Test for viable flower seeds

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

When you receive flower seeds in a trade or at a seed swap, if the seeds don't have a date written on them, do you perform a test on a few to see if they are still viable before you plant the rest of those seeds? I just had a lady visiting that fell in love with my columbines and I told her I'd save certain ones that she liked for her when they are ready. As you know, they pop up everywhere so until they bloom, you have no idea what color they will be. I knew I had 3 or 4 pk. of columbine seeds that I rec'd at a recent seed swap but they didn't have any date on them but I felt confident by the username that they would be fresh. Then there was a pack with no name on it but dated 1997 in red ink. She wouldn't take them because they were too old and I can certainly understand that. I've read about floating seeds in water and the seeds that float aren't good and then there is a wet paper towel test. I've never tried that because I wouldn't have any place warm to keep them for them to germinate.

Any thoughts on this subject?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm in the same boat you are: I wanted to test some Anaheim pepper seeds last winter, but I keep the house much too cold for that to do any good.

Classic warm spots is on top of the fridge towards the back, on top of a furnace (!) and in a sunny window (but close the drapes at night and don't let them cook when the sun shines in.)


Now that I own a soil-warming pad, you just gave me the idea to use it for germination-test sprouting on coffee filters in ziplock plastic bags!


Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

The only place I could think of is on top of the dryer and I'd be afraid to lay a ziploc bag there, afraid it might melt. That soil-warming pad makes perfect sense to me. Sounds like you start seeds inside under lights? Why not try to see if works and report back to use on the results? I'd be anxious to know if your soil-warming pad does the trick.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Sounds like you start seeds inside under lights?

Yup, or direct-sowing things that are slug-proof.

This year I tried WS tubs for the first time and thought I had failed ... until yesterday when many Penstemon appeared as TINY pinpoints of green.

RE: seed germination test on a warming pad
>> Why not try to see if works and report back

It's on my list to try ... but Spring is a busy time, and I have a passonate desire to create two more raised beds and all the soil they'll need (in my copious - NOT - spare time!)

Also, the weather and the house have ALREADY warmed up now, and adding 10-20 degrees to indoor temps might be too warm for some seeds. When I get around to it, I'll try the peppers (Anaheim and Thai Chili pepers) I got from a fruit stand last fall. Those should like heat!

The real test will be next winter, when the house is c-c-c-cold. I put a sheet of drywall under the pad, so the heat can only go up. I'll put a plastic dome over the seed germination baggies to keep the warm air in, and put a thermometer in with them.


P.S. I don't plan to germination-test any seeds that I have few of. Instead I'll just give them the ebst circumstances I can, on a date when they are most likly to thrive when planted out, and hope.

Testing 10-20 seeds' germination is for seeds that I have hundreds of!

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

I think Penstemon takes a long time to germinate. I still have several seeds that are taking their own sweet time. I keep seeing one of two green leaves trying to pop through and one of those is penstemon and David graden phlox. I should be out there now planting some of my WS seedlings in flowerbeds but I'm running out of room. Waiting for the bulb foliage to die back so I can tell what bare ground is left.

I'm not quite following or understanding what you mean by germination baggies where you put a plastic dome over them. Have any photos of your system that would explain your method. I'm always interested in learning various methods people start seeds.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm just thinking of the classic Deno damp-coffee-filter-in-a-baggie germination.

The plastic dome was going to be a way to keep more heat from the heating pad near the seeds, rather than going straight up or blowing away in drafts. If I do that, it will just be a bunch of baggies on top of a pad, under a dome or domes or plastic film tent.

>> but I'm running out of room. Waiting for the bulb foliage to die back so I can tell what bare ground is left.

Last fall was my first time planting bulbs. I've wondered what I can interplant or overplant when the foliage dies back. "Anything"? Things with shallow roots? what are the limitations?


Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

That's exactly what I am dealing with and I guess a lot of others. I am going outside now to start to put down mulch in my back flowerbeds . I only have one blooming Iris among those beds to worry about. About 4 yrs. ago, I dug them off up and sent them to a lady in Ga. who was to reimburse me the cost of postage but never did. Evidently she didn't get all of them. Three have popped up this year and I like their height so if I ever buy iris bulbs/rhrizones again, it will not be the 3 ft. or taller ones. I dug them the yellow bearded Iris up and gave them away last year. They were just too tall and unsightly when the foliage has to remain. The only draw back of having bulbs, in my opinion. Oh, and the squirells dig them up.

I wonder if you did the Deno method, if you could place that ziploc bag outside in the warm sunshine to see if it will germinate. "Curiosity killed the cat" Anybody have any thoughts on this idea? Remember gardening is all about trial and error.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> if you did the Deno method, if you could place that ziploc bag outside in the warm sunshine to see if it will germinate.

I don't know about outside, but in my house, it is either dark and cool, or roasting. I would only try that if I wanted HOT seeds ... hmmm ... pepper ... tomato ... maybe you have a good idea.

My only dislike of tall plants occurs when they need stakes. It rmeinds me that I plnated a bamboo three years ago "so I would have stakes", and it is still more like "tall grass" than "stakes". Oh, well, it was a half-gallon pot from Home Depot, and the variety I wnated, and CHEAP, so it's welcome to take its time growing up. (Fargesia rufa) But I am looking for a cheap F. robusta and a spot for it, since it is said to have thciker culms.


Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

I got an interesting result from putting seeds in my seed sprouter in the kitchen-the kind typically used to sprout seeds for salad. I was trying shiso for the first time and put 6 seeds in the sprouter. Within 3 days they were sprouted and I planted them into seed starter soil. They are doing well. The shiso seeds I put directly into the seed starter soil have not yet sprouted 8 days later. It's a delicate operation planting those little sprouts but it proved to be a viable idea. Some of my seeds, particularly flower seeds, still haven't sprouted after 35 days so I think I will try them in the seed sprouter.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

When I worked at a nursery seeds were tested on damp paper towels in clear plastic baggies. I am not ashamed to tell you that I use this as a quickie germination method and then pot up sprouts immediately. There's a very narrow window of opportunity to transfer sprouts out of baggies onto/into soil. It involves tweezers OR if you space the seeds well on the paper towels, they actually create a substrate for the seed. I cut the paper towel into squares and plant each square with the germinated seed.

Usually works best in bright light. if the seed is of a type that needs heat to germinate, that's something else altogether.

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