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Wednesday - October 06, 2010

From: Lubbock , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Student wants pointers to increase germination rate of Salvia farinacea in Lubbock, Texas
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus


I am a student at Texas Tech, studying environmental horticulture. I have been doing research on Salvia farinacea as well as a number of other natives. I've just been assigned a project to increase the germination rate in our S. farinacea seed. Right now germination rates are at 40%. I wondered if you might have any tricks (scarification, stratification, etc.) or be able to point me in the right direction.


You might want to use the paper towel method of germination to do a quick test of various substances.  Then do a more formal test on those that look promising. Check out what numbers of seeds will be statistically significant - I'm thinking 50 seeds might work but I saw 100 in some of the studies. Then you could do a more formal protocol, based on current literature, next.   Have one untreated batch and test the others but grow them exactly as the control.

Control - grow at 68 degrees under light - decide how many hours but I would think the length of day when the soil temperature reaches 65-70 degrees  would be ideal - You may already know the ideal amount of light or you can find it using the references below.

And the age of the seeds may also be a factor.  In some species, you have to let them age before they will germinate. And if some seeds are aged, they don't need stratification.  In other species, you have to almost immediately plant the seeds as the germination starts to fall off as they age, so be sure all your seeds are the same age and/or check to see if the age of these seeds is a factor in germination.

I'd grow the control before starting anything else because you may have to start with stratified seed and then add other treatments. (See Dave's Garden quote below). You should be able to buy stratified seed from seed producers.

To figure out how many hours of light to give your plants, find out the day length when the soil reaches 68 degrees in Lubbock.  Then give your plants that many hours of light.

Here's a chart for length of day in Lubbock. I set it for April but you can change it.

Check with West Texas Mesonet, on your campus, for the average date when the soils reach 68 degrees. I see they collect soil temperature data but didn't see how to be able to find average soil temperatures per date.

  Some Variables to Test:

1) Scarification - I use an emery stick but there are faster ways for scarifying many seeds.

2) Pour boiling water on the seeds and let soak overnight (research this first - in some studies I saw 105 degrees used to soak the seeds.)

3) Try sulfuric acid treatment - look up the recommended midilution - or use several dilutions in range of what works for other seeds. This is a scarification method so you won't need it if you already have scarified seeds.

4) Try soaking  seeds several hours to overnight in Johnnie's Organic Liquid Fertilizer (or something with a similar composition) in recommended amounts.  (I use this to increase the survival rate of cuttings.)  And I just used it on several species of plants that my friend had to do an emergency rescue on in late August.  We have some already blooming after we cut them back to nothing but roots and sticks. I water seeds in with it but haven't scientifically tested it. But it contains kelp which is known to help break seeds' dormancy.

6) You could also try pure liquid kelp in the dilution suggested on the package.

Seed Germination Tips from Salvia Study Group of Victoria:

7) Use 1 teaspoon Epson salts in a 1 quart spray bottle and wet the paper towel with it.  Then mist 1-2 more times if needed, but not after seeds begin germinating.

8) Smokey water is often used in the form of diluted Regen 2000 Smoke Master solution from TREEMAX. This is often used by Nurseries and Botanic Gardens to help overcome the dormancy in some very difficult seeds. (You'll have to contact the link or otherwise find out the dilution to use.) Again you would use the solution to wet the paper towel and mist it as needed to keep it moist.

9) Treatment with gibberellic acid -review the literature to determine the dilution(s) you might want to try.

The Paper Towel Method of Seed Germination

Dampen a paper towel and then lay out your seeds on it.  You can put them in neat rows. The seeds stick to the damp towel.  Then gently transfer to a ziplock bag that is large enough hold the towel without folding since the seeds need light. Put  the paper seeds on the paper towel in a ziplock bag on tray 2-3" under a grow light where you can maintain 68 degrees. (Be sure all your seeds get equal amounts of light.) Then check each day. Count the sprouts, and mist with water as needed. You should be finished by the end of 14 days but may want to run your experiment longer.

Or your professor may already have a protocol for you to use.

From Seed Germination Database:

Salvia farinacea , forskaohlei, miltiorrhiza, officinalis, sclarea, and x superba , Sow at 20ºC (68ºF), germinates in less than two weeks.

Fact Sheet on Salvia says  they need light to grow - don't cover seeds.

From Plant Files in Dave's Garden:

On Apr 22, 2007, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote, “A cold, moist stratification period is required for germination. This salvia species requires light in order to germinate. It can be propagated by cuttings.”


Scientific Journals:

Abstract on Seed germination response of golden chia (Salvia columbariae Benth.) to low temperature and  gibberellin. You can order the article.

This article tested a lot of different substances on another Salvia sp. and will give you a place to start as well as a much more complicated protocol.

Book: "Seed Germination, Theory and Practice," by Norman C. Deno. This book is out of print but your library may have it or be able to borrow it for you.

Book: How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition. Nokes, J., 2001. Texas Monthly Press, Austin, Texas. ISBN: 0292755732.

Review germination in Salvias in general and Salvia farinacea in the literature. I'm finding several abstracts but your school should have the databases so you can read the articles - and make copies for - free. Check with your research librarian if you need help. And, if you are writing a paper, be sure to export the citations so you won't have much left to do on your bibliography.

You can also use the papers to set up you protocols, depending on what equipment your school has. You may have to figure out how to improvise for what the school doesn't have. You may also want to investigate if different substrates have an effect on germination. But since this plant grows over such a wide range of soils, I would try things that are more probable first.









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