Friday, August 10, 2012

World Seed Supply Supports “Dragibus” Magazine

When I first heard about Dragibus magazine, I saw potential in the concept but was skeptical of whether the end-product would actually live up to this vision.  I had an idea in mind.  But I’d have to see it to know what to think.  For those of you who have not yet heard about this new publication, it is a quarterly print magazine focusing on entheogens, specifically the botany, history and cultivation of such.  After receiving my copy of the first ever issue in the mail, I am happy to admit that the product has the potential to live up to that vision.
Much of the information circulating about the entho community has been recycled many times.  Much of the “common knowledge” that people share is based on information that people have originally drawn from what I consider to be a considerably limited number of print sources.  And although we regard a lot of the authors of these publications as experts, the authors themselves would tell you that the real experts are indigenous people who have much longer histories with plants we’re (comparatively) just beginning to discover.  This is where experts themselves are going to learn.  At the same time, modern society also has an affinity for scientific methods that can take this knowledge to the next level.  So really, expanding the collective knowledge about entheogens comes about by researching more into historical use and by doing scientific research with plants.
A periodical on the subject of ethnobotanicals offers a forum for this type of activity to take place and a mode of disseminating the knowledge.   Unlike print books, the periodical format offers the unique opportunity for the progressive exploration of topics.  Each issue builds upon what has previously been printed, and new knowledge determines what topics are “current”.  So I guess to put it simply, my vision involves a progressive flow of current topics and new research that will expand the collective knowledge of enthos even further.
On an aesthetic level, Dragibus is printed on high-quality paper with a sturdy cover that exceeds what most well-established magazines have to offer.  Aside from this, the outside and inside covers at both ends of the magazine are designed with high-quality photography.  The latter half of the issue is also generously packed with images of acacia confusa in Taiwan as they pertain to an article on exactly that.  This gives the feel that you are reading a book that you’d keep in your library, not a magazine that you’d keep on your toilet and then discard.
Dragibus, judging by the first issue, has a satisfying diversity of topics.  The first article, “Trichocereus and the Chavin: A Love Story” offers a look into the Chavin culture that once existed in modern-day Ancash, Peru.  The article presents specific factual information regarding the archaeology and history of the temple of Chavin de Huantar, changing pace in the latter part of the article as it gives way to a creative interpretation of what an experience in the temple might have been like.  If this article were a liberal arts student, it would major in history and minor in creative writing.
Another article, “Kratom Te’j: A modern Approach to an Ancient Beverage”, introduces the topic of using medicinal herbs to replace hops in the brewing process.  This article may be appealing simply on its insight into the brewing process.  But the article also introduces readers to the Ethiopian beverage called T’ej, a traditional type of alcoholic beverage.  What you cannot expect to find anywhere else, though, is a recipe that modifies the process for making this traditional beverage using kratom (mitragyna speciosa) as a bittering agent.  Hopefully this is the type of progressive knowledge we can expect from a publication like Dragibus, and with plans for follow-up articles centering on additional herbal brewing recipes, it would seem promising that we can.
Dragibus ends by taking us offshore, with a 9-page article on Acacia Confusa in Taiwan.  Aside from the high-quality photos, this article offers far more than what you’re likely to get out of a Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is relevant not just because it epitomizes what the collective knowledge on a subject usually is, but because this article is also arranged by subject headings.  In this case, the article covers seven different aspects of the tree.  “Traditional Use in Taiwan” is among these subjects.  Although the article indicates there being a fairly limited tradition of entheogenic use for this plant in Taiwan, the article does offer brief insight into the aboriginal tribes in Taiwan based on the author’s actualinteractions with these people.  An anecdote involving another plant and the author’s interaction with an aborigine man is humorous in its depiction of their rudimentary attempt at communication.  But the limitations on communication coupled with what actually seems to have been conveyed leaves further room for study of the culture.  Few of us have access to this type of experience ourselves.  We’re not likely to find aborigines surfing the internet posting their firsthand accounts. But with plans for follow-up articles on the subject, Dragibus at least offers access to where we cannot personally go.
We can all look back on classic articles by pioneers like Gordon Wasson and Richard Evan Shultes and see what kinds of profound contributions they made to modern knowledge of entheogens.  Original copies of these articles, such as the May 1957 copy ofLife magazine featuring Gordon Wasson’s work with psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico, are considered collectible today.  They are part of history.  But every discipline thrives on continuing education and discussion of current events within that field.  What will be theLife articles of today when we look back in fifty years?  With only one issue in circulation,Dragibus is certainly in its infancy.  It would be premature to make any type of predictions about its future.  But we’re here following from Day One, and we would certainly recommend that anyone with a genuine interest in entheogens have a look at Dragibus.
You can find out more about Dragibus at

Sunday, February 19, 2012

World Seed Supply’s Easy Guide to Morning Glory Growing

Morning Glories are a classical favorite, and they are the first flowers many new growers start out growing.  Morning glories are the ideal starting point for new growers because they are easy to grow, can withstand a wide range of environments and they have amazing coloration.  The following guide will outline some basic instructions that can be used for ipomoea tricolor, ipomoea nil and ipomoea purpurea, which includes popular forms such as Heavenly Blue Morning Glory Morning Glory, Flying Saucers, Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory, Pearly Gates and Scarlet O’Hara Morning Glory. 

Morning glories can be grown in pots or in the ground.  But most growers choose to grow morning glories in the ground because they can take up a lot of root space.  On the other hand, growers who do not have ground space, such as urban growers, have no choice. In that case, it is important to select the largest pot possible. You want something that is large enough to grow tomatoes. A two foot diameter pot that is about 1.5 feet high is sufficient.  You will also need a good amount of soil to fill this pot.

Morning Glories can grow in most soil types, even poor soils that you might not expect to be good for growing plants.  In fact, morning glories actually seem to prefer average soil over very fertile soil.  Average soil will give you better flower production in most cases. The soil should also be loose and well-draining.  If you’re growing in containers, you want to add extra drainage because containers tend to cause soil to become more compact and less well-draining.  Perlite, a type of volcanic glass that resembles little white balls of pumice, is a great additive to potted soils to keep it airy and well-draining.  If you’re adding perlite, mix in about ¼ the volume of your total soil mixture.  If you do not have perlite, you can also mix in about 1/3 sand.  You should avoid soils that are high in clay though because they are most easily compacted. 
If you’re growing in the ground, then you might want to prepare your bed in advance.  Unprepared ground tends to be compact if you’ve never grown anything in that area.  So you just want to till the soil with something such as a shovel or garden hoe to loosen it up a little.  Four to five inches is deep enough.  If you already have a flower bed or planter, your soil might be loose enough already. 

