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Growing Acanthostachys strobilacea from seed

Growing Acanthostachys strobilacea from seed

Acanthostachys strobilacea

Basic plant info

Acanthostachys strobilacea is a tropical plant from the bromeliads family that natively grows in south America. In nature it grows as an epiphyte like other bromeliads. It has a drooping look which makes it suitable for hanging baskets or positions on the shelves. It needs quite a lot of light and tolerates drought. The best option to kill it is by overwatering. Especially during the winter when it grows much slower. Its colorful inflorescent resemble tiny pineapple.

Collecting seeds

When the flower is pollinated (it can be self pollinated), small fruits start to develop. As the inflorescent loses vivid color and turns dark brown, fruits are most likely ripe and seeds fully developed. At the beginning, they contain a lot of moisture and can eventually dry out. The fruit contains sticky substance and the seeds tend to stick to your fingers when you squeeze them out of the fruit. You can easily wash them, or use water to dilute the gluey substance when collecting the seeds. The seeds and the fruits have a really pleasant fragrance, I’m not sure about the flavor though. I’m not keen on experimenting with possibly poisonous fruit. 🙂

Sowing the seeds

Like most of the tropical and subtropical plants, you should sow the seeds as soon as you collect them. They don’t need dormancy of any kind and lose viability quickly. I started germinating the seeds immediately. The seeds sprouted in only one week with extremely high germination rate. Acanthostachys strobilacea needs very porous and easily draining substrate, just as any other Bromeliaceae epiphytes. To make the appropriate substrate, I mixed peat, substantial amount of perlite and a bit of compost, compacted the mix lightly and placed the seeds on top. I covered the seeds with a millimeter of silica sand to keep the seeds evenly moist. I misted the surface daily just to make sure the top layer didn’t dry out.

<i>Acanthostachys strobilacea</i>
Seeds have sprouted and tiny plantlets emerged in about a week


It only took a week for the seeds to start germinating. The seeds are decent sized, so they should start growing vigorously from the start. Since the germination rate was high, they were starting off already a bit congested. When the seedlings get large enough to be picked up using your fingers, at 3 or 4 leaf stage, it’s easy to separate them and plant them individually into easy draining substrate. Since bromeliads are susceptible to root rot if water doesn’t drain well enough, they should be planted into smaller sized pots first and gradually up-potted. Terra-cotta pots are much safer option than plastic containers.

Starting Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seeds

Starting Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seeds

I received some bamboo seeds from fredgpops (another bamboo enthusiast from Bambooweb) last October and less than a week later, one of them sprouted. The seedling I got, was an offspring of Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ bamboo. Sadly none of the regular nigra or Chusquea gigantea had germinated, I hope I can try again next year.

Young Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seedling

Sole survivor

The seeds I received were mostly empty, underdeveloped or damaged. I think that hungry birds already took care of them, before the seeds were collected. I expected at least some germination from the remaining seeds, but they eventually started rotting and perished. Some of the damage and poor germination could be the result of slow transport from The US to Slovenia.
One of the seeds, however, sprouted very fast and started growing vigorously from the early beginning. It doesn’t have any leaf coloration or other apparent characteristics that would make it look special.

3 months old seedling

Problem with mites

When the seedling was a couple of months old, I made a mistake and brought in some mite infected cuttings. Since the plants are somewhat congested under the grow lights, mites started colonizing the area. In only a couple of weeks, they were everywhere. The most hit were my Hibiscus rosa-sinensis seedlings which dropped leaves completely. The infected Nerium oleander cuttings got badly damaged as well. I sprayed the whole area and nearly killed my carnivorous plant collection in the process, but it seems that mites perished in the process.

Slow growth after a couple of shoots

After the mite infection, the seedling stopped shooting every couple of weeks and remained at 4 shoots it had before. As the seedling stopped shooting, I thought that mites caused it to suffer. As I noticed later, it wasn’t even slowing down – not at all. Most if not all Phyllostachys I’ve grown so far, and I’ve grown many, managed to put out numerous shoots at their juvenile stage, before they eventually started running and ceased to produce shoots. At that point, when the seedlings started running, they only produced whip shoots from the exposed rhizomes. They just wait for the spring to arrive to start their regular shooting cycle.


As I poked around the pot when I watered the seedling, roughly 3 months after germination, I noticed the first runner escaping far away from the initial clump on the edge of the pot. Since bamboo seedlings usually starts running at least a year after sowing, it came as a surprise – yet, I’ve seen the same thing happen with my Phyllostachys arcana seedlings before. As it seems, grow lights I use make a great difference and can really speed-up seedling’s development. Around a month later, less than 4 months old juvenile already colonized the pot with rhizomes and started to deform its plastic nursery pot.

