Edmonton Native Plant Society
native plant stewards
Spring Seeding
by Cherry Dodd on April 10th, 2010

Native wildflowers are always more of a challenge to grow than garden perennials, and one of the reasons is that most native species need to be cold and damp for a period of several weeks before they will germinate. This process is called stratification.

However, there are some native flower species that do not need stratification and will germinate without any pretreatment when planted in the spring. They can be planted straight into the garden any time between mid-April and the beginning of June. Remember to label them well so you can spot them as they come up. They often have a low germination rate, but don't sow them thickly or they will be too hard to transplant. The average germination time is two to three weeks, but some seeds could take anywhere from one week to six weeks to emerge, so be patient.

Native plants are always tiny in the first year as they put all their energy into growing a strong root system, before bothering with top growth. Because of this slow growth habit they very often get lost in the garden. Plant your seeds somewhere close to the path or close to the house so that you can keep an eye on them.

A better way to plant your seeds is to sow them in a 6'' diameter or larger pot with potting soil, and keep them in a shady spot until they germinate. Put the pot in a shallow container so that you can water from the bottom and keep the soil moist. The advantage of this method is that you know exactly where you planted the seeds, and there are no weeds to confuse you when the seedlings sprout. Move the pot to a semi-shade location as soon as germination occurs, and transplant the seedlings to individual pots of garden soil once they have a couple of sets of leaves. When the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be transplanted into their permanent location in the garden. Water them for the first week or two after transplanting until they settle in.

Here is the list of the species can that can be planted in spring:

(It includes some of our most colourful native flowers. Don't worry about a late spring snowfall. These seedlings are tough and snow won't bother them.)

Alpine Hedysarum (Hedysarum alpinum). Soak the seeds of this species in hot water for 12 hours before planting.
Gaillardia (Gaillardia aristata)
Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Meadow Blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis)
Smooth Fleabane (Erigeron glabellus)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Wild Blue Flax (Linum lewisii)
Common Tall Sunflower (Helianthus nuttallii)

Most native grasses can also be sown directly outside, except for Blue Grama Grass which needs stratification.

If you have native seeds that need stratification it's not too late to do this. Put the seeds in a small plastic bag with a little damp peat moss or potting soil. Put the bag in the fridge for six weeks, but check every few days to make sure your seeds are not germinating prematurely. Plant in the usual manner when the month is up.

Another method is to plant the seeds in a pot and then put the whole pot in the fridge for a month. Cover with a plastic bag so the soil doesn't dry out. Check the pot every few days for signs of germination. The new shoots will be very tiny.

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Patsy - April 10th, 2010 at 11:15 PM
Great website!
Can I suggest you put a photo of "Go Wild" somewhere.
Judith - April 11th, 2010 at 12:35 PM
Thank you! Yes, indeed, we are working on getting 'Go Wild' included.
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