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Wednesday - March 02, 2011

From: Gilman, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Preplant dip for wildflowers from Gilman IA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am growing wildflowers in a greenhouse for wholesale spring sales. The very tall varieties such as cimicifuga stretch very quickly. Do you know of any chemical treatments as a preplant dip that have been used on wildflower?

ANSWER:

For our information, since we did not recognize the plant name cimicifuga, we searched on our Native Plant Database for it. What we found is that Actaea racemosa var. racemosa (Black cohosh) has "cimifuga" as one of its synonyms, so at least we learned something.

Honestly, using some sort of "preplant dip" for wildflowers is not something that would ordinarily occur to us. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants are being grown. Our usual attitude about native wildflowers is to encourage the preservation of their habitats and pollinators, plant them in an area and soil to which they are native, and let them do their thing. Wildflowers have gotten along without us, though it hurts us to say it, for a very long time. Since every plant's Prime Directive is to reproduce itself, they will grow, bloom, seed and either die or go dormant, until the next blooming season. The seeds, since they are dropped where they belong, will wait until optimal conditions exist for them to come up again, in terms of temperatures, sunlight and rain. Avoiding pesticides and herbicides also will contribute to the wildflowers continuing to thrive. What we're seeing is that the less we do, the better. The flowers know what they're doing, they just need a safe place to do it.

But, because you piqued our curiosity, we Googled on "preplant dips for wildflowers." Struck out. Next, we tried "chemical treatment for wildflower seeds." That got more positive results; the first one we chose was from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Wildflowers. Another that we thought had a lot of good information is from Easyliving Wildflowers Basics of Planting Wildflowers.  And, since we consider the Wildflower Center the best source for information about growing wildflowers, read our How-To Articles on Getting Started and Meadow Gardening.

We do, of course, have greenhouses actively growing plants native to Central Texas on the grounds of the Wildflower Center. Seeds are gathered from those seeds, cleaned, stored and replanted every year, both in our greenhouses and onsite in our botanical gardens. Because wildflowers have different rates of germination, there are various techniques that are used. One way to find out about a specific native wildflower's propagation, is to go to our webpage on that plant and read its Propagation Instructions. To do this, first go to Recommended Species, click on Iowa on the map. The sidebar at the right of the page can be used to make more precise selections for the plants you want to know about. For learning purposes, click on "herb" (herbaceous blooming plants) and then NARROW YOUR SEARCH, resulting in 92 possibilities. We arbitrarily chose Baptisia alba (White wild indigo) and went to that page. From it, you can learn light requrements, preferred soils, bloom time and so forth. Scrolling down the page, you will find sections on Growing Conditions and Propagation Instructions; for Baptisia alba:

"Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds , Root Division
Description: Sow unstratified seed in fall or stratified seed in spring. Plant 1/2 deep. Plants germinate quickly but do not flower for up to 3 years. The tough rootstock can be divided in the fall. The roots are deep, so dig deeply to avoid breakage. Cuttings can also be taken.
Seed Collection: About six weeks past flowering, the pods should be black and beginning to open. Collect at this time comb the seeds from the pod. Mature, viable seeds will be brownish, hard and rounded. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Scarification (one source says to pour 135 degree water over seeds and let cool overnight), inoculation, and moist stratification for 10 days."

In summary, we don't know of a standard dip for wildflower germination; every plant has its own needs and values. That's what the Native Plant Database of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is all about.

 

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