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Germination techniques for seeds

See our table below for the species you are trying to grow for guidance on germination techniques.


1. Pre-treatment of seeds prior to sowing

1-1. Orthodox Seeds - Dried Seeds

This group of seeds are technically considered seeds that are able to withstand drying and/or freezing. For our products we will consider the seeds that may be dried for storage here. There are also "intermediate" seeds which can or cannot tolerate certain extremes.

Note that although many seeds are capable of being sowed without any special treatment, they may or may not require a certain type of soil and climate such as moisture, humidity, temperature, light and sowing depth. Please take care on a species by species basis for such considerations.

1-1-1. Direct Sowing

Some seeds are relatively easy to grow without any pretreatment and thus can just be sowed directly into the appropriate growing medium with relative success. The species we sell that require no pre-treatment we will label as "Direct Sow".

1-1-2. Scarification

Sometimes some seeds germinate slowly on their own due to their seed coat being hard for water to penetrate. Naturally some seeds require forest fires to scarify the seed coat; others use animals such as birds to eat them and the acid will scarify the seed coat, while others just like a soak in water. Most of the time people rarely use fire or stomach acid for scarification, but there are some common techniques that may work in a similar way.

Hot Water: Many seeds with hard coats, especially many members of the Fabaceae family, do well with a boiling water soak. This method is not intended to actually boil the seeds, which may more appropriately just be called cooking them. Bring some water to a boil, and then place the water into a container such as a cup of bowl. Place the seeds into the super-hot water and depending on the species let soak for 6-24 hours. Generally speaking, species that require this technique plus water soaking can be sowed once the seed begins to swell. If the seeds are left too long many species will appear to explode. This means they were left in the water too long.

Sand Paper: Some seeds just need water to penetrate the seed coat, and sand paper is a common trick to break the seed coats out surface to allow water to penetrate the seed. Other things such as knives are used as well, but sand paper is far safer for the majority of people.

Acid Bath: Some seeds are scarified using an acid or base solution, depending on species. This is simply often just a water soak modified by the PH of the water. This generally involves chemicals and so we tend not to recommend it, but it helps with some species.

1-1-3. Soaking

Some seeds require more than the moisture in the soil to trigger germination. Soaking the seeds in water is quite effective for many species of plants, especially peas and beans for example. Some species may need scarification first which will open the tough seed coat to allow the water to penetrate the seed coat and begin the process.

Sometimes seeds can also be grown in a manner between soaking and direct sowing. Using moist paper towel with seeds placed inside is a common method to "soak" the seeds without placing in water. This allows more airflow which some species may be sensitive too. There are cubes made of rockwool, coco, and peat that are essentially a water holding medium with a hole. The seed is placed inside and the material is soaked. This is also essentially a soaking method with the added bonus of extra air flow.

1-1-4. Cold Stratification

Some species require a winter before they will germinate. Mostly species from colder regions may be like this, ginseng and maple are 2 examples. Often times a period of cold will suffice. We use the refrigerator to achieve this. Some species are done dry, others like maple can be done wet with a mix of sphagnum moss or vermiculite and placed in the fridge for a couple months.


1-2. Recalcitrant Seeds - Fresh Seeds

Recalcitrant seeds, A.K.A. unorthodox seeds, are seeds that must stay fresh and generally cannot withstand super cold temps or drying out. Many tropical plants fall into this category, but certainly not all.

1-2-1. Clean Media

With most unorthodox seeds we grow, we tend to use either sphagnum moss or vermiculite. The media is soaked thoroughly then squeezed by hand to take out excess moisture. The seeds, which should be clean of all pulp and other debris in order to avoid mold, are placed into the media in a plastic bag to avoid dehydration. Watch for mold and when the seeds sprout a root they may be planted into their desired growing medium. Also read our article: Germination Technique for Tropical Recalcitrant Seeds and How to germinate Durio species seeds


2. Growing Media (Soils)

2-1. Inorganic Media

2-1-1. Sand, Grit and Rock

Rock based: media is generally used when either hydroponic application is desired or pathogen attack, such as fungal, is a risk. Inorganic media tends not to cause problems with bacteria and fungus. Nutrients will need to be added once the seeds germinate and start growing, or the seeds can be transplanted to a different growing media.

The main things to consider with rock based mixes are size in relation to air flow. Moisture containing properties. Things like pumice are used to aerate the soil and does not tend to retain moisture. Vermiculite on the other hand can aerate and hold a fair amount of moisture.

Expanded clay, often found in bonsai and aquaria related stores, is much like rock in size but becomes softer and can retain moisture. We use it a lot in taking cuttings, but sometimes can be useful in seed germinating mixes.