Morning Glories, being a vine, require structure to climb.  Morning glories can sprawl out along the ground, but if you have any other plants in the same area, the morning glories are likely to overtake them.  When selecting your site, you usually want to utilize the morning glory’s climbing tendency to decorate your landscape.  The mailbox is one great place to grow morning glories.  Just dig out a small bed around the post of your mailbox and allow your morning glories to climb up and around your box.  You may have to train the plants in the beginning to find their way up.  But after the first few vines find their way up, the newer vines will use them to latch onto. 

Other common structures that people use for growing morning glories include trellis, chain link fences, lattice, gutter leaders, bushes, telephone poles and even wires.  If you want to assist your vines in starting up something like a wooden post, you can hammer in a few U-nails and guide the young tips of the plant through them.  If you’re growing in containers, you can either place the entire pot near this type of existing structure, or you can use a tomato cage. 

Aside from choosing a location that offers structure to climb, sunlight is important.  Morning glories can sometimes engulf surrounding plants because they are gluttons when it comes to light.  It is best to choose a location in full sun.  You can still get plants to grow in less light, but they will usually have fewer blooms. Due to their high light preference, morning glories are usually not grown indoors, although they can be if you use supplemental lighting. 

Although morning glories are not usually grown to maturity indoors, it is quite common to start them indoors to get an early start on the season.  Morning glories transplant well, and the early start may mean quicker blooming.  If you’re in a warmer climate, you are probably better off starting outdoors to keep things simple and keep your windows free for other plants with more pressing needs.  However, you may just want to start the seedlings indoors for the first week or two just because it is easier to control germination conditions indoors.  In the north, starting indoors will give you a head start and give you something to do while it is still cold outside. But starting indoors is not necessary to get nice morning glory blooms by summer.

Many grow guides suggest pretreatment for your morning glory seeds.  Most commonly, these guides recommend nicking the seed coat and soaking the morning glory seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting.  These are techniques that are commonly employed for Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds as well.  The two flowers are in the same family.  But Hawaiian Baby Woodrose has a hard seed coat, and so these techniques are much more appropriate.  The morning glory seed coat is much softer, and moisture has no problem penetrating. We have soaked morning glory seeds in water, and in many cases they sprouted within a day without any nicking.  So these experiences combined with the fact that nicking is done to allow moisture to penetrate hard seed coats and the fact that morning glory seeds have a soft seed coat, there is no reason to nick the seeds. 

Soaking morning glory seeds will allow the seeds to germinate right away in the water at room temperature. This is obviously beneficial for maximizing and speeding up germination.  But the seedlings can sometimes be waterlogged from this method, which may lead to more seedlings rotting later on.  If you germinate your morning glory seeds in a container of moist seed starting soil, you should still end up with about the same germination rate with less risk of rotting.  Just sow them at a depth of ¼”.  But usually a pack of morning glory seeds is enough for the average grower anyway so that it does not make much difference which way you start them. With that in mind, you might as well go with what you find easier.  What’s most important to realize is that despite nicking and soaking being part of most morning glory growing instructions, these steps are entirely optional. 

If you’ve decided to pre-sprout your morning glory seeds you will need to transplant them.  You can sow them directly in the ground.  But you might be better off letting them take hold in pots indoors.  As mentioned previously, it is easier to control conditions indoors. Sometimes the surface of the soil outside might dry out causing your morning glory seedlings to die, even though they’ve sprouted already.  Instead, try keeping your seedlings indoors until they develop their first set of true leaves.  The first set of leaves sort of resembles dragon fly wings.  The true leaves are the set that follows those.  Plant your sprouted morning glory seeds with the root facing down with a spacing of about 2” apart.  Keep them in a well-lit (preferably south-facing) window until they develop true leaves. 

When it’s time to move your morning glories outside, don’t move them into the ground right away.  Instead, move the pot outside in a shady area where the soil is not likely to dry out.  Leave them there for a few days. Keep an eye on the seedlings just to make sure they are adjusting to the harsh world of the outdoors.  If you see any signs of wilting, you can bring them back in until they recover.  Try moving them back out again the following day, and repeat the process if necessary.  Morning glories are rather hardy though, so they usually acclimate just fine.  After a few days outside, transplant them to the ground once the sun has started to go down. 

Morning glories are a very low maintenance plant. Once they’re in the ground, the plants will pretty much grow themselves. Morning glories do not require any fertilization.  Early on, you should keep them well-watered.  But usually rain water will be enough once the plants are established.  That is not to say you cannot water them more often. It is just saying that you can get away without much maintenance.  You may want to guide the growing tips up whatever structure you’ve provided.  But otherwise, you can just sit back and enjoy.

In the fall, you can collect your morning glory seeds. After the flowers fall off, they will be replaced by a capsule, which usually contains 4-6 seeds.  It is important to wait until the capsules turn brown and crispy before harvesting the seeds.  Otherwise, your morning glory seeds will be immature and shrivel up upon drying.  The mature seeds should basically be dry, but it may be a good idea just to place them in a dry area for a week before storing them.  The seeds do not mature all at once. You can keep harvesting from the first ripening until the plant dies.  But in many cases, depending on your location and the species, morning glories will reseed themselves in the area that you planted.  


