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Seed Germination — Scarification, Stratification, and Soaking


Hi, I’m Tricia, and organic gardener. Starting plants from seed can be a lot of fun, however it can also be tough, because some plants have seeds that are hard to germinate. Today I’m going to give you some tips on how to germinate those tough seeds. Some seeds have characteristics that serve them well in the wild, but can be frustrating for the gardener. I’m talking about dormancy periods, tough seed coats, and even light requirements. There are few different things we can do to increase the chances of germination. Scarification, stratification and soaking. And all must be done with love in your heart! Scarification is used on seeds that have a tough outer shell, like nasturtium and morning glory. You can think of it as scarring the seed coat to allow in moisture and gases necessary for germination. If you’re using the file, you don’t want to scratch the seeds too much, just enough that the seeds are dulled and you can see the scratches. If you use the nail clippers, you want a definite knick in the seed coat. Another method of scarification is to put the seeds in very hot, but not boiling water. Put them in the water and then let the water cool down to room temperature, and then let them soak for another 12-24 hours. Plant the seeds immediately after soaking. Some seeds need what is called stratification. This process mimics the natural freeze and thaw cycles that some seeds require in order to germinate. Wildflowers and perennial flowers are often planted in the fall and they may stratify naturally. Or, you can ensure that this process happens with a few simple steps. To stratify the seed, we’re just gonna mix it with a little bit of moist, not wet, perlite, vermiculite, or builder’s sand. Mix the seed and medium in a plastic bag, you want 1 part seed to 3 parts medium. Place the bag in the refrigerator, not the freezer, for about 10 – 12 weeks, and check it every so often to make sure that the medium stays moist. After that period, take the bag out and plant the seeds along with the medium. Be gentle with the seeds, in case any have sprouted. There’s scarification, stratification and then there’s just plain old soaking of the seeds for about 12-24 hours in room temperature water. And seeds like beans, peas and okra benefit a lot from this soaking. Parsley is a special case. The seeds from parsley are actually coated naturally with a substance that retards germination. It really helps to soak the parsley seeds for 48 hours, and change the water twice. For some seeds, they don’t need soaking, they don’t need scarring, but the amount of light that they get while they’re germinating is important. For example, alyssum needs light to germinate, so it’s planted very shallow. On the other hand, fennel will not germinate unless it’s in total darkness, so you’ll plant it deeper. If you want to learn more about starting your own seeds, I recommend this book “The New Seed Starter Handbook.” So start your own seeds, and Grow Organic for Life!

78 Comments

  1. GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Author

    According to Iowa State University either plant the maple seeds directly in fall or stratify them for 40-90 days at 33-41°F and plant in spring. Beech seeds can be sprouted in rich soil or mulch in moderate to dense shade. Hope that helps!

    Reply
  2. Daniel Jones Author

    What a HELPFUL video. Thank you for the plain english and clearly explained methods. I think i will go with the soaking for my bluebonnets. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. stephen williams Author

    Thank you I need to do this to some cherry blossom seeds I have ready to give my fiancée on the morning of our wedding as 1 of the gifts I've got her and watch the blossom tree grow through out our married life together. We are getting married 19th August 2013 I'm guessing I need to start this now 13th April 2013?

    Reply
  4. GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Author

    Yes. The seeds fo cherries should be stratified in moist medium in the refrigerator for 90-140 days. Then plant them a half inch deep and keep them moist. Try with a dozen or so seeds, cherries can be stubborn about germinating. Good luck and congratulations!

    Reply
  5. Brent King Author

    For about 2 years now I have been grow silver maples I found already sprouted in my yard…so I wanted to grow others…so I bought cherry blossom seeds and others oriental tree seeds..I soaked 5 cherry blossom seeds for 24 hours, then put them in warm moist soil. (above my fireplace) about 4-5 weeks later only 1 out of the 5 sprouted….was I post to Scarification, Stratification them first??? they have a hard shell..

    Reply
  6. GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Author

    Yes, cherries require 90 to 150 days of stratification. That will probably improve your germination rate.

