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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Baptisia Seeds - Advice Needed

Yesterday while I was cleaning up my garden I came across a huge amount of seed pods. I knew right away they were from the white Baptisia I have in that area. This is what the pods looked like.

When I opened them up I found tan colored seeds inside. They weren't squishy nor were they dried out. I know other people have been able to grow Baptisia from seeds but in my garden, I've never found a Baptisia seedling and yet I always let the pods fall as they may.

Thanks directly to the other garden bloggers I've been reading, I decided to try to bring some seeds inside and see if I could get them to grow. In these photos you can see part of a file, I filed a few but most of them I left alone.

Some seeds were planted in peat pellets, some were filed and then planted, some are in a cup soaking in water. If anybody has any experience with these seeds, could you leave a comment?

This is the white Baptisia in bloom. I only saw it for sale once and I'm so glad I bought it. I had fallen in love with it when I saw it in a garden in Mississippi. We might be at the northernmost grow area for it, it's extremely late to emerge from the ground and I have to be careful not to disturb the soil in this spot.

Not the greatest photo but here you can see the foliage from the other side of the plant. I have it paired with a very tall Veronicastrum, they seem to hold each other up nicely. But if I had luck with these seeds I'd like to plant a few on their own as accent plants.

This plant was very slow to increase in size, one of those sleep, creep, leap plants. I don't have any other Baptisias in front of my house so I don't know if they needed another to cross polinate. On the other hand, I'd like to think that it would keep the seedlings white as the Baptisias in my back garden are purple and yellow varieties.

As you can see, even Calie the wonder-doodle was fascinated with these seedlings. Actually, she was hoping there was a bone in that bag of potting soil.

I'd appreciate any advice or growing tips.


lintys said...

Melanie, I love the blue. The white ones are beautiful too. I hope your seedlings thrive and bloom in white for you!

I'm afraid I have no advice to offer, as I haven't tried growing them from seed.

I planted blue baptisia last year. They got a root fungus. I'll be anxiously watching for them this spring. Even baptisias which have grown like weeds for me anywhere else I've lived don't seem to like it here. :(

GardenJoy4Me said...

melanie .. sorry I don't have experience with seedlings like that .. I do have a lot of pods from my blue ones though .. and never have seen a "seedling" happen on its own yet .. I might try putting them in the ground to see what happens though .. now that you pointed this out ..LOL
Calie looks like she posed for that shot .. what a ham ! LOL

Blue Fox said...

I grew some Baptisia last year for Bluestem Nursery. As far as I recall, we just seeded into a plug tray and threw it outside into a snowbank for a month or two. They are picky though, I know that from the one I've had for about 4 years, sulking. They have a long taproot, so I'm reluctant to try and move it as it's probably rooted down to China by now, even if it doesn't have much top growth. I love your white ones!
Here's what Ken Druse says in Making More Plants: "fresh seed (just ripe seed) sow indoors, 70-75F. 6-8wks before last frost date. Germ. 7-35 days. Stored seed must be nicked followed by sow indoors 70-75F." I think they might need a cold period too, but he doesn't say that. Hope this helps, and good luck!

Nan Ondra said...

Hi Melanie! My plants (australis, alba, and sphaerocarpa) usually do produce a few self-sown seedlings each year, so I don't think any special treatment is really needed. The albas are originally from a meadow mix I spring-sowed on my sand mound, and they didn't get any special treatment either. According to my seed-starting bible, Norm Deno's Seed Germination Theory and Practice, B. australis germinates 90 to 95 percent in 1 to 10 weeks at 70 degrees using either fresh-collected seed or seed that has been dry-stored for 6 months at either 40 or 70 degrees. He also mentions that scarification "did not significantly increase the rate of germination and caused severe increases in rotting." So, it'll be interesting to see what results you get. Please report back!

Connie said...

Some perennial seeds that are hard to germinate do very well with winter it mimics nature's cold cycles.
There is a great thread over on Gardenweb on the topic, called
"Growing Baptisia australis seed need advice." Use the search feature there to find this particular thread.
Hope this helps! I would love to grow some, as well. Do you have any extra seeds? :-)

Connie said...

