Lisianthus Trial

Update: January 29: Teeny Lisi sprouts continue to do their thing. The listed germination rate on the packets was 95 and 96%. I feel confident that we reached near that level. Next time, I'll sow just one seed per cell. Now the long wait begins. I have the challenge of deciding how and if I'll divide and transplant the seedlings once they get larger to save as many as possible. The next step is to drop the temperature from 75-80F degrees down to 60-7F degrees. I turned off the heat mat and space heater in the room. The regular temp for the space (my office) is around 60-65F, so I'm feeling good about the location for our experiment. I'll also try to allow the plants to dry out slightly between waterings to try and control the growth of algae (I already see a little). I ordered some OMRI listed Rootshield to apply for algae control. 

Update: January 25: We started to see the very first tiny little lisianthus sprouts in the tray on the heat mat this morning. The germination mix from AM Leonard has been holding moisture extremely well. This in stark contrast to the difficulty I had with retail germination mixes and water absorption last year - it hardly ever worked. I bottom water every other day, sometimes even every third day. I take the covers off for several hours or over night once and a while (have to be sure the office doors are shut so our two kittens don't foil my plans!). I haven't had to mist the surface of the cells. The listed germination time is between 10 and 15 days, so I am thrilled to see some little babies popping up exactly 10 days in. If I can figure out how to nurture them through to the summer, I could save a lot of money (fewer plugs to buy) next next season. 

Tiny little lisianthus sprout - photographed with a macro lens.

Tiny little lisianthus sprout - photographed with a macro lens.

Hi folks-

Welcome back to the Barn Bulletin. Last winter, we ran a small seed starting trial with lupine. Our challenge was that we had a lot of saved lupine seeds from our old property and I wanted to establish them at our new farm for cut flower production. 

The climate is wonderful for lupine up here. They are assisted by our frigid temps and naturalize quickly if they have well draining, sandy soil. Unfortunately, the soil on our new farm is clay -- very fertile-- but not well draining. This spring we are building up a number of our beds to help with the problem. The lupine I started last year were planted out in some landscaping beds around the house where there is a little bit of a pitch and better drainage. They did well, and I hope to see more of them this spring, now that they have had a chance to drop their own seeds. 

To read the recommendations from our lupine seed starting trial, click here.

OK-- on to the new trials! To start-- these are not scientific trials sponsored by seed companies or anything like that. We have a small operation and we're trying to figure out how to make things work for us. I'm sure there are many of you out there who understand! This winter, we are taking a specific look at lisianthus, delphinium, and craspedia. Lisianthus are notoriously difficult, grow very slowly, and can be prone to algae problems. We have to try them! We struggled with delphinium and craspedia last year-- so they made the list, too. Stayed tuned for more news on them in February and March. 

As a safeguard, we also ordered lisianthus plugs- a lot of them. They are coming to us through Farmer Bailey at Ardelia farm. The safety net makes me unafraid to take risks with our little seed starting experiment. And that is something you really need to be able to do. It can be hard not to do what you think is "the right thing" for all of your plants. My recommendation is to always to try several methods and learn from them. Don't set high expectations for the outcome of your trials. With this experiment, I'm thinking that it will be great if even just a few viable plants result from the work.

I don't feel like I have a whole lot of different things to try this time around. Most of the instructions I am finding online are similar. Next year, I'll experiment with different kinds of soil-less starting mixes and see if one works better than the others. We'll put one of the lisianthus trays on a heat mat with a thermostat set to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the germination phase. We'll see if that make any difference. The other trays will be kept at room temp around 70-75F.

Today is January 15. I started the first lisianthus seeds today, per instructions online and on their seed packets. I'm working with Mariachi Pure White (a Group 2 lisianthus variety recommended to me by Vanessa at TarrNation Flower Farm) and Roseanne Black Pearl- a Group 1 variety. Both seed types are coated, and that makes sowing them much easier. They came from Johnny's Selected Seeds and are listed as having 95 and 96% germination rates. 

Our lisianthus seeds were sown 2 seeds to a cell, uncovered, in deep-root 50-cell trays. I'm using dampened seed germination mix from AM Leonard. The seeds were surface sown and then misted gently with a spray bottle. Instructions for growing lisanthus say to both keep the seeds damp during the germination period and provide good air circulation. We have very dry air during the winter, so I've elected to dome them and at least keep them damp. I'll try to take the lids off a couple of times a day. 

The cell trays are on a rack by a window in our home office under fluorescent lights. There are a total of 3, 50-cell trays. Two of the trays have only Mariachi Pure White seeds. 1 tray is 1/2 Roseanne Black Pearl and 1/2 Mariachi Pure White. 

We'll check back in with an update next month (or earlier) and let you know how things are moving along. Have a question or comment? Please share. We'll be sure to get right back to you. 


For the February post on lisianthus progress, click here

For the March post on lisianthus progress, click here.