CULT: Seed Thoughts for Linda
In a message dated 5/8/2007 10:41:45 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
<<<All this talk on seedling. So I did let some things go to seed. Now what
I do.?????? [......] Now how long do I leave this pod standing on it's
stem.?? Just till it turns brown?? and/or starts to crack? Then do I take the
seeds inside house and let them dry some more before planting?>>>
I am in Richmond, Virginia, so my personal methods may not be the best for
you, but I wanted you to have some response to your questions, so here I am,
taking a whack at them. Hopefully you will have had some private responses,
too, but as you will appreciate, this is the very busiest time of the year for
a lot of iris growers, and especially for hybridizers, so the list is slow.
There are several aspects to your questions, and many ways to approach the
adventure on which you have embarked. The truly simple answer, which I will
offer below, will probably be considered oversimplification by many. That said,
simple things often work just fine. For the record, I'm talking about
bearded iris seeds here. Some beardless irises need to be treated differently.
The first step is to set some seed. You and the bees have apparently
accomplished this. The second step is to let the seed ripen, and preserve it. You
do, indeed, let your pod stay on the stalk until it begins to brown and crack.
Then snip it off with some stem attached, and take it inside to dry
thoroughly. Stand it upright in a caper bottle, or bud vase, or something. The pod may
or may not become fully brown, but when ripe and dry it will look like it
has finished its job.
If the stem breaks off before it is ripe, bring it inside and poke the
broken stem into a nice potato and leave it on the kitchen counter until the pod
matures. When the pod begins to split, discard the potato, and proceed as
When the pod is dry, shell out the seeds and let them dry well in a
ventilated space. To store, place them in a closed jar, and keep them in the
refrigerator until you decide to sow them. If there are no seeds, you had a "balloon
pod," which happens sometimes for reasons still not fully understood.
Most bearded irises are presumed to require a period of moist cold treatment
before they will germinate-- several months-- and the trick is to plan the
timing of their germination so that the infant plants will have their best
chance of survival. There are many theories about how to do this. Most involve
soaking the seeds for a week or ten days in clear water at room temperature,
changing it every day, which is supposed to hydrate the seed thoroughly and
leach out chemical germination inhibitors--- which may or may not exist! I
understand some folks tie their seeds into a length of women's hosiery and hang
them in the toilet tank to hydrate. I have no opinion on the efficacy of the
Now comes the cold treatment. Folks either sow outside--usually in pots
since it is easier to control the environment and generally keep up with things
than by sowing direct, which is also possible--and let nature take its course,
which presupposes there will be three or four months of temperatures
fluctuating in the range of freezing--fluctuating is very good--or they seek to
simulate the effects of winter by wrapping the seeds in moist paper towels and
putting them within a plastic storage bag and keeping them in the
refrigerator. Some even sow in moist potting medium and place the whole container in a
sealed bag and put it in the refrigerator.
In any case, after a suitable period of time, the stratified seeds are
removed and sown in pots and placed under lights, or out of doors, and germinated,
then grown on until they can be separated and treated as individuals, at
which time they may be lined up in nursery beds where some will likely bloom the
Seedlings look just like tiny irises right from the get go, and they need to
be protected from slugs and birds and such. They often have good root
systems at an early age and should have generous root run. Some folks use a heating
mat for the new infants, some a radiator, some have grow lights, some use
windows; it is like any other germination project in that regard. Make sure any
grow medium you use holds water but does not get cold, or soggy, or pack
Getting infants through their first winter outside can require finesse,
depending on where one is.
Now, I want you to be aware that there is an enormous amount of information
about all this--probably several truck loads full--in the Archives of this
list, which are searchable. They are found at <<
_http://www.hort.net/lists/iris/_ (http://www.hort.net/lists/iris/) >>
I'd expect the following to be useful search terms: germinate, pod,
germination, vernalization, stratify, seed, refrigerator, soak, tank, and burrito.
Some folks call the rolled moist paper towel enclosing seeds in the
refrigerator a burrito.
The best way to use the archives is to think in terms of locating whole
discussions of certain things. Once a search term leads you to identify a flurry
of posts, go to that thread and see what the conversation was about.
Quite a few folks here are hybridizers on one scale or another, so they have
gathered their seeds from a planned cross, possibly a cross in a long line
of planned crosses designed to further their goals and make their dreams come
true; accordingly, they are very interested in getting every precious seed to
germinate and grow on. These folks typically want the new plant to hit the
ground running, grow strongly, and show bloom as fast as possible. Bear this
in mind as you read their conversations.
Now, what shall we do with your seeds?
If you have a lot of seeds, you can experiment with several methods.
Possibly you might want to sow some outdoors, and some indoors. Leaving them to
Mother Nature is an honorable course, and one that is often successful. Hovering
over them inside is also honorable. A combination of methods may increase the
chances of success, while minimizing bother and risk of loss. That said,
anyone who does not get much winter must provide cold artificially. What you
want to avoid is setting up a scenario where they germinate then get stomped by
some predictable seasonal weather extreme, whether cold, or heat, or sun, or
wind, or rain, or whatever is typical in your area.
If you get enough winter, I'd soak the seeds, then sow half of them in a
pot of organic material--organic matter is supposed to be better than inorganic
in this situation--then cover them with about a half inch of stuff, then put
them outside in a protected place where they will get rained on and so forth
but slugs and birds can't get at them and animals won't knock them over.
Leave them exposed, watering when Mother Nature fails to do so, and expect to
see some results in the spring about the same time the parent irises in the
garden start into growth. Some seeds may not germinate until the second year.
Some may never germinate. Not every seed that is formed is a viable seed.
You could also soak, and then chill the rest of your seeds in the
refrigerator, starting around Thanksgiving and sow in pots in the early spring, or when
you see some signs of germination starting up in the refrigerator. If they
are all set to roll before it is warm enough for them outside, sow them, and
put them in a sunny room with some ventilation.
Now, to make things even more interesting, some folks think that sowing
seeds which are really fresh, that is undried, can also give good results! You
could try that and see what you think.
As with any other hybrid plant, resulting seedlings may not much resemble
the mother, and you may not properly call them by her name
Might I ask a favor, Linda? Please add your USDA Zone to your signature in
any post on cultural issues. There are folks on the list from all over the
place and it helps us better understand and appreciate what each member says, or
asks, if we have this.
Richmond VA USA USDA Zone 7
Jamestown Expedition and Settlement Quadricentennial May, 1607- May, 2007
"At one time...it was all Virginia."
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