Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - December 06, 2005

From: irving, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Viability of seeds that have not come up
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I planted some wildflower seeds per instructions and they are not coming up. Should they? or will they come up in spring?

ANSWER:

The short answer is "maybe", it depends on several factors. First of all, were the seeds viable? Where did you get the seeds? How old were they? Had they been stored properly? Seed storage can affect the viability of seeds. High humidity and high temperatures adversely affect the viability of seeds. Some seeds have a limited storage life even if stored under optimal conditions. It is too late for the seeds you have already sown, but in future you can check the viability using the "Rag-Doll" test for seed germination on a small sample of the seeds you are sowing.

Another factor that could affect seed germination is that the seeds for some plants require special treatments before they will germinate. Your seed packet should have had instructions if this was the case. For instance, Texas bluebonnet seeds require scarification to insure a high percentage of germination. Some other species (in particular, perennials) require cold stratification to germinate.

Different wildflowers have different strategies for growing. Some that drop their seeds in the late spring or summer, germinate in the fall or winter and survive till spring as a small plant (for example, the rosette of the bluebonnet that forms in the late fall/early winter). In the spring the small plant expands its growth and blooms. Other species drop their seeds in late spring or summer and do not germinate until the following spring. If the latter situation fits your wildflower seeds, you may still see plants germinate in the spring.

Finally, it is possible that your seeds were eaten by insects or birds; or, if they were sown in a location with poor drainage and were over-watered, they may have succumbed to a fungus. If they were sown outdoors, you will just have to wait and watch for them and hope that they do germinate in the spring. If you sowed them in pots, you should move the pots outdoors so that the seeds will be experiencing normal winter temperatures and light cycles. If they do germinate before the last freeze, you can protect the tender young plants by moving them inside temporarily until the danger of frost is over.
 

More Wildflowers Questions

Wildflower garden for Driftwood, TX
August 20, 2013 - I would like to plant wildflowers in a fairly large field on a slope. The slope is a little rocky and is located in Driftwood, TX. I have been thinking about a mixture of Bluebonnets and Indian Blank...
view the full question and answer

Collecting seeds of Anemone berlandieri, windflower
March 29, 2010 - The recent rainy weather has produced a small colony of what I have identified from your web site as Anemone berlandieri Pritzel (Texas Anemone) in my backyard. Is there a way to harvest these seeds f...
view the full question and answer

Native Plant Suggestions for Dripping Springs
August 02, 2011 - I have a very dry commercial property in Dripping Springs TX where the dry sand/dust isn't a good rain conductor (whenever we get rain). What can we plant there? We have no irrigation and use a rai...
view the full question and answer

First flower of the year from Tallahassee FL
August 20, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, What is the first wildflower to bloom in the North Florida area each year? I appreciate your knowledge and attention to all the questions you are asked.
view the full question and answer

Schedule for planting perennial wildflowers from Asheville NC
March 22, 2013 - When is the best time to plant perennial wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.