Friday, February 10, 2012

World Seed Supply’s Guide to Perfect Poppies

World Seed Supply’s Guide to Perfect Poppies

Poppies are some of the most beautiful flowers, and they come in a variety of shapes and colors from black to red to double flowered to peony.  They are almost always grown from seed.  But growing nice-sized healthy poppy plants is highly dependent upon growing conditions.  Temperature, planting depth, spacing and soil can all affect your poppy plants negatively.  In some cases, stressful conditions can signal to a poppy that it is at risk of dying.  In response, your poppies will flower early in an effort to quickly spread some seeds.  This results in little runts that are hardly impressive.  But by adhering to a few simple guidelines, you can end up with that lovely display of poppy blooms that will brighten up your landscape this summer.
Starting Inside vs Outside
Poppies can be grown indoors under lights, but the majority of growers grow them outside.  In general, the poppy is considered an outdoor plant.  So that is what this guide will focus on.  It is common practice with many plant varieties to start seeds indoors as a method of getting a head start on the growing season.  The idea behind this is that you can use the warmth of your house to begin the growing process when outdoor temperatures are otherwise unsuitable.  However, poppies actually tolerate more cold than other plants. In fact, poppies prefer the cool weather. In some cases, they may evenrequire cool temperatures to germinate.   While most of the time poppies will germinate throughout the summer, we have also encountered many cases where growers could not get poppy seeds to germinate until temperatures were reduced.  So if you are starting your poppy seeds later in the season, you may actually want to try the reverse practice of getting a head start.  In other words, you may actually try rewinding the clock back to the cooler months by starting your poppy seeds in the fridge.  This will give your poppies a chance to experience that cool period they like even after the time has passed for it to happen naturally. 
The drawback of starting poppy seeds indoors is that they can easily etiolate (stretch) if not given adequate light.  Etiolation is a plant’s response to low light. It stretches in height hoping to reach up out of a crevice or over competing plants in search of more light.  Many newbie growers will be excited that their plants are rapidly gaining height when this happens, but the quick growth comes at a price.  In order to output more height, the plant has to sacrifice thickness.  This ultimately results in an unstable foundation for the plant to stand on.  Poppies grow as rosettes of lettuce-like foliage.  But if there is etiolation early on, that big mass of foliage will only be connected to the ground by a thin tap root, which can easily snap and cut off the supply of water and nutrients.  Etiolation is especially common indoors, particularly in a dark fridge.  So, other than for the sake of providing cooler temperatures later in the season, it is recommended that growers sow their poppies outdoors.
When to Sow Outside
Outdoor sowing time for poppies depends on your location.  In areas where the winters are relatively mild (zones 7 or warmer), it is best to sow your poppy seeds in the fall or winter.  This will allow the seeds to sprout as soon as the temperatures turn warm enough for poppies to do their thing.  The ideal poppy germination temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Poppy seeds and even poppy seedlings can handle frost, but most information recommends sowing poppy seeds in the early spring for growers in northern locations.  Fall planting is recommended when possible so that you have the seeds in place, but growers in warmer locations can still sow in the spring with plenty of time before conditions turn ideal.  The idea is you want to try to get in as soon as the ground is workable so that you have the longest season possible.   The exposure to cold may also aid germination.  But if you missed fall sowing, don’t let it discourage you from aiming for the spring no matter where you live.
Mature poppies enjoy full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sun per day.  You can still get flowers in partial sun, but they will be smaller.  But early on, a bit of shade may actually be beneficial.  According to one traditional method, poppies were planted between rows of corn so that they could be shaded by the stalks.  Starting poppy plants in containers allows you to keep the seedlings in a shaded area early on while providing full sun later in the growth cycle.  But if you’re direct sowing, you can always shade your poppy seedlings with other crops, potted plants or even with something like a lawn chair.  Anything that will cast a shadow will help mimic the shade that young plants might experience in the wild.  When you eventually increase the sun exposure for your mature poppy plants, it is best to do it gradually.  Any sudden increases in light exposure always have the chance of shocking a plant.  And if you chose to start your poppy seedlings in containers, be sure to get them used to the full sun environment they will be in before you attempt to transplant.  The combination of transplanting and light increase is a recipe for shock.  If it does not kill your poppies, it could cause serious setbacks.
Direct Sowing vs. Containers
Most information suggests that poppies do not transplant well.  This is true for mature plants, especially because the stems and roots can be somewhat brittle. But poppy seedlings transplant perfectly fine if you do so properly.  Considering this, you have the choice between direct sowing or sowing in containers and then transplanting.  If you’ve started your poppies indoors, then you’ll obviously be transplanting.  But you can also choose to start poppy seeds in containers outside and transplant those seedlings to the ground. 
You might wonder what the point of sowing outdoors in containers instead of direct sowing is.  There are several advantages actually.  Transplanting works better for organization.  You can arrange your poppy plants specifically where you want them whereas direct sowing can give you a more erratic pattern.  The only way around it with direct sowing is if you really sow a lot of poppy seeds and then thin out to exactly where you want each poppy positioned.  But ultimately you will waste more seed doing it that way.  If you have plenty of seed to work with or you do not care about arrangement, then direct sowing is the way to go.  Otherwise, the increased ability to organize is useful.  This is especially apparent if you’re dealing with multiple poppy varieties or other flowers that you want to arrange in a certain pattern. 
Transplanting also offers you a chance to escape insects and weather.   If you’re starting your poppies in a container you have the option of keeping the seedlings out of harm’s way, whether the threat is too much sun, a rain storm or a windy day.  Ants, other insects and birds are known to carry away poppy seeds too.  Just like humans, animals enjoy eating poppy seeds.  While containers can still be occupied by ants, the ground is more likely to house a colony that will walk away with your crop before it ever sprouts.  It is much easier to keep a container out of harm’s way.
Just like insects, wind or rain can ruin your direct sowing job.  Even though the seeds are very tiny, wind usually won’t be too much of a problem unless there are unusual gusts.  But rain is very likely to wash poppy seeds away.  Poppy seeds float easily.  And even your normal watering can cause seeds to pool together and sprout in the depressions of your ground space.  So even if the seeds don’t get completely washed away, you end up having to thin out more than you intended.  Containers give you the option to make adjustments that direct sowing does not.  For one, you can move the containers into a protected area when you’re anticipating bad weather.  Also, transplanting allows you to correct any type of pooling that might occur.
Choosing Soil and Preparing Your Poppy Bed
Now that you’ve considered when and where you want to plant your poppy seeds, it’s time to consider soil.  You want a soil that is very fertile with plenty of organic material.  But it is also essential that it be loose and well-draining.  Poppy seedlings are prone to rot when they are young, so a well-draining mix will be beneficial to prevent that.  A good loamy soil such as compost mixed with sand is ideal.  Some types of poppy naturally grow in dry gravelly soils, but even they will benefit from this more fertile alternative. 
It is important that your soil be loose when you’re growing poppies. Poppies have a taproot that needs to drive downward, and a compact soil will make this tougher to do.  So prior to sowing, it is important that you prepare your poppy bed.  Even if you’re starting your poppy seeds in containers, you still want to prepare your ground.  Till the soil 8” deep over your entire bed to loosen it up and remove any weed roots that may be present.  Otherwise, if you’re starting a new bed, you can till the ground below and add a thick layer of fresh soil over the top.  Either way, you want to aim for 8” of cultivated soil for your poppy roots to grow in. 
