Germination of Aquilegia Seeds

Athens, PA

I have a number of packets of Aquigelia seeds that I traded a couple of years ago. I believe they are all '06. I would like to try to start these seeds via the baggy method. I am understanding that not all of the seeds will sprout, given their age. But I also think that I should get better germination from using the baggie method.

I have seen where using the baggie method recommends putting the baggie with the coffee filters into the fridge for 1 day. I believe that Aquilegia needs a cold period in order to germinate, so I question whether this is long enough in the fridge.

Has anybody else started Aquilegia from seed using this method? I'd appreciate your input on this and how you were able to get your seeds to germinate.

Any info is appreciated.


Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

If the seeds were freshly harvested, they would germinate more or less right away. Also, if they were hybrids, then they should start without having to be cold stratified. But if they are from the species, then they most likely need a period of cold stratification lasting 2-3 months. I don't think putting them in the fridge for one day is going to do anything one way or the other.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

I just lay mine on top of the sterile seed starting mix. Do not cover them with more mix as they need light to germinate. I slide my seed tray in a gallon baggy and put on kitchen table under light and in about 5 to 10 days they are germinating.

Soon as I se e sevral coming up, I open the baggy a tiny bit so the seeds don't mold, when I have a good bunch germinatign then I take the whole tray out of the baggy and put under grow lights.

I never have put the seed sin the fridge to try to germinate. Now I do as soon as my seedlings fairly big enough slowly subject them to a cold chill from the outside weather if I want them to bloom the first year. They will lose the leave s they have put up while chilling in the cold and then when warmign back up will put up new leaves and eventually blooms.

Athens, PA

Paracelsus/Starlight -

Thank you both for your replies. What I ended up doing was to broadcast half of the seeds outside. The other half are in the fridge - I am trying the baggie method.

The Columbine seeds are from 06. I can't remember if the lady I traded with told me whether they had been prechilled or not and I beleive they were open pollenated - although I am not positive of that either. I guess time will tell. I would be happy with even a 20% germination rate.

Thanks again.

La Honda, CA

Paracelsus is right about the common cultivars - many do not need any prechill. Many of the species do need a prechill - probably a minimum of 4 weeks, 8 weeks is usually better. GA-3 gives good germination for many of the dormant kinds. As for 2006 seed, two-year old seed of some Aquilegias will germinate better than fresh - the dormancy diminishes with aging, and they won't need as much cold or GA-3. Figure Aquilegias will give you good germination for 5 years unless stored in a hot humid place.

Broadcasting outdoors now should be fine. I think you will end up with plenty of nice plants.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I've had really good luck winter sowing columbines (Aquilegia). That's a method that provides them with any necessary chill period. Broadcasting works too, but winter sowing in containers gives me a better chance of getting seedlings that survive... I baby my seedlings a little more than most folks on the winter sowing forum, potting them up for the summer and planting them out in fall.

I store my Aquilegia seeds in the fridge. I'll sow some more on Groundhog's Day... look for my article on winter sowing that day and join me! :-)

Athens, PA

JL - I hope you are right and that I end up with some plants.

Critterologist - interestingly, I have wintersown the aquilegia seeds for 3 years in a row and that is the one type of seed I always had a problem with. I must have been doing something wrong - I had good germination with a whole assortment of other types of seeds, but always a problem getting the aquilegia to germinate. I am looking forward to your article - maybe I will find out what I did wrong.

Thank you all,

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Carolyn, I've only had a couple of varieties that didn't germinate from WS seed, and I assumed that was because there was a problem with the seeds... I'm not sure what to suggest, other than offering to send you some seeds to try if you think that could be the problem.

Ogden, UT

Last year I started a columbines (Aquilegia), in the greenhouse, It took a long time for them to germinate, I just about gave up on them, (these were seeds I ordered from Mountain Valley seeds and I always have great luck with them). I checked my plant guide, and they are it listed germination temp at 50 where usually its 70, and also listed germination time as 30 days! So now I keep them cooler.
Let me know how they do.

Athens, PA


I appreciate the offer, but it is not necessary - Thank you. I beieive I have a couple of packs left that I have not sown yet - I am thinking about broadcasting the remainder of them outside.

