Cyclamen from seed: Presoaking method

The backlog of unsown seeds in my refrigerator and elsewhere in the house makes me no different from any other gardener, I suppose, but I don’t have the seeds of the plants I want now.

A personal law of mine, which I follow from time to time, says I may not purchase more seeds until I have planted the ones I have. Now is one of those times: I deeply want primula seeds, but I haven’t finished sowing my cyclamen yet.

Continuing with my unscientific experiment of propagating cyclamen from seed:

Cyclamen propagation: Presoaking method

Cyclamen have a hard seed coat. Softening the seed coat by presoaking the seeds is said to expedite germination.

  1. Soak the seeds for 12 hours in warm water. Rinse the seeds, and sow into pots.
  2. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sand or vermiculite, then add a layer of grit or gravel (I’m using chicken grit).
  3. Water well. 
  4. Exclude light: I’m further covering these pots with black plastic, just in case the layer of grit isn’t enough.
  5. Keep the pots cool: They should remain between 60-69° F (16-21° C).
  6. Check back periodically. Germination may take 30-60 days.

Growing cyclamen from seed: A winter experiment

Cyclamen are gorgeous, delicate plants. They bloom in winter when little else does. And bittster tells me it isn’t hard to grow them from seed. So he and I went in together on a seed order from Green Ice Nursery, and the seeds arrived not long ago (along with a little gift).

cyclamen hederifolium ready for transplant

The live plants are tucked into their spaces in the garden, and now it’s time to sow some seed.

Instructions for multiple methods to start cyclamen from seed may be found on the Internet. I’m going to try them all (though not in a terribly scientific way).

The first and easiest method is simple winter sowing, or Letting Mother Nature Take Her Course.

cyclamen seed packets from green ice nursery

Cyclamen need dark to germinate. I am beginning with dark plastic pots, filled with coir. I water the coir and pack it into the pot, using another clean pot to tamp it down:

packed coir

The seeds are quite small. These are of Cyclamen hederifolium. I don’t know if there is a variety or cultivar name, but the nursery describes them as “extreme dark purple flowers.”

cyclamen hederifolium extr dark purple seed

The packet came with 10 seeds, so I’m trying this method on five.

I potted the seeds, covered them with a thin layer of coir, and watered them in, passing them back and forth a few times under the fine spray from my kitchen faucet.

watering in cyclamen seed

Finally, I labeled the pot and covered it with a thin layer of chicken grit to reduce light and to reduce the risk of damping off. My chicken grit is crushed granite, available at farm-supply stores.

Then the pot goes outside on my deck, to suffer the elements and wait until spring.

potted winter sown cyclamen

Today we’re expecting to see the edge of a winter storm, with cold rain definite and freezing rain possible. That should get them off to a good start. We’ll check back in three to six months, which is how long it may take them to germinate.

A garden miracle: A sweet pea flower.

What’s Blooming Today?

I’ll tell you what’s blooming: my very first sweet pea.

sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus

I can’t believe it.

Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are enchanting flowers, but at least for me, they have been impossible to grow. Sweet peas need a long period of cool, damp weather to grow well, and we don’t see those conditions frequently. It’s more typical that we get two weeks of relatively pleasant weather, then a few scorching days that blast the sweet peas into oblivion.

This one is climbing on a rose bush that I moved to make way for my rain garden. I noticed the sweet pea foliage sprouting up when I moved the root ball but assumed it would peter out as it always has done. I haven’t given it (or the rose, sadly) any particular attention this spring, but the weather has been more than accommodating, with deep soaking rains.

Tuesday morning I took a short stroll around the garden to deadhead what I could. As I passed by this little garden room, I thought, “What on earth is that pink thing? More campion?” (The campion is everywhere.) As I got closer, I was absolutely astonished.

sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus

It has a light but spicy scent.

The thing that intrigues me most about this occurrence is that I planted the seeds last year, or perhaps even the year before. They are supposed to be annual flowers. The vine grew a few inches last year, then collapsed in the heat of summer. But I suppose the soil conditions were adequate for the roots to continue growing. I will be interested to see if I can gather any seed this year. I don’t imagine it will perennialize–it’s not an actual perennial, but many annuals will act like perennials in certain situations, because they reseed themselves without the assistance of the gardener–but if I do get any seed I will try planting one or two in the fall, and the rest in late winter to see what I can make of them.