From seed

I speak with little expertise regarding starting plants from seed. Yes, the garden features many hellebore seedlings and fern sporelings, but these occur naturally with no assist from me. I am challenged by routine tasks such as watering, so gardeners with such lackings are ill advised to undertake growing from seed. Failure is nearly guaranteed.


But, not always, and after the small greenhouse was constructed a year ago I was again tempted to grow two annual vines, the cardinal flower (above) and hyacinth bean (below). The cardinal vine was intended to scramble up and into a tall nandina, while the hyacinth vine would cover a clematis in summer after its blooms had passed. Only a few seedlings of each were needed, so certainly a dozen seeds of each would be adequate. And they were, barely.


Results for both vines were satisfactory, and with the season for both ending in October I plan to duplicate the effort next spring, though with an additional challenge. I have harvested large seeds from the hyacinth bean, and attempted but abandoned efforts to capture tiny seeds from the cardinal vine. Perhaps I’ll try again when seed capsules are brown and dry.


Few plants display seeds so prominently as the blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly Belamcanda chinensis, above and below), named for blackberry like seed clusters, but favored for its small, spotted orange blooms. A number of seeds were recently harvested from several small clumps of lilies. I am assured by references that these are easily germinated in the spring.


Perhaps this is overly ambitious given my severe limitations, but I look forward to the reward in starting new clumps of the splendid lily. I have little interest in expanding my horizons, but considerable interest in adding plants at minimal expense. If successful, you will hear about it next summer.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello Dave, I was excited to see that you are planning to start blackberry lily seeds. I did just that last spring and got almost 100% germination. They also grew well when transplanted outside. I love the blossoms and got the seed originally at the Mount Vernon gift shop, so I think they are a traditional plant. Good luck with yours!

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve grown blackberry lily for a few years, but it has always intrigued me to find this non native naturalized in local mountain top meadows. Undoubtedly, a home was nearby before the area became parkland, but the lilies would have to be fifty years old or more unless someone brought seeds in more recently. In any case, I look forward to expanding my small planting and I hope to have a few left over to share with my sons.

  2. Sylvia Darrow says:

    My grandson , who is now32, planted several oak seeds in pots during his high school years in his Horticulture class. When he graduated, he gave me two of his little Oak trees. After leaving them in pots outside for a couple of seasons, I had them planted. The Burr Oak is a beautiful 30+ foot tree now.
    The White Oak is recovering from the deer rutting that killed the top.

    1. Dave says:

      I admire your patience. I must have immediate gratification. I expect the blackberry lilies will flower next summer if I start them early.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    Are hyacinth bean difficult? Mine did not grow at all. I attributed the failure to the age of the seed. They were a few years old.

    1. Dave says:

      They must not be too difficult. I started them in the greenhouse where they regularly dried out before being transplanted.

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