A guest post from Brett Auttenberry, hotriculturalist butterfly gardener extraordinaire.
T'is Autumn. That means t'is time to start gathering fruit and seeds for this year's stratification season.
Last season I had great success propagating Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower: 147 seedlings from one seed pod! The following is my method...
Collect the seed pods (pic 2) when they are fully ripened on the plant. They will be brown and dry. Carefully remove them either with a pinch or a good sharp pare of snips. Lay the pod on a white piece of paper and splitit open. Many tiny spherical seed will spill out. Allow them to sit out and air dry for a time to make sure no moisture is present.
Place the seeds in a small sealed container into the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks. This is called "cold stratification" and is required for many species including Cardinal Flower.
When the stratification time is done take a shallow container (pic 3), about an inch deep, with perforations made in the bottom. This will be your germination tray. Typically perforations are meant to allow for drainage. In this case they allow water to seep up into the container. Fill the container with a good seeding medium and sprinkle the seeds evenly as possible over the medium. The seeds are so small they will almost disappear. At this point DO NOT WATER. Watering will displace and clump the seeds very close together.
Take a second container (pics below) big enough to hold the germination tray and puncture the sides about 3/8"-1/2" up the side. This will be your catch basin. The holes up the side allow the basin to keep a consistent water depth without flooding the germination tray.
Place the seeded germination tray into the catch basin and pour water into the catch basin, allowing the water to hydrate the medium in the germination tray from below.
Once the seeds germinate allow them to grow in the medium until they have 3-5 leaves. Gently remove about a square inch of the medium with the seedlings out of the tray at a time and separate each seedling. You can bare root them if needed in order to separate them. Place each seedling into its own seed cell in 6-pack flats.
Place flats in a large shallow storage container with punctures about 1" up the sides (pic below). Again, this will keep a consistent water depth to keep the soil moist/wet. Until plants are established it's still a good idea to not water directly over the plants but directly into the storage container and allow the water to seep upwards into the cells.
Once the plants have well established roots repot them into 4" pots and place in the same storage container set up. You will, of course, need to have twice as many now that they're in the larger pots.
I hope you have fun!!
Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org to be forwarded directly to Brett.