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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

Seedlings

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.

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Starting bamboo seeds again

Starting bamboo seeds again

After a several years, I’ve felt an urge to start bamboo seeds again. This time, I purchased cheap bamboo seeds from Aliexpress.

Buying fakes

Sprouting bamboo grain.

I’ve ordered a bunch of different seeds and among them two bamboos – Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata. Since I know that Phyllostachys aureosulcata is not flowering at the moment and the seeds are named falsely, I decided to try growing the seeds and see what I can get. My initial assumption is that all the seeds are regular Moso seeds which are readily available every year.
As I received the seeds, I found out (I suspected that when placing an order) that more than half if not all the seeds were fake – they were physically completely different. At least bamboo seeds were bamboo seeds, not some kind of turf grass.

Lottery

Based on my previous experience with growing bamboo seeds, I’ve had very low expectations. Bamboo seeds lose viability quite fast and when the seeds are not properly stored, germination rate drops heavily. It happened twice with Moso seeds I’ve ordered in the past. Out of hundred of old Moso seeds, I couldn’t even get one seedling.
I thought growing ‘fake’ seeds could be a project, not only because of high uncertainty regarding the bamboo variety the seeds came from, but also the fact that the seeds might have problems with germination. I expected nothing.

It’s alive!

First of the Phyllostachys pubescens seeds sprouted

After two weeks of uncertainty, I noticed that one of the seeds started sprouting. The first one that germinated was labeled as Phyllostachys aureosulcata and it’s very pale at the moment. When compared to the seedlings I’ve grown in the past, these seem to grow somewhat slower. It’s still a bit early to draw any conclusions though. At the moment, there are 2 seedlings from each bag I recieved and I expect more to sprout in the following weeks.

Proper ID…?

A couple of days old bamboo seedling.

If (when) they grow into larger seedlings, the characteristics of bamboo should start showing up. In their second or third year, the fuzzy culms will most likely point out that all the seedlings are from Moso bamboo seeds. It is highly unlikely, but the seeds could be from another Phyllostachys. If that’s the case, the difference should be evident in 6 month or so. Let’s see how it goes.

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Using Aspirin on Plants

Using Aspirin on Plants

Salicylic acid (SA)

Aspirin’s active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid. It is chemically similar to Salicin, which naturally occurs in willow bark. When dissolved in water, acetsalicylic acid breaks into acetic and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a plant hormone (phytohormone) which works as a defense mechanism against pathogens and environmental issues like drought, heat and chill stress, heavy metal toxicity and similar. Plants can also make the hormone signal reach nearby plants by producing volatile methyl salicylate.

Plant hormone

Plants produce small amounts of salicylic acid when stressed. The defense mechanism allows them to fight environmental stress and pest damage. It became evident that there are also other benefits of SA growth hormone, related to growth and plant development. Usually plant response is slow and SA levels are low, which means we can speed things up by activating plant’s immune system by exposing it to Salicylic acid. Possible reason of high concentrations of salicylic acid in willow is the fact that it usually grows in water logged conditions. SA hormone allows it to keep the stomates opened which allows transpiration.
Diluted salicylic acid is helpful when germinating seeds as it speeds up germination and boosts their resistance to pests and infections. Pretreating seeds with SA also improves germination rate.

How to use Aspirin?

As mentioned above, acetylsalicylic acid breaks down in water, making salicylic acid available to the plant. Usually it is applied as foliar spray. I use one Aspirin tablet dissolved in 4 liters of water. Some use stronger concentrations, but I’m trying to keep it safe, rather than burning my plants. I usually leave the water  with dissolved aspirin sit for a day, so it can hydrolysate completely. Positive effects should be visible a week or two after application.

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Growing potato seeds

Growing potato seeds

Flowering potato looks quite  ornamental
Flowering potato looks quite ornamental

Sometimes, potatoes manage to produce tomato-like fruits in late summer and fall. When they get ripe, they start turning yellow and soft, but the fruits usually (well, I’d say always, but I kept one fruit 🙂 ) get discarded, because they are supposed to be poisonous if ingested. Potato propagation is usually done by planting small potato tubers, which means there’s no use for the seeds. Vegetative propagation by tubers allows potatoes to grow large during their first growing season, compared to tiny plants and mini tubers that can grow from the seeds. Asexual plant propagation also gives identical plants, compared to genetically diverse plants, received when growing from seeds.

Potato seeds are rather small. They can be found in ripe potato fruits
Potato seeds are rather small. They can be found in ripe potato fruits
I never tried growing potatoes from seeds and even thought they would germinate poorly or not at all, so I decided to pick one of the fruits that were ripe, collected seeds, dried them and packed them into zip lock bag just to forget about them.

When I started to prepare for the spring and started germinating my chilli peppers, I have found the small bag with potato seeds, and threw most of them into the same pot with a couple of chillies. My expectations were low and I believed, that potatoes were already genetically manipulated to the point of no return – complete sterility.

Cluster of tiny potato seedlings
Cluster of tiny potato seedlings.

After just a couple of days, I have noticed that practically all the seeds started sprouting. Extremely high germination rate came as a shock and I was kind of disappointed, because I sowed all the seeds on the same spot, which means only a few had a fighting chance to survive the transplanting. I decided to plant them into containers for the first year, and perhaps use their small tubers the next year and plant them with the rest of potatoes.

Potato seedlings in a pot
Potato seedlings in a pot

I intend to update this post on regular basis when the small plants start growing and when I finally get the tiny potato tubers.

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