Multiple runners trying to escape the pot

Another bamboo in my collection

From the point when bamboo starts actively running, its growth usually gets exponential. Bamboo effectively uses all the resources it can lay its roots on and if it feels comfortable enough in the given climate, starts rapid development towards the mature stage. If I find proper location with enough space and nutrients, I’m sure I can expect first 1cm+ diameter culms in less than 2 years. From that point everything goes even faster.

Live sphagnum moss

Live sphagnum moss

Growing live sphagnum moss is not hard as long as you can offer it enough moisture, light and adequate air humidity.

A few words about sphagnum…

Naturally, sphagnum grows in wetlands all around the world. The problem is, it’s being overexploited and it’s rapidly losing ability to regrow. I have successfully started growing my own sphagnum moss some time ago. I keep it outside and try to maintain healthy amount intact, so it can fully regrow rapidly. By having my own source, I don’t need to buy it commercially or even worse poach it in the wild. Lately, I started planting moss inside with my carnivores and I noticed it is possible to keep it growing in pots as well. I’ve seen others do it, yet, I was skeptical, I can offer them proper conditions.

How to plant sphagnum moss

When growing sphagnum you need to keep a few things in mind. Like other bog plants, it needs a lot of water, proper light, it hates heat, suffers when air is dry and doesn’t tolerate high salts content dissolved in water.

Most of the plant, when you pluck it out is actually old dead tissue which is usually yellow to brown colored. The top part (sphagnum head) color can range from green to red and is actively growing part of the plant. The dead tissue still has a function, though – it wicks the water from the water level upwards, supplying it to the heads which are above water and could (would) otherwise dry out. By disturbing the moss in the wild, you can damage it and cause it to dry and die.

Place the sphagnum on top of the peat based (non-fertilized) substrate and push the lower parts into the substrate, making sure the moss heads are turned upwards and the dead tissue below is able to wick the moisture. I usually add some sphagnum that is in bad shape on top of peat, it keeps it in place when watering and keeps moisture high.

When everything is prepared, I poke a hole in the substrate and use forceps to insert the sphagnum as deep as possible without breaking the stem.
When I’m happy with the result, I add carnivores or start growing the moss alone to add the plants later.

How to care for sphagnum moss

It’s best to keep water level slightly below the sphagnum layer. Dead part of sphagnum should remain in water or saturated peat. If water level gets low, moss can start getting dark brown growing tips. At that point, it’s best to water it thoroughly, discarding the water that drains out. I often partly submerge the whole pot for a short time to flush out the salt and humic acids buildup. The browning of the moss happens due to humic acid buildup in the growing points. Same often happens with carnivore plants but usually happens later when concentrations get even higher. It can lead to necrosis which means the affected moss or plants eventually die. It’s not that damaging if concentrations are low or the buildup doesn’t last long enough to cause damage.

Moss like regular misting or spraying with distilled, reverse-osmosis or rainwater. It keeps air humidity up and reduces humic acid buildup.

For proper growth, sphagnum needs ample amount of light. It should be kept away from direct sun in well lit location. I keep them under LED grow lights.

Growing Hibiscus rosa-sinensis from seed

Growing Hibiscus rosa-sinensis from seed

This post is as far away from cold-hardy as it gets. This time, I tried growing tropical hibiscus seeds. After growing and hybridizing temperate Hibiscus moscheutos and later Hibiscus coccineus, I added completely non-hardy tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis to the list.

How hard can it be?

When I first tried growing the seeds, they were old and haven’t been kept in ideal conditions. None of the seeds germinated. I have successfully germinated at least 2 years old seeds of temperate Hibiscus moscheutos before, so I expected at least some success with the tropical variety as well. Seeds were not that old after all, 6 months at most.

The second time, I used fresh seeds and soon noticed they started sprouting. They emerged as typical Hibiscus with the same cotyledon as its siblings before. The only evident difference was the smooth glossy texture of the leaves.

Leaves are dark brown on top with reddish-brown underside.

Brown leaves!

Soon after germination, first sets of true leaves emerged and they immediately started gaining red color under LED grow lights. Temperate hibiscus seedlings could get it, but it never got that extreme. Leaves that are originally dark green turned chocolate brown when the red leaf pigmentation formed. New leaves start light green and color-up as they mature. They really look unique with that dark colored leaves. Under LED grow light, they appear almost completely black.

Seedling diversity

From the very beginning, leaves of the seedlings looked different. Since these are most likely juvenile leaves, they could eventually become identical. They both have leaves with 3 lobes. One of the seedlings have extremely thin lobes. I’m new to the tropical hibiscus seedlings so I got quite surprised by both its appearance and the fact how different their leaf shape is.

I will grow these two seedlings as potted plants and I’m looking forward to see how they develop. Their growth is getting very vigorous now. I’m afraid they could soon run out of space I can offer them, but for now, they are doing great. I might write an update when they mature and possibly even start flowering.