Last fall, I found a surprise in my garden–my hosta plants had produced seeds! Free seeds–who could argue with that!
I didn’t know if this was an unusual occurrence, but it started me thinking. Should I try growing hostas from seed?
All sources I consulted said to harvest the seeds when they are black and papery. The seed pod may (and probably will) still be a bit green. They warned that the seeds were likely to fall off over the winter and you’d lose them. (Note my seeds didn’t fall off but those left on the plants didn’t germinate either)
I collected the seeds in mid-October then stored them until February which seemed a generally good seed starting month. The sources I consulted said you could plant them without any special preparation, so I planted some seeds, set them on my heating coils and waited. And waited. For months. Nothing.
I went back to the Internet where one (and only one) source said that sometimes the seeds will need stratification–basically to sit in cold water in your refrigerator for a few weeks before planting. I took another bunch of seeds, placed them in water in the refrigerator for a few weeks, then planted them.
Two weeks later, the first hint of green appeared. Then over the next few weeks more. Hostas are notoriously low germinators, so despite planting lots of seed, I didn’t have a lot of growth. But I did have some tiny baby plants–hooray!
I then placed them in a sunny window with a fluorescent light on them over night. And they grew. Slowly, but I still produced baby plants. Amazing!
In the end it took a fair amount of trial and error to produce my plants… What did I learn:
- Germination rates are low. You need to plant a lot of seeds to get a few plants.
- Germination is slow. The earliest I saw was just over two weeks and some were as late as 2-3 months.
- Hostas grow slowly. If I try this again, I will start in the fall so they have the whole winter to get big enough to go in the garden in spring.
- I recommend stratification (refrigerating in water for a couple weeks). I didn’t try planting seeds immediately in the fall, which may different, but I had no germination at all on seeds that weren’t stratified in a number of trials.
- I have read that it can take two years for the true appearance of your young hostas to reveal itself and that they don’t always grow true to parent. I have some with wide leaves and some with narrow, but they are still small so I’ll have to get back to you on this.
- I also read that hostas can handle light around the clock so you can leave a grow light on them continuously to boost growth. We are on time of use electric rates, so I only tried this on weekends, but they seemed happy to be in the land of the midnight sun fluorescent light then.
Would I do this again? If you can divide your hosta plants, you’ll probably get a lot more return for your effort investment than growing hostas from seed. But it was a fun project and I’d never look a gift hosta in the mouth!