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Mr. Smarty Plants - Starting Tecoma stans seedlings

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Monday - February 25, 2013

From: Tucson, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Shrubs
Title: Starting Tecoma stans seedlings
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I planted and germinated several (about 40) seeds from my Tecoma stans plant and they all sprouted and grew very nicely. They are now about 6 weeks old and they don't seem to be making any more progress. They started with four small leaves and then grew stalks which now are sprouting two long leaves at the top. The stalks seem too long and skinny to support them and they are just kind of lying down and not gaining any biomass. They are about 3 - 6" right now. I am not sure what the next step is to turn them into healthy viable plants. Should I stake them with thin sticks? Should I just plant them in the ground in the middle of March? Is there anything special I need to do to transplant them (like bury part of the stem in the ground)? I have no idea what to do! I need these to grow because their mother plants died in the February deep freeze this year. I live in Tucson, Arizona. Can you help?

ANSWER:

Esperanza or yellow bells is an attractive deciduous shrub for water-restricted areas in the south. It’s great that you had saved seed from your mother plant and have many seedlings germinated. The seedlings have used a lot of energy sprouting and getting their cotyledons (seed leaves) formed. Yours have just sprouted their first true leaves and your plants perhaps are taking a rest before they begin another growth spurt. A light feeding of organic fertilizer might spur them along.

Tecoma are not the sturdiest shrubs and it is no surprise that they are “reclining” a bit. Staking them loosely (tied in a figure eight with twine) will help them grow straighter. The University of Vermont Extension has a good article called “To Stake of Not to Stake” online by Dr. Perry.  Also, perhaps your plants are stretching for the light or are too shade and that is why they are not standing upright. 

There is some good information about growing Tecoma stans at our www.wildflower.org website.

J. Lang Wood offers some good tips on the SFGate website about germinating Tecoma stans and growing seedlings.  This plant is adapted to drought conditions and needs to have well-drained soils (sand based) and may be harmed by excessive moisture after the seeds have germinated. The seedlings should be kept just lightly moist. This “tough love” philosophy of reduced water availability will strengthen the seedlings and reduce rotting and mold problems.  Also only fertilize the plants minimally with a perennial or shrub organic formulation.  Tecoma should be able to grow and bloom well without much supplemental fertilizer.

Bonnie Grant on the eHow website has an informative article about How to Grow Yellow Bell Plant Seeds too. She says, “Transplant the seedlings to 2-inch pots when they have two sets of true leaves. Use the same soil mixture you used for germination. Let the plants grow until they are 3 to 4 inches tall and plant them outside. Keep the soil on the dry side and make sure they have a full day of sunshine.”

 When you do plant your seedlings in the garden, do not plant them deeper than the level that they were previously growing. Planting them deeper could harm the stem and deprive the roots of essential oxygen.  As far as when to plant them outside, this will depend on how fast they are growing (if the roots are pushing out the bottom of the pot then they need to go into a bigger pot or into the garden), how big they are (small seedlings usually have a higher mortality rate in the garden) and the time of year (winter is the best times to plant shrubs and trees in the garden). You may decide the best action is to plant your seedlings in individual pots (and keep increasing the pot size as they grow up to a gallon size) in a protected location for several more months.  Often plants fare better when planted in the garden if they are kept in a pot longer so they get to be stronger and larger.

Lastly, your mother plant may not be totally dead (just killed down to the roots) as it is surprisingly hardy. The University of Arizona Pima County Master Gardeners say that Tecoma stans will die to the ground at 20 deg. F and regrow. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

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