Direct Sowing
Direct sow your seeds by scattering them over the surface of your prepared poppy bed.  Aim to broadcast them so that they do not all land too closely together, or you will end up having to thin out seedlings anyway.  Poppy seeds are extremely small, so consider that a pinch contains literally hundreds of seeds.  Not every poppy seed will sprout, and not every sprout will mature, but you do not have to sow as densely as you would with grass seed.  Afterwards, cover your entire growing space with a thin layer of straw about 1”-2” thick as a mulch layer.   We will speak more about mulching later.
Starting in Containers
If you’re starting your poppy seedlings in a container, it is best to use one that is wide.  Aluminum roasting pans are ideal for starting your poppy seeds.  You can fill the pan with a seed starting mix, or you can use the same soil that you’ll eventually be growing in.  Lay the soil flat, but do not compress it. With your index finger, make light depressions about a half inch apart in rows with the same spacing.  Then sow your poppy seeds on the surface of the soil without covering them.  As mentioned earlier, poppy seeds have a tendency to float and collect in the depressions.  By intentionally making the depressions yourself, you can help determine where the poppy seeds will end up and therefore create a more uniform spacing. 
As an alternative to the aluminum tray method, some growers prefer to grow in biodegradable peat pots.   With this method, you only plant a few seeds per pot.  This allows you to transplant the entire pot to the ground so that you can avoid root damage altogether.  The roots can grow through the pot after transplanting.  You can aid transplantation even more if you tear off the bottom, and you can even tear away the entire pot if the roots haven’t grown into it.  One of the drawbacks of using these pots over the tray is that they can dry out easier outdoors. So it is important to keep them regularly hydrated from below. 
Your poppy seedlings will grow together like grass. Allow them to grow as a network until they are about 2”-3” in height. But before you even begin, consider the time of day.  Transplanting is always best done in the late afternoon after the weather has cooled. This will give your poppy seedlings the longest time before they have to face the strong noon sun.  You never want to transplant during the hot part of the day because plants already can be stressed out by the heat.  Even on a day that seems cold, the sun can still have a lot of effect ton seedlings.  Young plants or those with damaged roots are especially vulnerable, and they can fry quickly.  Transplanting during the morning is better than transplanting at noon, but it still means they will have to face the noon sun within a few hours. But if you transplant late in the day, it gives your seedlings all night and the next morning to recuperate. Just be sure to water your poppy bed the following morning so they are well-hydrated for their first brush with the noon sun after transplantation. 
This raises another point.  You always want to make sure your seedlings are well-hydrated before transplanting.  Just like making cuttings, transplanting offers a situation that may decrease the plant’s ability to absorb water. So you want to make sure your reserves are fully stocked ahead of time. Always be sure to fully water your poppy seedling tray about an hour before actually doing any transplanting. This will give the poppies adequate time to suck up what they need before the process begins. 
We mentioned before that poppies have a reputation for being difficult to transplant.  The key to transplanting properly involves doing so at a young age and not damaging the roots.   In order to minimize damage to the poppy’s roots, detach a small clump of poppy seedlings from the main network that you’ll have growing in your tray.  This will help you gather all the soil around one or two central plants in the middle. The plants on the outside will suffer more damage, leaving the plants in the middle relatively protected.  Using an aluminum tray for germination also allows you to go all the way to the bottom so that you can gather all of the soil below the plants without damaging the lower roots. 
Next, dig a hole in your prepared poppy bed that is about twice the size of your root ball and bury your clumps in small mounds that are spaced about 12”-18”.  Most people plant in rows, but feel free to adapt this spacing to a particular pattern or design that you have in mind.  Once the clumps have adjusted to the ground, you want to keep the soil a little on the dry side.  At this point, you will also want to thin out each clump, leaving only the best poppy plants to survive.   
Whether you’re transplanting or direct sowing, it is a very good idea to mulch your bed with some straw.  Mulching will help your transplants adapt because it will minimize evaporation from the soil.  For a detailed explanation on the benefits of mulching, you can refer to our article, “Why Mulch?”  .  But to describe briefly, mulching will help maintain proper soil moisture, help shade young poppy seedlings and help keep your poppy seeds in place during watering or rain.  Many people neglect this step, but it can really make a difference in your success.  If aesthetics are a concern, there are various mulches you can buy.  Otherwise, straw is inexpensive and works great as mulch.  You simply want to cover the entire area between your poppy plants with about a 1”-2” layer of straw.  Mulch right up to the stems of each poppy plant.  As the poppies grow larger, you can thicken the layer.  Ultimately, you should find that this small step makes a difference in your results and cuts down on the effort you will need to put into growing. 
Thinning Out
Crowded poppies must compete for space and will ultimately suffer.  Whether you’re direct sowing or you transplanted clumps of poppy seedlings, you ultimately want to thin out your plant population to reduce competition.  Thinning involves plucking out the competitor plants and leaving only the best poppies to grow to maturity.  Young poppy seedlings will appear as small rosettes that some people compare to lettuce.  At about 2”-3” in height, you want to start thinning out your poppy seedlings.  Early on, poppies can grow fine together, so you do not need to pluck every one right away.   But that is the 2-3” mark is a good time to start the process.  If you’re direct sowing, you’ll have a lot more thinning to do than if you’ve transplanted.  But you will ultimately aim for a final spacing of about 12”-18”.  By the time your poppy seedlings are 4”-5”, you should have a good idea of which ones to thin out and which to leave.  So that is the point when you should have thinned out your bed to the target spacing.  But whereas many growers tend to thin all at once, we suggest a more making-space-as-needed approach until the 4”-5” mark so that you can keep selecting from the best performing poppies. 
Poppy plants are somewhat prone to rotting, so they should be allowed to dry out between waterings.   Mature plants only need to be watered every several days, especially if you’re mulching.  It is also recommended that you water away from the stem to keep rot to a minimum and to help the roots spread out.  Consider using a soaker hose.  Otherwise, if you’re manually watering, try putting the hose to the ground to soak the soil rather than spraying.  Once the petals have fallen off your poppies, it is common to hold back watering unless the plant appears to be drying out.  This will ensure that the plant and seeds do not rot until they can be harvested.
Poppies prefer a neutral ph.  Use a fertilizer with a neutral ph to ensure that the ph does not fall below 6.  Most growers use organic fertilizers such as bloodmeal or an organic liquid fertilizer.  Begin fertilization when the plants are about 10” tall.  A fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, which is the middle number in the ratio found on fertilizer packaging, is ideal for poppies.  The nitrogen level, which is the first number, should be comparatively low.  Fertilize your poppies according to the instructions on the packaging of the fertilizer you’re using. 
Each poppy pod can produce hundreds, usually thousands of poppy seeds.  When the crown on the poppy pod stands up and the pod takes on a chalky texture, it is time to harvest.  You can cut the poppy pods from the stems and let them dry in the sun or in a dry area such as a boiler room.  When the poppy pods are dry, cut off the crowns with a pair of scissors.  This will open the top so you can pour out and collect the poppy seeds.  After gathering your whole poppy seed harvest, run it through a strainer to sift out all the broken pod parts.  Even if you’ve harvested a few pods, you should have plenty of seed to grow again the following year.  But just like you thinned out your crop to select the best plants, you should focus your poppy seed collecting on just the best plants.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

