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October 2012

QuestionI have an Eastern Redbud tree in my yard here in town. It has bloomed the last two years, this year producing many seedpods. I would like to start some trees at my cabin up on Greers Ferry. Should I try to sprout the seeds (if so, how?) and plant the seedlings? Or should I just scatter the seeds and let nature take care of things? We have only a thin layer of mineral soil over cap rock covered with a thick layer of leaves, pine needles, and mast.


AnswerRedbud seeds have a hard outer seed coat which has to be scarified or weakened before going through a cool, moist storage period (stratification) before the seeds will germinate. Professionally they use sulfuric acid to do the scarifying, but for home gardeners you can try using sandpaper to abrade the outer surface or even use a small tack hammer to lightly crack the seeds. Then store the seeds in a plastic bag with moist potting soil in the refrigerator to give them the cool, moist stratification. They can get this scarification/stratification naturally outdoors, but you rarely see an abundance of redbud seedlings coming up in yards—there are a few, but not the number you might expect with the abundance of seeds. Plant the seeds outside in the spring and see what happens.

November 2012

QuestionThe plants shown in the attached picture grow in a very shady location in our yard in Springdale, AR. They bloom at this time of the year. The blossoms are up to 2 1/4 inches in diameter and the points of the larger three part leaves form a 5 inch equilateral triangle. They grow up to about 18 inches high. They survived for a few years before we noticed them and they don't seem to need much care. We would love to know what they are and what we could do encourage these to propagate.


AnswerThey are wonderful perennials called Japanese anemones. They come in either pink or white and can reseed themselves as well as spread at the base. Low maintenance and fall blooming makes them a winner. You can save seeds and scatter, or thin them out next spring as they emerge.

December 2012

QuestionI have a question about an acorn that my sister picked up recently from one of the few trees to survive the fall of the towers in New York. I would very much like to plant it, but should I over-winter it in a container or something? We have lots of squirrels and don't want them to get at it.......What to do, help if you can?


AnswerThere are a variety of different types of oaks out there and germination rates will vary between species. I would recommend you get a plastic bag and fill it with moist potting soil—not wet, but about the moistness of a wrung out sponge. Put your acorns in the bag and put the bag inside your refrigerator for the winter. This is giving the seeds a cool, moist period called stratification—they would get this naturally outdoors, but you are preventing the squirrels and other critters from getting them. In the spring, pot them up and be patient. I would grow them in a container so you can monitor their growth. Once they are up and growing, if you know where you want to plant them, plant away.

July 2012

QuestionI recently picked a mess of dry seed pods off some lily type flowers. I would like to plant the seeds and am hoping you will tell me if this will work. For some reason, I thought day lilies came up from bulbs!


AnswerMany bulbous type plants, including daylilies, tiger lilies and even daffodils and tulips set seeds as well from the spent flowers. It takes a while to get a blooming plant from a seed of a daylily or Asiatic lily, but it is doable. Just lightly cover the seeds with soil and be patient. It usually takes two years before you see a flower, but you will get plants much sooner. A quicker method of propagation is to divide the plant. Many gardeners like to experiment. If you have a lot of daylilies, they will cross pollinate so you will get a different bloom.

September 2010

QuestionI collected some seed pods from a tree growing near the Fayetteville Courthouse this week. Each frond contained at least 10 to 20 pods. The pods had three lobes, heart shaped, containing 3 to 5 round, almost black seed, about the size of a pea, and the pods shattered very easily when crushed. The trees appeared elm in size and shape of crown. My question is what is the species, and can the seeds be planted to start a new tree. If so, what is the protocol for planting.


Answer      It looks like seeds of the golden raintree-- Koelreuteria paniculata. The seeds need to be scarified (rub them between sand paper or soak them in hot water and let them stand for 24 hours) and then placed in moist peat moss in a plastic bag for at least 90 days. This cool moist storage process is known as stratification. The seeds need to go through both scarifying (helping to break the hard impermeable seed coat) and then stratified (which they would get naturally outdoors in the winter) before they germinate. Once you do this, the seeds actually germinate quite nicely.      

October 2008

QuestionI have some cleome and sweet William seeds. I heard you could plant seeds in the fall. Would now be OK? To plant seeds do I sprinkle potting soil over them to a depth of 1/2 inch and keep moist?


AnswerCleome is a great summer annual that freely reseeds itself in the garden. The seeds are winter hardy from last year’s plants, but won’t germinate until the soil warms up. Wait and sow your stored seeds after all chances of frost have passed in late spring. Cleomes are fairly wild plants once established and would need a large container—they would prefer to be let loose in the garden, so scatter the seed and lightly cover, since they do need light to germinate. For the Sweet William or Dianthus barbatus, they are a biennial that can be planted either spring or late summer. Planting the seeds now, would simply have the seeds overwintering in the garden—they usually won’t germinate until the soil warms up. It is possible to get some germination this late in the season, but it is preferred to plant the seeds either 6-8 weeks before the first frost or indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost, or where they are wanted to grow. Do realize they won’t bloom the first season.


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