Flowerprincess - what you have told me, I would think that I should get something - I do think there should be some viabilty with '06 seeds. Wish me luck!

Thank you all, so much.


Monticello, IA

I've never had problems getting my columbine seeds to grow either. I winter sow my seeds since they like wet stratification. You really have to keep them from drying out to do well.

I watched Gardener's diary where the lady sowed her hardy seeds directly into her brick path. The bricks kept it warm and wet and then she just had to move the bricks to replant stocky, fat seedlings. I decided to make a 4x4 raised bed with bricks and sand and that's where I broadcast my hardy seeds all winter long as I get them. I cover the bed with a homemade hoop tent in February with an old rice cooker filled with water to keep it a little warmer only on the most cold of nights here in Iowa. I have always had strong, unstunted plants to move into my gardens by May this way. I think my success is that the bricks keep just the right amount of moisture by mimicking the way the seeds grow in the wild.


Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

What a neat idea!

How should I tag this... hmm... "winter sowing with bricks".. ?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I find aquilega (columbine) are great candidates for GA3 for those of us who don't have a fabby brick set up. Great idea starting2! Thanks for sharing.

Monticello, IA

Not my idea lol but glad to share

I love Gardener's Diary,

I am so ticked at HgTV -lower case "g" because they hardly have any GARDEN!
They canceled the show until a bunch of us internet gardeners screamed long and loud. Guess if it's not a remodel,
then someone isn't making enough money lol.

Oh neat, if you go to the website
you can click on episodes and watch online for free.
These are all repeats, will have to find the episode that had the brick lady on it. I loved
it when Erica asked her how she planned her garden. "Oh", she said, "Once
I was all about following other peoples rules and then one day, I figured out
I was old enough not to follow any rules at all" - LOVED it! :).

She says she just scatters seeds and grants the rain and the wind time to garden.
She also mentioned she butchers out any plants that don't thrive right quick like.
She was one of my most favorite inspirations for sure.

Athens, PA

starting -

I haven't seen that one - I'll have to look for it. I love Gardeners Diary too. I have it set to record on my tivo whenever it comes on. I have to look for that episode - I don't think I have seen that one. Thanks for the infor


Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

alrighty then - in baggies, but not in fridge. Is it me, or are these seeds just darned persnickety??

Athens, PA


They do seem to be persnickety - but the thing that gets me is the plant growing out in the garden throws off these seeds and they sprout. So I am wondering if I am trying too hard with these seeds. Of the packets that I tried sowing last January, the ones that I broadcast outside did the best. I will probably do it that way again with the aquilegia seeds.


Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

its seems that hgtv has lost there way to the g for garden and are only interested in bulky men doing reno programs lol some of us do not like those shows all the time a little variety would be nice lol

Monticello, IA

I hope this brings a smile. I've lost the first post I wrote with fat finger syndrome and hope I can recapture the fun.

In my blog, I am testing sowing methods for columbine. The first test was 1 part verm/2 parts peat moss and then winter sown. I put it in clear Dixie cups so I could calculate germination rate. ďPoorĒ brother was tossed out last night where temps got down to -2.
Now thatís a test of hardy seeds eh?

Test 2 was pampered Gardenerís Diary style. Where I live, columbine grow in the crevices of limestone bluffs. I went to Menards where this young man was loafing and made him go out in the frigid yard to get me my bag of sand and medium limestone. The joy on his face was a sight to behold. After three attempts to pick up the brittle bag of stone, I got a box and helped him shovel in my now three bags of pebbles, which now I purchased for a dollar. You donít think that I didnít put that little tidbit in the evil part of my mind now do you?

I wondered if peat was too acidy so I used 1 part sand, 2 parts composted leaf mold (my own compost thank you), 1 part verm and 3 oz of dolomitic limestone. I then topped it with a layer of pebbles, making for a lean, mean limey mix. To replicate the action of the seeds being creviced in the rocks, I added a nice blanket of snow that will melt one day hopefully and bury the seeds. Out he went to join his brother.

Thus is my interpretation of putting seeds to bed ;). Bets anyone on who will be the more rugged strong seedling?

The named seeds will go in my brick bed but I have more fun coming in the mail, How shall I sow it next??????