World Seed Supply's Guide to Growing Heimia Salicifolia & Myrtifolia

Heimia Salicifolia is an important Aztec herb featured on the statue of Xochipilli.  Several unique alkaloids have been isolated from these heimia species that have been reported to have tranquilizing and anti-inflammatory properties.  Heimia Salicifolia and myrtifolia are extremely similar both in appearance and active alkaloids.  In fact, reports indicate that myrtifolia may be more active than salicifolia despite the popularity and historical significance of salicifolia.  So the information in this guide can be used to grow either species.
With the exception of the fact that the seedlings start out so tiny, heimia is a very easy plant to grow and is good for beginning growers. It can be grown easily indoors and will tolerate a wide range of environments.

Heimia seeds are extremely small, like dust.  In nature, the wind would carry Heimia seeds, dropping them on the surface of the soil, where they would eventually sprout. No amount of burying is necessary. It is also a general cultivation rule that the size of the seeds determines how deep the seed should be buried. In the case of really tiny seeds, they should be surfaced sowed, meaning that they should simply be pressed into the surface of the soil allowing light to reach them. Before sowing the seeds, make sure the soil is misted lightly so that the seeds have available moisture to absorb.
After sowing, you want to cover the container with a piece of clear plastic to seal in the humidity. If the soil is moist enough and you mist regularly, they will grow without the plastic, but it makes life much easier. Plus, with the plastic on, you may not have to water because the evaporating water will condense on the plastic and drop back to the soil. If at any point you notice the soil is drying out, simply remove the plastic and mist the soil with a fine mister. This will occur more often if your temperature is higher. Be sure to add the correct amount of water to your soil and then remove the excess water collected on your plastic so that it doesn’t drop back into the soil and cause too much soil moisture. Although mature plants will take as much water as you can give them, I have an unconfirmed suspicion that the seeds can be drowned. A temperature of about 70 degrees F should be fine. Using florescent lights or placing in front of a sunny window will both work for germination and plant growth.
From seed until it is a few inches high, Heimia S. grows painfully slow. Let them take as long as they need. It won’t continue like this forever. In the meantime, just keep the plastic on and make sure the soil stays moist. Be sure to mist if needed. When the seedlings are about 1/2″-3/4″ you can take the plastic off. Continue to keep the soil very moist. At 2 1/2″ it is an ideal time to transplant.
The soil you use in the new pots should be similar to the soil you used for germinating. Have your pots set up beforehand so that you can quickly transfer the seedlings without them spending much time in the open air. When transplanting, the most important thing to consider is to disturb the roots as little as possible. You’re most likely going to have a million roots tangled together, so some disturbance will inevitably occur. Some gentle prodding with a fork might be useful to help separate the roots.
Keep the seedlings out of any intense light and heat as they are especially vulnerable after transplanting. If at any point you notice wilting, make sure to water and put a plastic baggie over them to seal in humidity. You should keep this continually moist. Heimia plants are amazingly resilient to wilting, but they enjoy as much water as you can give them.  Heimia Salicifolia, once established, will prefer partial sun. If under-watered, H. Salicifolia plants will wilt drastically, looking as if they are dead. They may also drop leaves. If you catch it within the first day of this you can almost always bring it back by saturating the soil. Any dead material should be cut back, which will result in a fuller plant.

Heimia plants can be reproduced by cuttings from mature plants. But since heimia tends to have woody stems, they can be a little tougher to root than other Mexican entheogens like calea zacatechichi or salvia divinorum.  To minimize the difficulty of the process, it is best to select the newest growth because it is likely to be the softest.  Soft growth roots easier than woody growth.  You also want to use a rooting hormone, which can be either a commercial rooting hormone or a natural tea made of white willow bark (salix alba).  Commercial rooting hormones typically contain indole-3-butyric acid and can be found in powder or gel form. The gel is preferred since it sticks to the stem even in water.
Another trick with rooting heimia salicifolia is to remove all but the top few leaves. This will lighten the load on the plant because it will not have to support so many leaves.  A cutting that has been cut from the support of the roots on a mother plant is like a parent that has lost his or her job.  By sending the kids off to live with grandma, or by trimming off some of the leaves in the cutting’s case, the parent has a better chance of surviving on savings and what little money he or she can scrounge without a formal income.  So in those terms, the cutting can live on stored water and what little water it can draw up through its unrooted stem.  Soft stems usually absorb water quicker, which is probably one reason why they tend to be easier to root than woody stems. For more detailed information on rooting plant cutting, including types of rooting mediums, please visit our article, How to Root Plant Cuttings

Heimia Myrtifolia

World Seed Supply’s Mandrake Germination Guide

Mandrake (Mandragora Officinarum) is a member of the nightshade family most notable for its use in witchcraft and its mention in the Harry Potter novel series.  Mandrake has a rich folklore that dates back to biblical times. Like other nightshades such as belladonna, brugmansia, datura and henbane, mandrake contains highly toxic tropane alkaloids that can cause complete delirium, vomiting and death.  Mandrake is an interesting plant that enjoys the cold weather and forms a huge taproot.  Fresh roots sell for impressive amounts of money, although dried roots are fairly inexpensive.
Mandrake seeds have a reputation for being stubborn germinators.  In general, nightshade plants frequently have this trait.  When it comes to Mandrake germination, the process is entirely predicated on temperature fluctuations.  The seasonal temperature fluctuations trigger the seeds to germinate.  It is common for species of the Northern Hemisphere to germinate based on a rise from cool temps to warmer temps.  This has led to a germination technique that is called stratification.  Stratification works by placing the seeds in the fridge for a period of several weeks to several months in an attempt to simulate winter.  To stratify your mandrake seeds, take a ziplock or other container of moist sand and place your mandrake seeds inside before placing the container in the fridge.  You can use moist paper towels instead of sand, but paper has a higher tendency to grow mold.  Mold can usually be wiped off without killing the seed, but it is obviously something you want to avoid when possible. Even moist soil will work for this process, but sand has the lowest tendency for mold.
After about a month in the fridge, move your mandrake seeds to a warmer location and plant in a loose, fertile well-draining soil.  Compost works very well.  The subsequent act of planting the seeds in a warmer temperature acts as a seasonal change that triggers the plant’s temperature response, causing the seed to germinate.  But what is interesting about mandrake is that the temperature fluctuation seems to work in the opposite way as well.  We’ve noticed a trend of mandrake seeds planted in the early spring germinating in the following fall if they failed to sprout that spring.  Occasionally, they will even wait until the spring of the following year to germinate.  So it is important not to discard or reuse the soil if you didn’t get 100% germination because it will still contain seeds with the potential for germination.
Another method for triggering temperature responsive germination in seeds is what we callwinter sowing.  Winter sowing simply involves sowing the seeds outdoors during the cooler weather and allowing the natural temperature fluctuation to trigger the seed’s temperature response.  In that case, you can plant the seeds in the ground or in the soil that they will ultimately grow in.  Preferably, you want a location with full sun to partial shade.  There is no need to harden the plants off when you winter sow, and the roots will not be disturbed by transplantation.  Since winter sowing relies on cool temperatures, growers in the warmer zones must resort to stratification. But otherwise, this is our preferred method with mandrake.  It was in our trials with winter sowing mandrake seeds that we noticed the tendency of the seeds to germinate in subsequent temperature fluctuations aside from just the initial one. This phenomenon likely works as a species preservation mechanism.  In the event that a plant does not reach maturity or set seed, it still has backup genetics on deck that are ready to sprout.
You will find that mandrake generally does better in the cool or at least mild weather.  Personal experience and conversations with other mandrake growers have both dictated that warmer temperatures can sometimes correlate with the plant suffering.  In several instances, we’ve had plants lose their leaves.  But what is important to know about mandrake is that the root is the life of the plant. As long as the root is living, the leaves have a good chance of returning.  We have had plants that we thought died during summer return to life in the fall when the weather cooled down a bit.  What actually took place was that the leaves had died back while the root stayed alive below the soil.  Although it appeared that the plants were gone, the living taproot held enough life to allow the foliage to return.
In another instance, we had some indoor plants that lost their leaves.  In this case, it seemed that the reason had to do with an improper root depth.  It is important that the mandrake root not be too deeply buried, or the stems of the leaves will be in greater contact with the soil. If you get any standing moisture, they can easily rot at the stem, causing the entire leaf to die.  As mentioned earlier, a well-draining soil is imperative.  It may be beneficial to put a layer of gravel or perlite at the top in order to improve the drainage specifically where the leaf stems are while allowing the majority of the taproot below to have access to a soil medium that holds a bit more moisture.  Lighting also plays a factor because plants grown in lower lighting conditions will have thinner stems that could rot or snap more easily.  But an ideal planting depth is one where the top of the taproot is about even with the soil.  The taproot may sit slightly above the soil line as well, but you do not want it too far above because it can put extra tension on the stems, which is more of a problem with thinner leaf stems.  As you can imagine, there are numerous factors that could lead to leaf loss. But in all cases we’ve experienced, new foliage was able to grow from a healthy taproot, even when all prior leaves had fallen off.  So again, it is important to know that the root truly is the life of the plant when it comes to mandrake.
Indoor temperatures are usually fine for mandrake since they are mild.  You can grow mandrake fairly easily indoors as long as you use artificial lighting.  Window lighting is probably insufficient and will lead to thin leaf stems.   But a fixture containing two T5 fluorescents is sufficient to support mandrake plants over the winter.  However, you should also remember that mandrake is frost hardy.  So if you have ground space, there is no need to bring them in for the winter.  Depending on your living situation, this may just be a good plant if your indoor growing real estate is already occupied.  And while mandrake may seem like a challenging species to grow, it is important to remember that there is leeway…both in the way that you can still expect germination even from seeds that did not originally sprout and in the way you can still squeeze life from a root that may otherwise seem tapped out.

