny window area some of the time. In the 11 days since setting out the seeds, I haven't noticed that there is a big difference in the number of seeds that are germinating based on whether they had the four weeks of cold stratification or not. As of now, only around 350 of my almost 800 seeds have germinated. Is this normal? Should I keep the boxes of seeds in a particular spot for better germination rates? If I haven't seen germination."

I would have expected more of the stratified ones to have germinated by now but give them another week or so. It will also depend on viability, if you're seeing some mold it is possible some are not viable. The starting medium and temperature may also make a difference as may how they were stored before they were started (potting soil, for example, isn't the best for germination). They don't need dark, and I would be careful about putting them on a sunny windowsill in case they get too hot or dry out too much unless you're there all day to watch them. Just room temperature is fine, but of course they will need more light once they have germinated.

When I've done the damp chilling thing (perlite does work as well as vermiculite BTW) I have stratified them in their starting containers so that they just need to be taken out of the fridge and not sorted through. I do agree that if you are sorting them after stratifying then perlite (or sand) makes it easier to pick out the seeds, I tried it that way too. One experimental batch I just left in the baggie of damp vermiculite at room temp after coming out of the fridge until they had started to germinate, then picked them out. Easier to spot with their little green leaves!

I would not fertilize any until they have been up at least a month to six weeks.

Edited to add that when I say give them another week or so, that would be for comparing germination rate. If they were actually mostly viable but there's no difference between stratified and non-stratified, then there are several possibilites, one of which is that your seeds did not have seed dormancy to begin with. If they had been stored over winter with sufficient internal moisture in the fridge then that could have changed results. If the stratification did not work for some reason but the seeds were all viable, then the seeds could continue to germinate erratically long after three weeks from starting etc. etc.
[Last edited by sooby - May 27, 2017 5:36 AM (+)]
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Name: Amber
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Daylilies Region: Missouri Garden Photography
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amberjewel
May 27, 2017 6:54 AM CST
All of my seeds were stored in the fridge in baggies with no medium prior to being put in the vermiculite in April or May (depending on their test group). I do have a few crosses that were my very last pods from last year that I forgot to refrigerate...but I made sure to put them in the moist refrigerator, 4-week stratification group.

I am keeping them in the damp vermiculite until a radicle, and usually the shoot, begins to form...then I'm planting them in cell trays or pots. I am using Jiffy seed starting mix combined with vermiculite as my growing medium. Next year I will probably experiment with different growing mediums (coconut coir, potting soil, seed starter), but for this year I wanted to eliminate that variable.

Can you tell me what you mean about cold stratifying them "in their starting containers"? Do you mean you just keep them in the fridge until they are big enough to plant outside?

As for viability, I was expecting some of my crosses to have low viability because I picked a few pods early (but never before the 45 day mark). However, many of the crosses that still have not had one seed germinate are seeds I purchased on LA or got from a couple members here. I plan on being very patient with the germination. I have nothing to lose by waiting all summer to see what happens with them.
Amber
Daylily Novice
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
May 27, 2017 7:39 AM CST
By in their starting containers meant I basically planted the seeds in small plastic containers, in damp vermiculite, put the lids on and then refrigerated for four weeks. Then took them out and set them at room temperature, taking the lids off when the first one had germinated. It saves the rummaging around to find the seeds at the end of stratification. If you're doing a lot of seeds that wouldn't be practical unless you had a dedicated fridge for the purpose or didn't plan on eating for a month.

I know a few people have misinterpreted stratification as meaning leaving them in the fridge until they germinate but that's not what I meant. The idea of stratification is to simulate winter (fridge) followed by spring (room temp) because that is what would trigger germination in nature. That some daylily seeds will germinate while still in the fridge most likely indicates that they have had sufficient stratification that they will germinate at very low temperatures but I would not recommend doing it that way on purpose.

Why I asked about prior storage is that in the original experiments done back in the 50s there was a negative effect of prolonged stratification in one test. If the seeds were not dried for a while before being refrigerated then they could, in theory, have been stratifying during storage. I'm not really sure that happens though although my testing of that was very limited.

When you get seeds from someone else you don't know how they were handled before so it's hard to know what might have gone wrong if they don't germinate. Only time will tell if it was because of non-viability or for some reason the stratification did not break seed dormancy, or.....something else.

Edited to add afterthought (as usual!). I know of people who have had daylily seeds delivered in winter and left in their outside mailbox when it was very cold. If the seeds were not sufficiently dried before shipping (for more than a couple of days, more like a couple of weeks) then freezing while in the mailbox could kill them.
[Last edited by sooby - May 27, 2017 7:43 AM (+)]
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Name: Amber
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Daylilies Region: Missouri Garden Photography
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amberjewel
May 27, 2017 7:58 AM CST
I have not been keeping them in the fridge waiting for germination. I kept them in for four weeks and then brought them right out...only a few had already germinated.

I dried my seeds for 3-5 days before putting them in the fridge. So...maybe that wasn't long enough? There is no harm in drying them for longer periods but potential harm for not drying them long enough?
Amber
Daylily Novice
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
May 27, 2017 9:12 AM CST
amberjewel said:I dried my seeds for 3-5 days before putting them in the fridge. So...maybe that wasn't long enough? There is no harm in drying them for longer periods but potential harm for not drying them long enough?


They would likely have still contained some internal moisture with just a few days of drying, and I know some people have found they're more likely to mold unless somewhat drier. Whether they can stratify in that condition isn't really clear but it can be a problem to stratify for too long. I don't even store my daylily seeds in the fridge, I keep them in paper bags in a cool room, then they rehydrate in the damp vermiculite during the chilling period. They should keep longer in the fridge though, especially if there is no cool, dry room to keep them in.

Name: Valerie
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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touchofsky
May 27, 2017 9:16 AM CST
The first year I started pollinating daylilies, I picked my pods too early and had poor or no germination. The next year, I left the seed pods on the plant until they started to pop open on their own, and I had very good germination. Maybe this year, try leaving the seed pods on the plants until they start to open on their own.

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