Clay is essentially very fine rock dust, or silt, and tends to have good moisture retaining qualities and very poor air flow qualities. We find this ingredient no so useful in germinating seeds but useful in growing up plants.

2-2. Organic Media

2-2-1. Peat and Coco Coir

Although the sources are different; bogs vs coconut by product. But the structure, air flow and water retaining qualities are fairly similar and thus can be used in much the same manner. Coco tends to have slightly more fungal issues, while peat long term tends to get acidic. Coco is also clearly the more environmentally friendly product.

2-2-2. Humus

Not often really useful for the direct germination of seeds, but useful very quickly for nutrition once the seeds have sprouted roots. We add it to mixes that will be used to grow seedlings up a bit as its filled with nutrition.

2-2-3. Compost

Due to pathogens and sometimes the ability of them to attacks seeds, we try to avoid compost for germinating seeds, though can be great for seedlings.

2-2-4. Seedling mixes and topsoils

There are many commercially available bagged soils that are used to germinate seeds. Generally these soils are devoid of large organic debris, which will greatly reduce fungal and bacterial problems with the seeds. These tend to be of a consistent grade and moisture holding capacity and thus makes things more reliable.


3. Environmental Factors

3-1. Temperature

Many species require a certain temperature to germinate. Some species are sensitive to cold, while others the heat. Most seeds fall into the 15-25 degree range, but check the species for best results. Some species may also need cold stratification in which they benefit from a winter period prior to germinating. Maple and ginseng are well known examples of species that benefit from a cold period prior to germinating.

3-2. Moisture

In general you want the soil to be moist and not wet. if you hold the wet soil in your hand and squeeze as hard as possible to let out the excess water, the remaining soil when loosened is often about right for many species. Water logged soils tend to be anaerobic and provide ideal conditions for bacteria which tend to harm seeds.

3-3. Humidity

Very species specific, humidity is often required for small seedlings to avoid dehydration while the roots develop. Interestingly even many cactus species when germinating tend to start and do well relatively moist conditions.

3-4. Light

Some species require light to germinate, others require darkness while others don't seem affected either way. Many times seeds sown too deep, but require light, will not germinate. If sowing seeds directly into a soil without pretreating, be sure to also be aware of the depth at which seeds should be sowed.

3-5. Sowing Depth

Some seeds should not be sowed too dep mainly for 2 reasons. Some seeds require light to germinate, see above. Other seeds that are sowed too deep are not able to penetrate the surface and tend to die before they emerge from the surface. The latter, will also be related to the soil media. Coco fiber for example is looser and lighter than sand, and thus is easier for seeds to emerge from the surface.

Botanical Name

Pre-treatment

Temperature

Sowing Method

Agave americana

Direct surface sow

20 Degrees

The seeds seem to benefit from light so sowing on the surface with a light dusting of sand or similar material on the surface to keep moist. Allow 2-10 weeks.

Alpinia zerumbet

Water soak, Direct sow

20-25 Degrees

Soak seeds for a day before sowing. Keep in a well-drained media that inhibits mold. Allow 2-8 weeks.

Annona 'Atemoya'

Air dry, Soak and bag in sphagnum moss.

20-30 Degrees

The seeds are notorious for slow germination, but after cleaning seeds from mature fruit letting them air dry then soaking and placing in moist sphagnum moss or vermiculite will allow germination often with a couple months. When roots sprout they can be sowed into a clean soil.

Annona muricata

Annona squamosa

Artocarpus sp.

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Camellia sinensis

Water soak 1-2 days

20-25 Degrees

Seeds are hard and need a good soaking, but relatively easy. Soak for a few days and when swells slightly sown them or place them in sphagnum moss/vermiculite in a bag until roots sprout before planting.

Cardiospermum halicacabum

Direct Sow, Water Soak

15+ Degrees

The plant is considered a weed by most governments and as such the seeds are relative ease in seed germination. Sow 1-2cm deep allow 2-6 weeks.

Carica papaya

30 min. hot water soak followed by 24 hour water soak. Can treat seeds.

20-30 Seeds

Seeds are famous for rotting, so sowing and keeping warm, moist and avoiding mediums that can support fungus. 3-10 weeks.

Chenopodium formosanum

Direct Sow

15-30 Degrees

Field culture is generally broadcasting seeds over a clean field and watering them in. They are easily grown, and also easily eaten by animal pests when young. Broadcast and water in well. 1-4 weeks.

Clitoria ternatea

Boiling water soak

20-30 Degrees

Easy to grow, but water soaking is definitely a good idea. When the seed swell direct sow. 2-10 weeks.