Mandrake Grown from Seed

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Grow Calea Zacatechichi from Seeds and Cuttings

Calea zacatechichi is the most well-known of several dreaming herbs that make up the class known as oneirogens.   Other dreaming herbs include Silene Capensis (African Dream Root), Entada Rheedii and Artemisia Vulgaris (Mugwort).  Dream herbs are used to induce lucid dreaming, which, most accurately is described as an awareness that you are dreaming to the point that you can control dreams.  But, on a more basic level, dream herbs also seem to be linked to increased dream recall or simply an awareness that you are dreaming even if you cannot control the dream.  There are also a number of other herbs, particularly sedative herbs, which seem to cause increased dream activity in various users without them being specifically labeled as dream herbs.  Mad Dog Skullcap, California Poppy, Lavender, German Chamomile and Agrimony are among these.  The following guide is intended to explain the various growing techniques for calea zacatechichi.

Classic Mexican calea zacatchichi leaf is quite bitter.  There is also a calea that is not.  To distinguish the difference between the two, we label calea as either the bitter variety or the non-bitter variety.  Dreaming herbs have variable effects from user to user, and they seem to become more effective with regular use.  But collective information from various users includes enough reports to suggest that both the bitter and non-bitter caleas are active as oneirogens.  The non-bitter variety happens to be that variety that most collectors have in cultivation even though most commercially available calea herb is the bitter variety.  The non-bitter variety has more triangular-shaped leaves that are not as thick as those of the bitter strain. But distinguishing the two plants can be complicated by the fact that calea leaves can vary in appearance, even on the same plant.  Both types of calea also have yellow flowers.  But normally, it is pretty easy to tell the difference even without tasting the leaves. 

As mentioned before, almost all collectors have the non-bitter variety of calea, so that is what the techniques covered in this guide will be based on.  But it is probable that they will work just as well for either type.  Calea is reproduced primarily through cuttings, and it seems that most of the genetic pool in the U.S. and Canada is made up of clones of one another and seeds produced from those clones.  That is likely why that bitter variety is so difficult to find. 

Non-bitter Calea Zacatechichi

Cloning Calea Zacatechichi
Calea is one of the easiest plants to grow once established. But many times it does not produce seeds.  Seeds are not readily available for sale, and many of them are non-viable or have poor viability.  On the other hand, cuttings are very easy to root. So that explains why cuttings are the most popular choice for reproduction.  But again, this habitual cloning limits the genetic pool. 

Calea clones can be rooted in any medium that is used for rooting.  For more information on rooting and rooting mediums please visit our guide on rooting cuttings at  We typically root calea cuttings in water since it is easy and inexpensive.  Rooting hormone is not required for rooting calea cuttings, but we have done tests that have shown cuttings rooted with rooting hormone will root slightly quicker and have a much better-developed root system.  So you can avoid the rooting hormone if cost or availability is an issue.   But if time is a concern, you’ll want to use it. 
Rooting hormone is available in either gel or powder form and can be found in most garden centers or online.  The gel is preferable to the powder because it will stick to the stem better, but the powder seems to be more readily available.  The active ingredient in most rooting hormone products is usually indole-3-butyric acid.  But you can also make your own natural rooting solution by boiling a couple grams of white willow bark (salix alba) and using the tea to root your cuttings.  White willow bark is the same bark that is used as an herbal pain reliever and contains the precursor to acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin).  You can find white willow bark in the herbs section at

When rooting many plants, it is important to select your cutting right below a node on the mother plant.  A node is the part of the stem where the leaves come out of.  The mother plant is the larger plant from which you are taking your cutting. The nodes already tend to have higher levels of growth hormones that make rooting easier.  But since calea roots so easily, selection at the node is less important than with other plants.  You can be more liberal in your selection without fear of failure. 

Once you’ve selected a part of the mother plant to make your cutting, you can prepare to make the cut.  It is usually a good idea to water your plant well about an hour prior to making the cut so that the cutting is well-hydrated.  For cuttings that take a long time to root, it is usually a good idea to sterilize or sanitize your cutting tool. But we’ve never had any problems using an unsanitized scissor to make calea cuttings. 

Once the calea cutting is made, you need to apply the rooting hormone (if you’re using it).  The gel will go on easily. But the powder requires that you to wet the stem of your calea plant first.  We also usually mix some powdered rooting hormone in the water we’re using to root the calea cutting in.  We do this so that the water becomes saturated with hormone.  Otherwise, the powder has a tendency to wash off into the water anyway.  To minimize washing off, we also try to gently put the dream herb cutting into water without too much movement so that the powder stays clumped on the calea stem.   If you’re using the gel, washing off becomes less of an issue. Also, if you’re using a different rooting medium such as perlite, the powder will usually stay on easier as long as you don’t rub it off when sticking the cutting into it.

