Sowing Seeds of Naked Buckwheat, Golden Yarrow, Clarkia, and Madia

Ruby chalice clarkia (Clarkia rubicunda) with friend!
Growing native plants local to one's region makes ecological sense. Alrie Middlebrook is a proponent of the native garden quilted ecosystem approach, where suburban garden habitats are close enough together for native life to get across them like stepping stones or pathways. Many gardeners in the Santa Clara valley embrace this philosophy enthusiastically, and are seeing interesting local wildlife as a result.

And some of them took my plants and seeds! Sure these plants and seeds may not be of the specific gene pool for those particular neighborhoods - but naked buckwheat, golden yarrow, and common madia are found all over California  and ruby chalice clarkia are found throughout the Bay Area and in central to northerly coastal areas. And those suburban neighborhoods really don't have any of their own gene pool left.

So - I'll first put the specifics about the seeds I shared, and then some general advice about seeds, with pointers to other posts for even more details. This post is mostly for those who received the seeds and who asked for some help getting going. Thank you all for spreading California natives!

Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
Naked buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum, in a tangle with common madia, Madia elegans
Pictures of the seedlings are shown in this post:
Plant where they get some afternoon shade. They seem to also take shade, high shade particularly.

Golden Yarrow, Eriophyllum confertiflorum

Golden yarrow, Eriophyllum confertiflorum
Pictures of the seedlings are shown in this post:
Similar to Eriogonum nudum. Success rate was lower, maybe 50% when I tried these.
They like sunny locations. They seem to grow on our property where they get just a little shade some of the day. Or maybe that is just where they get a little more moisture - not sure.

Common Madia, Madia elegans

Common madia, Madia elegans
Pictures of the seedlings are shown in this post:
These seeds will propagate if you just look at them. They grow in sun or shade but prefer sun.

The important thing to know about Madia elegans is that you can whack them back and they will bloom as lower (3-4 foot) plants instead of higher (8-12 foot!!) plants. They will give cheerful yellow daisies well into November – I can say this because some are still blooming today, from the ones I planted this year.

Seed Planting Advice in General

When? November is good. February is also good, if you get a lot of frost where you grow and you are direct sowing them. I'm still trying to figure out the best time myself. An experienced gardener friend of mine sows hers in Feb.

I found all these seeds easy to propagate. You can probably sow them directly if you give them a little protection from being pecked by birds, such as sowing them with a light covering of fine gravel. Don't let them dry out.

Otherwise, I would sow thinly in several small pots or a seed flat. I would use potting soil or a mix of a little potting soil and a lot of perlite if you have it. When you transplant them, it’s easier to free the roots up from perlite than from potting soil.

Water seedlings that are in in pots deeply. I unpotted a Nassella cernua the other day, and it was only damp part way down!

 And I've been watering them twice a day with a mister. Don't keep em soggy - let them drain freely. But don't let them dry out. In other words, you have to baby them a little while they are babies.

Grow in a location sheltered from wind and rain. And critters, including birds.

You'll transplant seedlings one time if you sowed them in flats, or if they are growing too close together. You can transplant as soon as the seedlings develop true leaves - not the round seed leaves (cotyledons) that come first. The next set. Handle the plants by their leaves, not their stems. Stems are easy to crush.

Use a potting media with some nutrition in it. Just potting soil, or potting soil cut with perlite and / or vermiculite and / or sand, if you have such things, for plants that like a leaner life. Just think about where they grow natively. If woodland - more organic matter. If desert - virtually no organic matter. If chaparral - maybe a third of potting soil and two thirds of the other ingredients I listed above. Sand helps the pots to be more stable because it is heavy.

When they are ready to plant in the ground, general advice is to first harden them off  for a few days, if they have been in a greenhouse. Let them be outside in their pots for a few hours a day. This is what I read. I haven't had this experience so I can't advise. Even my greenhouse isn't particularly warm.

First though, tip a pot out to check on the roots. If the roots are not filling the pot nicely, you might want to wait a while. You could even put a very little liquid fertilizer on them to encourage more root growth.

Native plants that can handle fertilizer (not desert plants) take on average one third of the fertilizer dose mentioned on any label.

I'd choose something like Dr Earth. Another thing you can do is put slow release pellets in the potting mix. I use osmocote, again, at about one third the rate specified (and again, it might depend on the type of plant - some riparian plants may want more food). I usually do that when I pot the seedlings into larger pots if they are going to stay there over summer.

Well that's it from me - happy sowing! Do share any tips or questions you have in the comments.


Kelly said…
One tip I got from the Beach Garden Project leader was that seed germination is better if they get rainwater. She told me of many times when seeds were being watered, but not germinating. Then the seeds got rained on and suddenly were germinating. It might just be coincidental with the right season, but she speculated that it might also be the pH of rain water compared to tap water. You might try it for the seeds that have lower germination rates. Start them out where they get rain and then bring them into the greenhouse.
Country Mouse said…
Very interesting - I'll have to give that a try!