Randi V.W. Eckel, PhD

December 10, 2013

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Snow, Snow, Snow….

December is here! Our plants are tucked away for the winter and we’ve already started planting seeds for next year.

Cold Stratification??? As many of you know, many native plants seeds need to ‘suffer’ through periods of cold, moist conditions (aka, cold stratification) before they will grow. How long do you need to cold stratify them? It depends on the kind of seed. Species may require as little as 2 weeks or as much as 6 months, but most seeds requiring cold stratification will germinate after 4 to 12 weeks of cold treatment. A lot of you have asked us to explain a little more about how you can cold stratify seeds. Here are several ways you can go about it:


Plant your seeds in moist soil in a pot covered in plastic and place it in your refrigerator - but make sure to label it carefully so no one mistakes it for scary leftovers! Put a note on your calendar to remind you when to take them out again and place them in a warm, sunny spot to grow.


Plant you seeds in a pot (again, covered to keep them from drying out) and place in a cold garage or barn. It is usually a good idea to also cover these with a screen of some sort – mice are quite adept at finding seed to eat in the winter! Again, note on your calendar when to move them to a warm, sunny spot.


Plant the seeds in a pot or flat outdoors or in a cold frame! Outdoors it’s usually good to cover the pot/flat with some leaves and a small piece of screening (to manage moisture and mice) but make sure you remove the leaves by very early spring!


Just plant them outdoors! As crazy as it sounds, you can plant seeds in the winter. Make sure you don’t plant them too deep (a VERY common mistake). We often recommend folks plant their seeds just before a rain or snow event so the moisture helps to settle the seeds into the ground. Remember this rule of thumb: In general, seeds should be planted no deeper than the thickness of the seed itself!

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