This is our default method for germinating all native wildflowers, shrubs or trees. It works for most plants except Woodland wildflowers.
- The key step is to provide seeds with a cold/moist period of 3-5 months that mimics a winter period.
- They don't need to freeze, but the mix of cold and damp is crucial to break dormancy.
- Some seeds (e.g. Asters, Milkweed, Goldenrod, Rudbeckia, Echinacea) will germinate without treatment, but germination will be better with a 4-week cold treatment.
Collect seeds from garden plants or practice ethical wild seed collection
- Never collect live plants
- Never collect seed from rare plants
- Collect only 10% of healthy populations
- Always get permission from landowners before collecting
Seeds are ready when they start to dry out or change colour (to brown/black). Check plants frequently a few weeks after bloom.
Let seeds air dry for a few days, clean from capsules/pods and store in sealed, labeled containers in the fridge.
2. Germinating (Start Oct/Nov for outside or Dec/Jan for inside)
- Mix seeds with a few table spoons of barely damp vermiculite, place in a re-sealable plastic bag, LABEL, and store in the fridge for 3-5 months
After a few months, fill a pot almost full with moist soilless mix. Sow the seed/vermiculite mix on top (large seeds can be buried 2X their width) and then cover with a 1cm layer of vermiculite or coarse sand/grit (this allows light and air for germination and helps maintain moisture). Very small seeds can be just watered in with a mister (they usually need light to germinate).
Water pots (from below for small seeds) and drain
- Put the pot in a plastic bag and place in bright light (not direct sun - fluorescent lights work well). When germination starts, remove the bag
- Prepare seed pots in the fall and sink them into a protected spot in the garden. Mulch once the ground freezes. (Protection from rodents may also be necessary - hardware cloth works well).
- In spring, remove mulch layer and watch for germination
3. Care of Seedlings
After plants develop 2 or 3 sets of true leaves, they can be separated into small pots and grown on until big enough to go into the garden. Make sure to "harden off" seedlings when you move them outside.
For large-scale plantings: