Eager to grow – Marsh Marigold and Wood Poppy

by Sandy Garland

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

Some seeds just can’t wait to get growing.

Every year we collect seeds from our wildflowers at the FWG and some from the wild to grow for our annual plant sale (first Saturday in June). In the fall, we carefully mix them with damp vermiculite – or leave them in paper envelops if that’s what they require – and store them in the refrigerator to simulate winter. This allows us to get them out and germinating early so that they will be a good size by June.

For the last few years, I’ve found a few species sprouting in January while they are still in the refrigerator – wood poppy, marsh marigold, and Virginia bluebells. I have found wood poppy and marsh marigold difficult to grow; we tried both many times in the past with no success.

Finally, I tried initiating the cold treatment as soon as the seeds are mature – late spring. This produced excellent results, but there is still a problem. Although the seeds happily sprout in January, and grow well for a couple of months, many plants then slowly wilt and die.

Last year, my entire “crop” of Virginia bluebells disappeared in April and May. I speculated that having been roused from dormancy in January, they had already gone through a normal life cycle by April and died back as normal plants in the wild would have done. They didn’t bloom, but many wildflowers don’t flower the first year. I kept all the tiny tubers and I’m hoping they’ll show signs of life at the normal time this year.

I’m afraid there’s no happy ending to this story – yet. At the moment, I have 18 marsh marigold and about a dozen wood poppy seedlings that I will try to coax to maturity. And 4 flats of Virginia bluebell tubers that I hope will grow when their snow cover melts.

If anyone has experience growing these or similar wild species, I would love to hear from you.

See also: Growing native plants from seed: cold stratification
Growing common milkweed from seed: easy steps for beginners


3 thoughts on “Eager to grow – Marsh Marigold and Wood Poppy

  1. Strange Sandy how some species like Wood Poppy self seed all over the garden outside but dont want to cooperate when germinated indoors. I sometimes think they just like certain conditions, eg certain soil, moisture , etc that we cannot provide inside. Plants are a fussy lot. For example I have not much luck transplanting species like Brown Eyed Susans to where I want them. But they self seed all sorts of places I didnt intend for them and thrive in ‘their’ chosen spots. Keeps one humble.
    Good luck with the seedlings. I am always very impressed with your success at growing plants from seed.

    • Thanks, Claudia!! The wood poppies have been a big surprise. Do you remember how Robina collected seeds from them for several years with no success at growing them at all? The long cold stratification period seems to be important, but now I need to figure out what the seedlings need (so far I’m keeping the clear cover on the flat to hold in moisture).
      As for the ones that pop up all over, I think ants have something to do with that, don’t they? I believe I read that ants eat the aril, and “plant” the rest of the seed.
      The Virginia bluebells are my latest mystery, and I have high hopes for those little tubers in my backyard. Will keep you posted.
      Thanks SO much for continuing to be a friend of the FWG and offering your advice! Much appreciated.

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