Can I grow bulbs from seeds? Yes. Well, some but not all. Can I grow one of my favorite pink rain lilies from seed? Yes! And quickly…
Yesterday I was in North Dallas at a 125 year old Victorian home, and I was surprised to see an already bloomed pink rain lily (Habranthus robustus). I thought, “Wow, we’re in April and it’s already bloomed. That seems early.” Then, last night I saw a question posted on social media asking us what do do with the seeds after they have bloomed, and the question was accompanied with a picture. That rain lily must have bloomed weeks ago to already be making seeds. It also was a Habranthus robustus.
I’ve always espoused the bountiful blooming natures of this Argentinian native, but for some reason I’m always surprised when they start blooming so early in the spring and carry on into the summer. You can read more about them at our website www.southernbulbs.com where we sale either a 4″ pot for $5 or a 1 gallon pot of a slightly different selection called Habranthus ‘Russell Manning.‘ After these bloom, they produce black papery seeds. What do you do with the seeds?
You can grow a blooming sized bulb for H. robustus from seed to bulb within one year. There are a couple ways to do this, but first, let me explain what happens after these flowers bloom. You will see a fat seed pot start to swell up where the bloom once was. Soon, you will think it is going to burst open it looks so big. Then it will start to yellow a little and “ripen.” Soon, it will split and inside are hundreds of papery black seeds that can scatter to the wind. You can let them scatter, or you can clip those seed pods off and shake the seeds into a paper sack for future planting.
- If you really want to ensure success, grab some fresh potting soil from the store and fill a small pot. Make sure you moisten the soil ahead of time (but not soaking wet). Scratch the seeds in all over the surface of the soil, giving them a little space between each other but not much. You need them to be right at the surface and not too deep, but don’t leave them overexposed to the sun. If you have some fine sand, you can sprinkle a light topping of sand over the seeds. That will keep them in place. Keep moist with a spray bottle or water gently every few days or so and keep them in a half shady spot. They will sprout before you know it! Once established, you can plant them in a half shady summer spot or move them to more direct sunlight. They do appreciate some water during our hot summer months.
- If you don’t want to take the time to sow the seed in pots, you can do what I often do in my own garden. After a long day of work, and I’m holding a child in one arm, I will pinch the seed pod off with my finger. I’ll use my boot scratch open some dirt close my bordering monkey grass, around my herbs, or under the protective leaf of a crinum. Then, one handed I’ll bend down and shake the pod so the seeds fall loose and scatter into the soil. Then I’ll use my foot to scratch the dirt haphazardly back over the seeds. Some are overexposed, others are not. Some will survive, others will not. I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed my garden and I’ve given my favorite rain lily a fighting chance to fill my garden with it’s wonderful blush pink blooms!
Let me end on a note about other spring blooming bulbs that are wrapping up this time of year. Some hybrids will appear to make seed pods and nothing will ever happen. That is the nature of hybrid plants. However, some species bulbs WILL produce seed, like snowflakes (Leucjoum aestivum) and species tulips. While you can grow these seeds into blooming sized bulbs, the process takes 2-3 years. You can plant the seeds now and follow many of the same rules above. However, expect them to sprout in concert with their parent bulbs as they show foliage in winter/early spring and go dormant with dying foliage in late spring early summer. If you can get those seeds to sprout the first year, you will have a baby bulb by the end of the next spring and you’ll have a high chance of success of it turning into a blooming sized bulb in a couple more years.
Hope this helps! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-285-2486 if you have any more questions or would like to order!