Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Last Man Standing
Last fall I collected seeds from my Canadian columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum). I'll return to the tale of the columbine seeds later. I read a number of websites about preparing these seeds and growing seedlings because this was my first attempt at growing seeds from a source other than an envelope I had purchased. Everything I read claimed that the germination rate for Eupatorium seeds was dismal, but I figured what the hell, let's give it a try.
I cold stratified my little seeds for about 3 months, than moist/cold stratified them for another month in my fridge. I planted them in soil-less mix, and--lo and behold--I got three seedlings! Now, these were out of literally hundreds of seeds, but considering the dire predictions from my research, I was pretty excited about getting any seedlings at all!
In the last week, however, they've started to die, and the picture you see is now my last man standing--my lone surviving Joe-Pye seedling. (I apologize for my terrible photography skills; improving those is one goal of this blog. The other cells look bone-dry because I gave up watering them weeks ago, once it became apparent that the seeds weren't sprouting in them.)
I think the other two seedlings died from overwatering. I have a penchant for killing plants with kindness (read overwatering) rather than neglect (read underwatering). This is only a guess since I'm new to starting seeds, but their tiny stems were brownish (suggesting stem rot, which I've seen before in houseplants that I've sent to a watery grave), and their leaves drooped and then it was over.
So I'm trying to hold back on watering this last little guy (and all my other seedlings, for that matter). If anyone out there has advice on how to nurture Eupatorium seedlings, please share it with me! If not, please keep your fingers crossed that this one makes it! I want so fervently to place him in the shadow of his mother in my front border, where she is a hands-down favorite with the monarch butterflies and bumblebees in my yard!