We usually place our calea cuttings in about 1-2 inches of water.  When using other rooting mediums we’ll usually put a little bit more than 2 inches of medium since other mediums hold more air and less moisture than pure water.  Once the dream herb cutting has been situated in the rooting medium, you want to cover the top of the cutting and the container with a clear plastic bag, such as a food storage bag.  This is called a humidity tent. You can even use the produce bags that come free with your fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.  The humidity tent keeps the air inside humid so that the dream herb plant does not dry out before it grows roots.  Once the bag is laid overtop, secure the bottom with a rubber band and place the calea cutting in a well-lit area at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  The advantage of using water is that you can see the calea roots forming. For other rooting mediums, you can test the root formation by tugging gently on the cutting. When it becomes restricted from moving, that means your calea roots are forming.  But be sure not to pull too hard and damage the roots. You can begin seeing roots on calea cuttings in as little as six days, but it may take a few weeks, especially at cooler temperatures.

Transplanting and Growing Calea Zacatechichi Cuttings
Once your calea plant’s root system is formed, you can transplant your dream herb cutting to soil.  It is best to wait until the root system is well-developed just to minimize any chance of failure. But you can technically transplant calea at any point once the roots have begun forming.  Calea will grow in most commercially available soils from seed starter soil to potting soil to compost to cactus soil.  Calea zacatechichi has a very low nutrient requirement.  As a demonstration of this fact, we’ve even left calea cuttings rooting in perlite, which offers no nutritional value, for approximately a year.  But like many plants that can handle low-nutrient environments, fertile soil will benefit the growth and leaf quality. 

To transplant your calea cutting, simply place a few inches of soil into your container.  Hold the calea cutting in the pot at the level you want it to be situated once it is planted.  Be sure to let the roots hang down or spread out.  Letting the roots spread will help them occupy more areas of the pot than letting them clump up in one spot.  This will give them access to more nutrients than if you have them share one spot where they’ll be forced to compete for nutrients.  While calea does not require more nutrients, providing more nutrients will mean faster root growth.  Faster root growth decreases the time your plant needs to adapt to soil and increases the chance of success. 

It is important to add the soil to the pot without damaging your new calea roots. After every little bit of soil you add, spray it down to maintain even soil moisture.  You want to make sure there is moisture everywhere in the pot that it needs to be.  Your other option would be to saturate the soil afterwards. But spraying as you add the soil allows for a more even mix of air, soil and moisture throughout your pot.  Once the pot is filled, you should pack the soil down lightly to help keep the calea cutting supported. But you do not want to pack the soil too hard because you can damage the roots or remove all the air form the soil.  Air in the soil will help the root formation and reduce the chance for mold and bacteria growth in the soil.  You can even add a little bit of hydrogen peroxide in the water to help the roots along and ward off these unwanted organisms.
Once you’ve transplanted the calea to soil, it is usually a good idea to put it back in the humidity tent.  Especially if the cutting was rooted in water where moisture was plentiful or if it does not have a well-developed root system, your calea may benefit from a little assistance. Keeping your calea in the humidity tent will take the burden off the plant that evaporation from the leaves causes.  Usually after the first few days, the plant is ready to be removed from the humidity tent. When you first remove the calea plant from the humidity tent, just keep an eye on it over the first few hours to make sure it is adjusting well.  If your calea plant wilts, you can just drape the humidity tent back over the top.  The plant can stay in the tent as long as you want. But you must realize that an extended period in a humidity tent can make a plant dependent on the humidity tent, and it can require extra work to eventually acclimate it out of the tent.  This goes for any plant, not just calea zacatechichi.

Calea zacatechichi can be grown in relatively low-light conditions, which makes it very easy to care for.  It will do fine in most window lighting.  It also does well outdoors or under fluorescents.  Usually more light will give you darker and thicker leaves.  But too much light will cause calea to turn purple or red. Just like human skin, calea leaves can sunburn.  Sunburn will usually not kill the plant, but it is a sign that the plant is under stress. 

Growing Calea Zacatechichi from Seed
Although growing calea from cuttings is easier and quicker, growing calea from seed is rewarding.  Calea seeds are not widely offered, and many seeds are not viable or have very poor viability.  Even “good” calea seed will usually have a low viability rate compared to most seeds of other species.  Ideally, you want to procure your calea seeds while they are still in the in the pod.  There are about 20 seeds per pod on average.  In the pod, your calea seeds will be better protected from the air.  They should also be stored in the fridge until use to help maximize preservation. 

You should always start your calea seeds indoors where you can keep the conditions mild.  Outdoors, you can have to deal with all sorts of conditions such as wind, animals, rain or too much heat that can wipe out your entire project in one moment.  Calea seeds contain a skinny stick-like seed with a feathery tip connected to the top.  Calea seeds should be germinated on the surface of the soil either on their sides or with the points of the seeds facing down into the soil, which is how they would end up if they were carried away by the wind after being released from the seed pods.  It is important that the soil you are using to germinate dream herb seeds is lightly moist but not too wet because the seeds can develop mold very easily. A well-draining sandy soil will best help you achieve the proper soil moisture. 

Once you’ve sown your seeds, you want to cover the top of the container with a humidity tent and keep them at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  A desk lamp with a compact fluorescent light is enough to start your calea seeds. Since your calea seeds will be on the surface, the first part of the soil to dry out, the humidity tent will help keep the seeds from drying out at any point until they germinate.  But in order to minimize the chance of mold growing on your dream herb seeds, it is important to regularly air out the humidity tent over the course of the germination process.  Calea seeds are small, so just a little mold can do harm.

Calea zacatechichi seeds can take several weeks before they begin sprouting, and they will germinate irregularly. You can end up with new sprouts several weeks after your first sprouts have popped up.  The young calea seedlings are extremely small because of the thin seed they come from.  This makes them extremely vulnerable until they mature. To help them grow up quickly, good fresh air exchange will give you an advantage.  Be sure to air out your humidity tent as much as possible. Once your calea seedlings are about ¼”, you can take the tent off and begin blowing them lightly with a fan.  This will also help strengthen the stems of an otherwise fragile plant. 

Water your calea seedlings only by spraying the soil because pouring water into your pot can uproot and wash away your tiny calea seedlings.  The roots of young dream herb seedlings are generally pretty shallow because the root system begins at the soil surface instead of down in the soil.  But adding a small amount of rooting hormone to the water you’re using to water your seedlings can help the roots mature a little quicker. 
Your container may still have calea seeds that are willing to germinate.  Some of them can still germinate with the humidity tent off. But you want to make sure to keep the soil and the surrounding air moist.  Another option is to separate the dream herb seedlings out into a different container so they can get some more air while keeping the unsprouted calea seeds inside the tent.  But it is imperative that you avoid damaging the roots of the young calea seedlings.  The advantage of the situation is that young calea roots are shallow, which means it is easy to get underneath them and pull up all the dirt around them without ever touching the roots themselves.  It’s a little bit of a gamble in transplanting, but if you are careful, it should be fairly beneficial. Transplanting will also give you a chance to support the seedlings properly. With the shallow root system, calea seedlings are prone to falling over.  But resupporting your calea seedlings and adding the fan is the perfect combo to develop good stem support in the early stages of growth. 