    Reply
  7. GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Author

    According to Iowa State: "Most apples and crabapples will not reproduce true from seed. They are usually propagated by grafting and budding. However, the seed of most apples and crabapples are viable and can be germinated. Collect fruit from trees as they ripen. Remove the seed. Sow the seed in the fall or stratify the seed for 60 to 120 days at 37 to 41 F and plant in the spring. Sow the seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep."

    Reply
  8. Belen Corso Author

    I am wanting to plant Japanese cherry tree seeds and the instructions that came with the seed are asking "stratify warm 1-2months then cold stratify for 3-4 months" you explained the stratification process but what does "stratify warm" mean?? Do I need a warm light? and also in a zipper bag with soil?? thanks so much, by the way I loved your video, I learned a lot 

    Reply
  9. chuotcon96 Author

    Hello, can you give me some help with how to germinate Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) seeds? What technique and how long it takes? Thank you very much!

    Reply
  10. GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Author

    @Anthony Nguyen Plant the seeds in a tray or in a pot. Check out our video on Starting Seeds for more details: http://youtu.be/e0rYp8MZWKg

    Reply
  11. Francisco José Leite de Oliveira Neto Author

    Hi, I have some seeds of japanese maples and liquidambar, acer rubrum, and my seeds already in refrigerator for 3 months and not germinate yet, what I should to do? Please help me, my e-mail is [email protected] Thanks

    Reply
  12. Vitória Gurgel Author

    It's an amazing video, and very easy to understand for non english speakers, ill try some of these technics. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  13. Quantum Chang Author

    +GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley: For stratification of seeds in the refridgerator, can I put it in an air tight container so that I don't need to check for any loss of moisture? Does the seeds need to breathe during stratification?

    Reply
  14. Jaye Song Author

    Hi, I'm a novice when it comes to gardening and I would like to learn how to germinate rose seeds that I got as a gift. I read some information on how to do this but I just want to make sure I'm doing it right! Do I just need to soak the seeds for 24 hours in hot (but not boiling) water or do I need to place it in the fridge with wet paper towels overnight?

    Reply
  15. CMARYViolin Author

    I love your channel please dont stop making videos. And if its okay may i ask a request for tips on planting on tropical climate areas

    Reply
  16. Alan Gervin Author

    What is that yellow bottle you have of? Feel like that was really skipped over. So I add my rasberrie seeds to some perlite and what for stratification?

    Reply
  17. Theodore du Plessis Author

    Hey there! What about Italian Cypress seeds? What do you recon is the best method for getting these to germinate? 🙂

    Reply
  18. greenskynz Author

    hi do you have any experience with bilberry seeds stratification, soaking and germination that you could share. ive been using wet paper towels in baggies but for ease of handling tiny seeds I am now considering them to stratify in plastic trays filled with fine peat moss. but once they are out from fridge, seeds quite often tend to develop white mold. for this reason I am thinking about vermiculite. also i am wondering when its best to soak the seeds (before or after stratification) if someone is using GA3 or Hydrogen Peroxide.

    Reply
  19. Laurie Harrison Author

    I am in Tennessee. I have a red cypress vine. I like it but it is in the wrong place. Can it be started from seed? Process? or can it be transplanted?

    Reply
  20. Parno Kocrit Author

    Ask question.. after i tried trumpet creeper vine seed . Stratification. .. hong long i mean days . It germination appear? .. then can i plant this flowers in tropic climates.. about 29C degres temperatur of environment.. thanks for your help . And your attention

    Reply
  21. Pastor Joe Fox Author

    I like to get the car up to about 110 mph in the rain, then hold the seeds out through the window. The wind and rain do a good job scarifying and soaking. I do it for about 20 minutes per seed. Then I bury the seeds in an old mine shaft in a National Park near me, 1.7 miles beneath the surface of the earth, with a vanilla scented candle next to them. I leave them for 32 months. Then I retrieve the seeds and plant them in my garden. I have achieved nearly 40% germination. It works people!

    Reply
  22. bobbymalta73 Author

    Thanks for sharing dear! How we can grow Venus Fly trap Seeds,is trough that we have to put them in the refrigerator for a few weeks? Thks!

    Reply

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