Sowing Aquilegia seeds



There are as many ways of sowing Aquilegias as there are gardeners, but this is what I do: I sow in winter, starting whenever I receive seeds (and to suit myself), anytime after Christmas.  I keep the 3” pots in an unheated greenhouse (keeps cats etc at bay!) after very lightly covering the seeds with compost.   Then I wait.  They’ll come up in their own good time.  In 2004 I experimented with the 96 types sown, and by 25th May I’d had 88 which had germinated (92%). and found that my sowings made on 23rd January took an average of 8  weeks 6 days to germinate, yet those sown ten days later (on 2nd Feb) generally came up about the same date, taking only an average of  7 weeks 2 days.  Those sown a further 3 weeks later again (20th Feb) were slightly quicker again at 6 weeks 3 days. The longest took over 13 weeks and the shortest just 5 weeks 2 days.  If you sow May-July they’ll germinate in about 4 weeks.  I prefer to sow in January as there’s little else gardening-wise to do (or the weather’s too cold/wet/miserable).  In March there’s plenty else I can sow, and need to do.  I also sow alpines and bulb seeds at this time, basically as soon as I receive the seeds.

After germination, thin out to a reasonable number, certainly not more than twice the number you will ‘need’. You can thin out the green-leafed forms from coloured-leaf cultivars at this time (and for white flowered cultivars, select seedlings with no purple in their leaf stems*). Prick out when large enough to handle (don’t leave too long as root growth is rapid). 

* I've discovered that this does not hold true for long-spurred cultivars, purpley stems can flower creamy opening to white, and non-purpley stems can give brightly bicoloured flowers!


 First soak the pot with water, then tip out the contents and tease seedlings apart from the edge of the compost ball.  I even prick out at the seedling-leaf (cotyledon) stage sometimes.  I place them directly where they are to grow on: either in nursery rows in the garden or in grow-bags.  This means I need to ‘harden off’ seedlings for a couple of weeks beforehand……I just leave them in the relatively protected area between my shed and greenhouse.




Planting into flowering positions may be done at any time from autumn to spring before the flowering shoot appears (though plants can be forgiving even when moved in first-flower stage, if treated understandingly).  I have to pot each one up and keep until it flowers in May so that I know they are ‘true-to-type’ and can be correctly named and put into the collection.


NB The other NCCPG holder, John Drake, advocates sowing immediately when ripe, otherwise a considerable drop in viability occurs.  This may well be more important for other species.


Click here to download a leaflet which includes this information, and much more.

'Two weeks ago I sowed the remainder of your seeds purchased last year and to my amazement they are ALL up already, your seeds are so easy to germinate, can you see the smile on my face?  Maureen Smith, Toronto, Canada

 Carrie's aquilegia and geranium seed came up straightaway almost like popcorn popping. Sherril Olive.





Copyright Carrie Thomas 2014. All rights reserved.