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 http://worldseedsupply.org/blog/?tag=how-to-root-plant-cuttings  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 www.worldseedsupply.org

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.  

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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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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Unpacking Plants and Preparing them for Growth After Shipping.

Shipping can be a time of depravation and trauma for a plant in many senses. And above that, we really do not know what kind of environment the plant was used to before it came to us. Your environment may be better or worse, but that still does not negate the need for some tender loving care. Some plants are hardier than others and will bounce back from even the most stressful situations. But in getting a new plant, our goal should be to gradually adjust the plant to its new home. That takes place in both the unpacking and in the adjustment processes.

You may or may not realize it, but even a package that has “Fragile” written all over it is subject to being stacked and bounced in the most aggressive ways. The sad reality is that when people have a job to do, they are more focused on getting the job done quickly than getting it done in a way that might be most beneficial to the customer. And if the package is uninsured, most workers really see no special obligation to “handle with care” if it means that doing so will make their job any more difficult. At the end of the day there is not all that much accountability from couriers, and so shippers may go through what seems like ludicrous lengths to make sure the plant does not move inside the box. It is your job to take that effort to the next level by carefully unpacking your plant.

When sending a plant, the shipper’s goal is usually to minimize movement of any part of the plant, including the leaves. That may mean folding the leaves in a particular position that may ordinarily be awkward, but in a way that will keep them from moving around and potentially breaking during shipping. Leaves may be folded up to keep them protected, but they will usually go back to normal once the plant is back at ease To minimize movement, shippers will often use all sorts of taping and packing that will keep the plant in place. The best bet when unwrapping your plant is to cut away the tape rather than tear it. Always cut away the secure environment that the shipper has provided so that the plant will be able to handle the unpacking process. Tearing or ripping can cause sudden unwanted movements that can lead to the snapping of a branch or leaf. Losing a branch or leaf may not doom a plant, but if it can be helped, why not allow as much of the plant to remain in tact as possible. Sometimes the tape will have attached itself to a part of the plant, so it is vital to be alert for these situations and to have gentle hands.

Most plants will come in what is called a humidity tent or humidity dome. This is most often just a clear plastic bag that has been placed over the top of the plant to keep it from drying out. While this may limit airflow, plants can usually last quite a while in their humidity tents without breathing. In fact, we have seen plants last months in humidity tent as long s the soil didn’t dry out too much. It is more vital to the plant’s survival that it remains hydrated. After a period of a few days, the air in the tent may be minimal (especially if it is pressed tightly in a box), and there may be a tendency for the plant to cling to the bag. This is normal and acceptable. It is usually a good idea to have a new humidity tent on hand to replace the one that the plant came in. Food Storage bags or the bags that you get produce in from the supermarket are good choices for humidity tents. Often you will have to cut away some of the bottom to free the plant if it is taped to the container. If the original humidity tent is salvageable, then it can be reused. Many growers make the mistake of taking the plant right from this point and putting it into what they read or know to be ideal conditions for the plant. This will often stress the plant and cause wilting, which in some cases can prove fatal. As long as there is no rotting material in the bag, you have to assume that the plant has been used to high humidity for at least the past few days, and a sudden drop could cause the plant to lose moisture from it leaves suddenly.

Preferably, you want to remove any material that may be dead or dried out. These are havens for mold. Next, you want to restructure the humidity tent over the plant so that it has a new supply of air. Prior to now, the plant has been in a box with no light. Even though your eyes might enjoy a certain level of light, if you had been in a dark closet for three days, your eyes would experience strain if placed back into reality. Therefore, you do not want to rush to get the plant into a full sun condition simply because that is what it normally prefers according to grow guides. Start your plant out in ambient room lighting for about a day or so. You can gradually increase the light intensity to the plant’s desired light preference. The same is true for the humidity. Most people do not have humidity gauges in their homes, and even so you do not know exactly what the plant’s experience with humidity was like in the past. Just as you gradually increase the plant’s light exposure, slowly remove it from the humidity tent. This can be accomplished usually by first undoing any type of securing agent, such as a rubber band, from the plant after a few hours. If at any point you see the plant begin to wilt, go back to securing the humidity dome. You can go on to remove the humidity tent from the plant entirely when it shows that it is ready. In many cases, you will be able to do this fairly suddenly. However, some plants will require a more gradual adjustment. You will be able to read your plant’s needs based on how the leaves act. Drooping leaves are indicators of low moisture content. Throughout all of this, you may wish to water the plant if the soil is dry. But if the soil is already moist, your best bet is to control moisture through humidity. Adding too much moisture to the soil is not always a solution. It can cause root rot and molds to form, particularly when airflow is not high.