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This message was edited Jan 27, 2009 9:25 PM

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Monticello, IA

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Monticello, IA

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Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

LOL! I can almost hear Igor in the background asking "Do you want the electricity on now?"

You've inspired me - I'm going to take some seeds and toss them onto the ground tomorrow to see which ones come up and do best - those that Mother Nature takes care of, or the ones I pretend I'll get to grow :-) All I gotta do is scoop the snow away first, so the birds don't get them.

Athens, PA

Mindy - you have inspired me too. I have a couple of packs of aquilgeia seeds that are sitting here. I need to do something with them. I want to put them outside, but once again we are getting hit with another storm of the century! That gets old

Dryad - I try to see Igor in the back with the electricity too, but somehow I end up seeing Marty Feldman in 'Young Frankenstein'. LOL - If I remember correctly he pronounced it "I"gor.....


Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

I found that the best way to grow them is to go out as soon as the ground starts to melt and just put them where I want them to grow it still get cold at night and they are usually up in about a week and what works even better and is easier is to put them in place just before the first winter storm cover them with a little bit of soil and leave them in place for winter in the spring they do their thing and voila columbines

I have started some by just filling the bottom of the flat with two inches of soil and making it wet then putting in the seeds and putting it in the garage for two weeks in zone 5 it is very cold out there and then bringing it in to heat up and then they come up in about two weeks good rate like that


Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

Thanks Mona - that will be much easier for me, first because I'm generally inclined to let Mother Nature do the work for me, second because we got a gift of about 10" of snow overnight, so there's no way I could be spreading them now :-)

Carolyn, I actually had Young Frankenstein in mind too!! GREAT movie. (Although my parents didn't find it funny for some reason, they preferred Blazing Saddles.)

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

I always have better luck with them planting them very early spring

Monticello, IA


You have Purrfect weather for winter sowing - ra-ha-ha-ha-ha
I would put something like a showbox with the bottom cut out so I know where the seeds are
pull back just a bit of snow and then toss the seeds on top of the snow. I've used
food coloring to spray the snow and mark the bed too. Then as the snow melts, the seeds
will scarify on thier own. I like having a container for portability and to lessen
the weed germination.

Tonight I'll be out in my MG fence popping out those seeds right on top of the snow.
We are supposed to get 8 inches this weekend so perfect timing :)


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Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

you had better cover them in snow at least 4 inches or the birds will get them

Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

Well, covering in 4" shouldn't be a problem - it's getting to the area to "pull back" a bit of snow that may take some time....I had planned a bit over to the right, where the leftover Aster is sticking up....

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Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Hi - I've always had luck wintersowing my columbine.

Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

that's it - far more people with experience than me have had WS luck with these beasties. I'm gonna plan out how to get them where I want them, and then do some traipsing later today. Some will go on the north side of the house, by the neighbors drive - where no one walks, so they should be fine there. The others - gonna have to find a shoebox to sacrifice to the seeds.

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

I cant get to where I want mine the snow is to deep up to my ying yang so I will have to wait till it melts about half and then maybe I will make so that is why I started some and will sow the rest when I can make it there

Monticello, IA


In my area, Spring is freezing cold, soggy, wet and windy
and is usually followed by 90 F/ 100 % humidity,
sometimes on the same day :).

There's no such thing as "out like a lamb" here
but Al Gore assures me the midwest is going to be more moderate.
I'm praying for that day ;).

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

paying for global warming here to since it has been colder this year than any winter in many many years he made a mistake I thing and its the ice age lol

as far as your weather in spring its the same here as soon as you see soil just pick at it and drop the seeds or now under some snow they will be fine they are real perennials just make sure they will have shade since they are shade plants

Athens, PA


I like the shoebox idea a lot! I think that is what I am going to do.

Why is it that I never think of things like that on my own!?

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

that is why we have daves garden and we pay to be here hahahhahaha

Athens, PA


that is exactly what I was thinking when I was typing!

Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

You're entirely right! Although I think it's one of the best twenty bucks I spend each year - I always get more out of it than I put in, it seems :-)

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

I have save so much money using this site it is priceless and so are the new friends we find along the way


Scottsburg, IN(Zone 6a)

This is one of the few "investments" you can make that won't scam away with your money - LOL!

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