Propagating Native Plant Seed

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) pod and seeds. Photo by Tim Lewis.

Assuming you gathered native seed this past fall from your own plantings or were successful in purchasing Valentine’s Day Seed from Prairie Moon Nursery, and you haven’t yet done a winter seeding, you may be considering starting some seed indoors. Well, now is the time to get started.

Cold Treatment Stratification

If you haven’t already done so, start the stratification process by mixing equals amounts of clean dry seed and clean moist sand in a suitable storage container. Place the container in refrigerator for four to eight weeks.


After the stratification process has been completed, spread the seed and sand mixture into your germinating tray and cover lightly with more soil. Water gently and cover with a sheet of paper. Place in a location indoors near a window or other light source, or outdoors where it can catch the sunlight. Keep the sand and seed mixture evenly moist.


When the seedlings have three to four leaves, transplant to temporary individual pots or directly outdoors. Because these leaves will be tender, the best time to plant outdoors would be in the evening or on a cloudy day so the leaves won’t get burned by immediate and intense direct sunlight. If you have the time, consider hardening them off first, by moving them outdoors for short periods of time before transplanting them permanently to the planting site. Then for the next one to two weeks, make certain to maintain an even amount of moisture.

Royal Catchfly (Silene regia), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpura) at Donna’s prairie

Typically you should not only have marvelous new plants come summer, but you’ll also have experienced the satisfaction of starting your own plants and seeing them grow up, and bloom — after a couple of years

Please be patient. Remember most native perennial plants take two to three years to blossom. First they must put down substantial enough roots to adequately accommodate the  eventual burst of blossoms and the visiting pollinators.

See also Sowing Native Seed.


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