Growing native plants from seed can be fun and rewarding. It is also an inexpensive way to add native plants to your garden. At several recent events, we shared seeds of several species harvested from flowers grown in our own gardens here in Lexington. Here is some follow-up advice that may prove helpful.
What do I do now? The seeds we distributed are all from local native plants, adapted to our local environment. These seeds typically need a period of cold and wet conditions (called cold stratification) before they’ll germinate. This helps to ensure that they won’t germinate in the fall and then die in winter’s cold. There are three ways to achieve the cold they need:
1. You can sow them in your garden this fall; that, after all, is what nature does. Make sure there’s good seed-to-soil contact. Larger seeds will benefit from a thin soil cover, but the smaller seeds need to be at or very close to the surface to catch some sun. Some of the seeds will be eaten by wildlife, but hopefully some will survive to germinate in the spring.
2. You can place them in your refrigerator, in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel, for artificial cold stratification, and then sow them in the spring. See the websites below for detailed instructions on cold stratification.
3. To improve your success rate, many species can also be grown in pots for later transplant into the garden. Leave the pots outside through the winter in a shaded area where they’re exposed to the rain and snow but protected from hungry critters.
For more information about cold stratification and for more details about growing some of the species listed below, two helpful sources are:
Wild Seed Project (www.wildseedproject.net)
Prairie Moon Nursery (www.prairiemoon.com)
Below are brief descriptions of the species we distributed at recent events and their preferred conditions.