Coffea arabica

Direct Sow, water soak if seeds are dry

20-30 Degrees

Seeds germinate within 2 months if fresh, 6 months if dried. Keep evenly moist and warm while germinating.

Delonix regia

Boiling water soak, sandpaper

20 Degrees

The seed coat is very hard and germination times of over a year are not unheard of. However, if seeds are scarified and soaked germinating of 2-4 weeks is also common. Sow 1-2 cm deep after a good soak and swelling occur.

Durio zibethinus

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Euphoria longan

Sphagnum moss, vermiculite or mold free media

20-30 Degrees

Longan and lychee trees can be germinated like many tropical fruit seeds, in sphagnum moss is our preferred method, then transplant when the seeds sprout roots. Keep moist, warm and let fresh air when possible. 4-16 weeks.

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Direct Sow

15-30 Degrees

Seeds are quite easy and fast to germinate, keep warm and moist and they will basically grow. 1-2 cm deep.

Hylocereus sp.

direct sow

20+ Degrees

Seeds do well when moist and well lit. Sow near surface and just dust the surface with soil. 1-6 weeks.

Ipomoea aquatica

Water soak

20+ Degrees

Seeds grow easily once soaked. Direct sow. Keep above 20 degrees for best results. Allow 2-6 weeks.

Ipomoea batatas

Water soak

20+ Degrees

Seeds grow easily once soaked. Direct sow. Keep above 20 degrees for best results and don’t let dry out until the tubers are well established.

Koelreuteria elegans

Scarify, soak, cold stratify then plant.

It helps to break the seed coat then soak. When it swells they can be cold stratified and either placed again into a bag of sphagnum moss or vermiculite or sowed directly.

Lantana sp.

Warm water soaking

20-25 Degrees

Sometimes can be slow to germinate, 2-20 weeks. Soak the seeds to soften the seed coat than sow 1-2cm deep. Keep temps and moisture fairly constant, and try to avoid fungus.

Leonotis nepetifolia

Direct Sow

20+ Degrees

Don't plant too deep, near the surface but also don't let the soil dry out in between. Allow some light and keep warm. 1-6 weeks.

Litchi chinensis - Lychee

Sphagnum moss, vermiculite or mold free media

20-30 Degrees

Longan and lychee trees can be germinated like many tropical fruit seeds, in sphagnum moss is our preferred method, then transplant when the seeds sprout roots. Keep moist, warm and let fresh air when possible. 4-16 weeks.

Luffa sp.

Soak, Direct Sow

20-30 Degrees

Allow 2-6 weeks to germinate. Sensitive to cold temps, so keep warm and don't let dry out.

Mangifera indica

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Mimosa pudica

Hot water soak

20-30 Degrees

Seeds should be soaked, can use boiling water technique. Sow seeds about 0.5-1cm deep. Keep slightly moist and allow 1-6 weeks for germination.

Mucuna pruriens

Water soak

20 Degrees

Soak seeds until they swell and sow 2cm deep in almost anything. Easy to grow once germinated.

Nephelium sp.

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Pachira glabrum

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Passiflora sp.

Warm water soak, GA3

25 Degrees

Passion fruit germinates fastest when fresh. If larger amounts of seeds are needed please let us know and we can arrange the freshest seeds possible. Soaking the seeds for 12-48 hours can help the hard seed coat. GA3 soak can also increase germination. Sow 2 cm deep and allow 3-20 weeks for germination, they can be quite slow. Keep warm and steady moisture level.

Pouteria caimito

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Pouteria campechiana

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Ricinus communis

Water Soak, Direct Sow

20 Degrees

After the seeds swell while soaked, they can be sowed in the spot you intend to grow it. If in a pot, use a larger one. Prefers well drained soil, think along the edge of a stream for growing environment.

Solanum sp.

Direct Sow, Transplant

20 Degrees

Most tomato and eggplants are easily grown. Plant in any seed starting mix and keep moist above 20 degrees. Sow 0.5-1cm deep.

Synsepalum dulcificum

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Tamarindus indica

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Theobroma cacao

Please follow the link for seed sowing directions. How to germinate Durio species seeds

Trichosanthes cucumerina

Direct Sow, Transplant

20-30 Degrees

Direct sow or sow in pots for transplant at 2cm deep. Use a looser soil and keep moist at 20-30 degrees. 2-4 weeks for germination.

Zea mays

Direct Sow, Transplant

20-30 Degrees

Direct sow about 1-2cm deep, or plant in trays for transplanting. Relatively easy to grow, just avoid water logging and cold temperatures. Germination in 1 week usually.


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