By the time your calea plants are about three to four inches, they should be in the clear.  You can go on to treat them according to the same instructions as you would a rooted calea cutting.  More importantly, you will have one of the more genetically diverse calea plants.  

Buy Calea Zacatechichi, Silene Capensis, Entada Rheedii and more 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

World Seed Supply's Cheap and Simple Lighting Options for Indoor Plants

People ask us all the time about lighting for their indoor plants.  The following information will just offer three lighting solutions for indoor plants that most people should have access to and be able to afford.

While most serious plant setups use high pressure sodium (HPS) or metal halide bulbs (MH), most plants can be supported just fine under fluorescent lighting.  What's even better is that fluorescent bulbs can be bought cheaply and are inexpensive to run.  The most accessible and efficient form of fluorescent lighting is the CFL or compact fluorescent light bulb.  You can find these bulbs anywhere that sells light bulbs from grocery store to pharmacies to hardware stores. We've seen them as cheaply as one dollar.  And while HPS and MH bulbs require special ballasts, compact fluorescent light bulbs can fit in any standard lamp fixture as they are.  You can use these bulbs either by themselves or to supplement window light for plants.

One of the best ways to make the light accessible to your plants is to use desk lamps with bendable necks. This will allow you to adjust the lamp to fit the growth of the plants or to point the light at a particular area.  CFL lights work well for starting cactus and plant seedlings as well as for maintaining mature plants.  The following example is one simple setup using CFL light bulbs in a floor lamp / desk lamp combo.

Another source of fluorescent light is the fluorescent tube.  These are the typical lights you will find in office buildings and other public places, and they are used because they are inexpensive to run.  This setup will be a little more expensive, but it can support more plants than a CFL and will offer them much more light for good growth.  Whereas the CFL system is more for sustaining plants, the tube setup can be used for actively growing plants and seedlings.  The tubes require a special fixture which typically fits 4ft. fluorescent tubes.  Most fixtures will hold 2 or 4 of these bulbs.  

The tubes also range in thickness (from .25" to 1.5").  Thickness is based on a "T" scale from T2-T12. The T stands for tubular, and the number represents eighths of an inch.  The different bulbs have different advantages.  The T8 is the typical bulb with 8/8" or 1" diameter and will suffice for most vegetative growing situations.  So all the fancy numbers aside, a four-foot long, one-inch thick bulb will work for your basic setup.

Aside from bulb length and thickness, you must also select from light color appearance. This is based on the color spectrum of the light that is produced.  Color appearances include warm, neutral, cool white, natural light and daylight.  It should be noted that warm is just the color of the light. Warm bulbs actually run the coolest with the daylight bulbs outputting the most heat.  Many growers use the cool white bulbs for their plants, although the daylight bulbs are even better if you can find one.  

The advantage of using this system is that the fixture can be hung above the plants by chain or rope and raised as the plants grow.  This allows you to maintain the same light intensity as your plants grow without the plants touching the bulbs.  Fluorescent lights do run very cool compared to other types of light, but they can still burn leaves if the bulbs are touching them.  

The hanging system is typically employed inside a growing chamber or in places where there is something to hang the light fixture from.  But small mini chambers can be set up anywhere using plastic storage containers.  In this case, the cool output of the fluorescent light allows the bulbs to be rested on the edge of the storage bins.  As a precaution, the setup can include small pieces of wood to rest the bulb on so that it is not actually touching the plastic.  But the setup is really as simple as placing a tube fixture (two or four tubes) across the top of a large storage bin with two pieces of wood (if you choose) between the edge of the bin and the bulbs.  If you choose to skip the wood just do some tests to make sure the heat of your bulb is compatible with the plastic in your setup.  This particular example does not use the wood, and there is no damage to the plastic.  For maximum efficiency, the inside of the bin should be lined with aluminum foil (dull side out) or mylar.  But this picture shows just the minimal version of this setup.  It should also be noted that the cover of the bin is typically laid over the top of the fixture to keep light from escaping.  The overhanging areas of the bulb are also being utilized to grow cactus seedlings and root pereskiopsis cuttings.  Use the biggest bins you can find to minimize overhang.

The last setup we would like to share actually involves a specific bulb we were fortunate to come across.  It is made by General Electric and is called the Reveal 100.  This 100 watt bulb outputs 1275 lumens and is a full-spectrum bulb.  The full spectrum is what is important.  We usually buy them at Home Depot for under $5, and they are warrantied for 2 years. This bulb is enough to support a large number of plants.  We've fitted ours into a standard closet light fixture to support shelved plants.  

The only drawback about this type of bulb is that is has a very high heat output.  But it is also valuable in creating an environment for tropical and desert plants. The high output means that only very heat tolerant plants such as certain cacti can be placed close to the bulb on the top shelf.  (The small pot on top contains a small astrophytum myriostigma.)  We've even laid a screen across the top shelf for shading.  But this setup will still support plants up to five or six feet away.  Accordingly, we have plants on three lower levels of shelving, spaced 18" apart.  You only see the top two levels in the photo.  You can see some kratom plants and some Blue Agave being grown happily in this setup.  Much of the growth for the kratom, which enjoys a lot of light, occurs outside of the shelving area in the open light.  But the screen on top allows for plants that require a bit more shade to be grown underneath the shelving area.  The different levels also allow you to work with different levels of light intensity depending on what you're trying to grow.  We've also setup an upside down tub on the floor of the closet to fit additional plants.  While the other setups we mentioned involve moving the light to change intensity, this system, with a fixed light, requires you to shift the plants to access different light intensities.  Again, this setup would be most efficient if the walls were lined with aluminum foil (dull side out) or mylar.  But do what we say, not what we do : ) 

If you do not have a free closet to designate to your plants, you can still keep the Reveal 100 full spectrum in mind as a lighting option.  Feel free to adapt ideas from the section on CFL lights.  You can position your bulb using a desk lamp or other type of clip lamp.  This type of bulb will support more plants than your CFL in a similar setup.  But also keep in mind that it will produce more heat. Consider what it means for what plants will do best and what might become a fire hazard in your surrounding area.  Whereas the closet fixture is already set away from anything else, you want to be sure when using a desk or clip lamp that you do not let the bulb touch anything that could potentially ignite.

At this point, we hope that you have at least one lighting option that fits your budget, your growing space and your plant collection.  Keep in mind that these are just the basic setups for people looking to support their plants indoors.  The more you are dedicated, the more you can tweak these ideas to maximize your conditions.  This includes setting up light cycles, ventilation, humidification, carbon dioxide treatment and more.  But we'll save these topics for future guides.

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