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Mr. Smarty Plants - Germination and propagation of bluebonnets

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Monday - April 25, 2005

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Germination and propagation of bluebonnets
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I live in Austin. Last fall I spread a load of dirt on my lawn to provide soil contact for the 2 pounds of bluebonnet seeds I subsequently spread (this was in early November). The germination rate appears to have been very low. Other than seed scarification (which I did not do) what else can I try to get better results? Was the load of dirt a reasonable thing to try?

ANSWER:

First of all, bluebonnet seeds naturally germinate over a period of several years. This is a common survival strategy for plants living in difficult climates. If the weather is not suitable for bluebonnet success this year, there will be seeds next year and the next to try and try again. In newly sown meadows it is normal to see a gradual increase in the number of bluebonnets over several years. This past year, was not a particularly good year for bluebonnets in many areas due to high rainfall rates at critical times that led to a fungal outbreak. The dirt was a reasonable thing to try, but it may also have been a boon for pillbugs. Although they tend to feed on decaying organic matter, they can decimate germinating bluebonnet seeds. Having said all that, scarifying the seeds would have probably given you better germination. One method is to put sand in a large jar with a small amount of water to make a slurry, add the bluebonnet seeds and shake vigorously. Pour the mixture out on a fine screen and rinse the sand away. Planting the seeds a little earlier in the fall might also insure better germination
 

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