Some perennial seeds that are hard to germinate do very well with winter it mimics nature's cold cycles.
There is a great thread over on Gardenweb on the topic, called
"Growing Baptisia australis seed need advice." Use the search feature there to find this particular thread.
Hope this helps! I would love to grow some, as well. Do you have any extra seeds? :-)

Melanie said...

lintys, I hope you have luck with some Baptisias, maybe if you can find this white one it would do well for you, it seems to be a native plant to a warmer climate.

Joy, I should try direct sowing some outside too, glad you wrote that. Yes, Calie is a ham. Right now there are 6 teens in my basement and she's been trying to squeeze her nose through the 1" crack under the door.

Blue fox, I've had the same results with other Baptisias, they don't seem to hit the ground running. Usually I'm disappointed the first year, marginally happy the second and third year and suddenly the fourth year they blow me away. I tried once to transplant one, it's been sulking for 3 years now, I'll see if it ever perks up again.

This summer I'll remember to collect the fresh seed, I love Ken Druses books and he grows in similar conditions to what I have here.

Nan, isn't it funny how each garden author has different advice! I've been to daylily symposiums with 10 speakers and two or three always totally contradict each other. I'm glad I tried three different methods so far but I have to admit that I'm starting off with six month old seed that has been lying on top of the ground through the winter. It sure will be interesting!

Connie, I can always collect extra seed, it's all over the ground out there. Tomorrow I'll collect what I can and leave you a message at blotanical with a way to contact me.

sisah said...

When I look at your wonder-doodle Calie, I feel wistul, my gardening companions Max and Dina have died the last two years, especially Max followed me everywhere I went.Calie seems to be as devoted and very nosy by the looks of it.
I did not know you can get Baptisa australis as a white cultivar, I have to look out for it, because I love that plant too. I have the blue version in my garden, and also tried to sow but never succeeded in growing some.As I found out they need stratification when stored before, the best is to sow them straightaway. Last year they produced no seeds, so I never could try that procedure.

María José said...

Hello Melanie,
I am María José from Spain. I love gardening too and have a blog, "Diario de mi jardín" , (
When I saw yours I fell in love with it!!!,so, please, I would like you to have me permission to make a link to your garden. Could it be possible?
I invited to see mine!!
Thanks a lot and congratulations!!!

Kay said...

I grabbed a few seeds from the pods of some yellow baptisia I saw at a (cough) botanical garden. I stuck them in a baggie in the fridge over the winter and then just pushed them into some Jiffy mix in a seed tray. I had 6 seeds and 4 have germinated, but it took several weeks. I am not the most experienced or talented seed starter, so I am thinking that they are not too finicky.

Melanie said...

Sisah, you should definitely look for the white Baptisia as it really is stunning in the garden. Calie is a great companion but in the garden she still digs and steals my tools when I'm not looking :-)

Maria Jose, I would be delighted to be included on your blog and I will come visit as soon as I'm done here.

Kay, I'm glad to hear that you got the yellow baptisia to grow, I have a yellow one too. This year I will remember to collect fresh seed and plant them out right away.

Ki said...

Since baptisia is in the same pea family Fabaceae as lupines I would think this method of growing lupines would apply. "...If growing from seed, germination is greatly increased by a 7-day cold treatment. Place seeds and slightly damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator. Another method would be to chip seed or soak in warm water for a 24 hour period".

Baldwin said...

Baptisia is one of my most favorite perennials. I grow Australius (sp), Twilite Prairie Blues, and Starlight Prairie Blues. I collected seeds last year and stored them in a jar in an unheated garage over winter. I started a few seeds in peat pellets in early spring and after 6weeks was ready to toss them out when I noticed the first signs of life. I guess it is true that gardening TRIES to teach me patience.

Anonymous said...


I bought some Baptisia seeds from prairiemoon and with the seeds they included an "inoculum" or strain of bacterium that allows for better germination in members of the legume or pea family. So you mix the inoculum and seeds together before sowing and it works! If you already had Baptisia growing you probably have this bacterium in your soil but I think this inoculum gives the soil and extra boost.