Another common mistake new plant owners make is repotting too quickly. While most plants are kept in small containers to minimize shipping cost, they could use a repot when they arrive at their new home. But it is important to realize that repotting itself can be stressful to the plant and must be done in a timely manner. You do not want to disrupt the root system and cause additional trauma until the plant has shown that it is stable on its own. Once the plant has fully adjusted to its environment, only then should you repot your plant into a container that will allow it to flourish. Use the type of soil and pot that is recommended for your species. Plants are often kept rootbound to maintain size for shipping, but a good repotting session will do wonders for getting your plants to put on quick growth. With that said, you should allow extra adjustment for plants to be placed outside. Outdoor light, even in a shady location, is often many times stronger than bright light indoors. And just like you can get an early season sunburn from being inside all winter, your plants can go from vibrant to morbid in a matter of hours. So, it is important to provide plants that are going outdoors with extra water and to shade them from the sun, even if they truly prefer full sun. This can be done by starting them in shady locations and gradually moving them to those with more light. You can also use objects such as lawn furniture as shading devices to block the sun in the more intense parts of the day. Or if you prefer to go the natural way, surround your vulnerable plants with taller plants that are already accustomed to the sun’s ferocity.

Usually when you buy a plant, it is a special experience. You are in charge of another life, even if you may not view it that way. You may have invested a good deal of money or better yet, you may have been fortunate enough to add a rare specimen to your collection. So while it may seem like a lot of extra effort, you have a duty to do what you can to safely transplant that new life from one area of the globe to another; and that applies even if you are simply moving your own plant from inside your house to the outdoors.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to Germinate Lotus Flower (Nelumbo Nucifera) Seeds

Lotus (nelumbo nucifera) is one of the most iconic flowers in history, and its presence can really improve the look of ponds and fountains on your property.  But lotus seeds have an extremely thick seed coat that will keep water out unless you give it some help.  The act of wearing down the seed coat to facilitate germination is called scarification.  In the case of the lotus seed, the scarification must be rather intense.  This impermeable barrier allows the lotus seed to remain viable for years, but it means a little extra work for the grower. This guide will show you just what to do and how far to scarify your seeds to give them the best chance of success.

While you can scarify many seeds on sandpaper and with other abrasive materials, it is best to use a metal file to scarify lotus flowers seeds due to the especially hard coat.  Even with a file, scarification can take a little bit of elbow grease.  We recommend scarification on the side of the seed.  It is best to place the file on a table and press the seed into the file as you rub it back and forth so you can have gravity work with you.  By trying to hold the file and the seed, it will take a lot more effort. 

You will notice that the lotus seed has essentially three layers.  There is an outer shiny layer, which ends where you see the white ring on the seed in the photo.  Then there is another dark layer that comprises most of the seed coat and which will account for most of your effort when filing. There is then a yellowish layer inside the seed, which you will see once you file through the seed coat.  As you start to file, you will see a ring form.  You want to keep going until the inner part of that ring begins to turn a light tan color as you approach the yellow inside.  The seed in the picture has just broken through the seed coat and into the yellow layer.  We usually aim to stop right before this actually breaks through because it increases the chance that an infection can take hold. But if you keep the conditions clean, it will usually not affect the seed.  With that said, you do not want to file into the yellow layer if you can help it

Now that you have filed down the hard shell, water can penetrate into the embryo to begin germination.  Your next step is to toss the seeds directly into a glass or bowl or water.  Any amount of water that will fully cover the seeds is fine.  The seeds will start to swell initially. You will continue the soak until the seeds actually sprout.  This will usually take about a week, but it can sometimes take longer, especially if you did not scarify enough.  You will notice that the water can get cloudy pretty quickly. Therefore, you will want to be sure to change the water daily to reduce the risk of infection.

When the lotus seeds finally sprout, they will split open and a stem will pop out. The lotus is unique in the sense because most seeds will sprout with a taproot emerging first. In the case of the lotus, the foliage emerges first. This stem actually contains an immature leaf that will later develop. When the stem becomes about 2-3 inches it will form an angled bend, which will then straighten out. You can plant the seed at this point or choose to wait until roots form. The roots will form out of the base of the stem. It is best to sow the sprouts directly into your pond, but you can choose to sow in 8” pots and transplant later. In the case of a fountain or a manmade pond that does not have a soil bottom you can plant the seeds in large containers that you will submerge.

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