Congratulations on your entryway into seed sowing! Growing from seed can be a rewarding experience and one that demands patience. The information below can likely be used for a variety of tropical plants but is primarily intended for Begonia seeds.
There are a variety of mediums that can work well for germinating, listed below. All mediums should be provided in a depth of at least 2″.
Peat– my favorite substrate for starting seeds, I have used unsterilized peat successfully, but think the seeds are better off using a sterilized peat that is microwaved or has had boiling water run over it. Make sure to pre-saturate the peat before putting into the germination container as it takes some kneading to get the right consitency. Peat its hydrophobic so make sure to work it until you get an evenly moist substrate. Spread peat evenly and pat down very lightly to create an even surface.
Sphagnum– works very well for a variety of plant groups. It should be finely chopped by hand or in a food processor/blender to ensure even spread. This should also be sterilized, mostly to prevent the sphagnum itself from coming to life (can outcompete small seedlings). Sphagnum should be soaked for at least a day prior to use to ensure it saturates. After it’s fully saturated, squeeze most of the water out until it stops dripping. Pat down sphagnum very gently in the germination container. You want to close up any possible holes that seeds could leak down into.
Perlite– the smaller grade (1 and 2) work best for germinating, as the larger grades allow seeds to drop in crevices where they might not get enough light. Once plants have put out some more mature leaves they should be fertilized to prevent a nutrient crash. I do not think perlite needs to be sterilized prior to use.
Perlite & Vermiculite- mix evenly and let soak for an hour or so prior to use. Spread evenly. I don’t think either of these need to be sterilized.
Aim for temperatures around 75F. Ideally, nighttime temps don’t drop below 70F or so. I have germinated seeds with nighttime lows of 65F in the winter, but, it seems to slow them down and in some cases it might prevent them from germinating. You can safely get up to 80F, but anything above 85F should warrant caution.
The intensity of light seems to be less significant than the duration. I use 1200lumen LED lights at a distance of about 12″.
Water & Humidity
Pre-moisted any growing medium you wish to use. It should be evenly damp, but not wet. The medium should not be allowed to dry out. Maintaining high humidity is important, and seeds should be kept in an enclosed space (ideally a small one) that keeps humidity 90-100%. Watering or misting the seeds before they have germinated is undesirable as it may wash the small seeds into the substrate, preventing light from reaching them and making germination impossible.
Begonia seed should be light dust on the substrate’s surface. Do not plant the seed, or attempt to push into the substrate. Additionally, do not water or mist following sowing as the seeds may fall into the substrate. A small deli cup size is sufficient for 20-50 seeds. It is best to sow many seeds as the abundance of seedlings increases humidity and creates a more desirable growing environment.
The time it takes for seeds to germinate varies greatly. Begonia cathayana, for example, germinates in around 10 days, while versicolor takes 4-5 weeks. Some species take longer. You will likely not see growth from any before day 5, and most likely not for a bit longer. Only after 8 weeks should without germination should the effort be deemed unsuccessful.
If you find yourself questioning why we ship bare root, please read on. We ship plants bare root for a few reasons,
- it significantly reduces the amount of waste associated with shipping plants
- it saves you money on shipping. If plants were shipped in pots, material packing costs would be more, and the box would be heavier and larger, resulting in an increased shipping price.
- many people repot or divide plants upon receiving them anyway, this just makes it easier.
What to Expect
You can expect your plants to be healthy, with sturdy leaves and in most cases (unless specifically sold as a cutting) a well-established root system. They will likely not be too thirsty, as the bags used for shipping are padded with moist sphagnum moss and kept at high humidity. Because all plants are shipped priority mail, they will only be in transit for 2-3 days, and should not be too traumatized from their journey. A healthy plant shipped bare root will not skip a beat if handled properly.
Acclimating your Plants
If receiving bare-root plants is new to you, you can learn some of the basics right below. If you feel comfortable receiving bare-root plants generally but are curious about how to best handle a specific plant, skip to the genus-specific section.
-All my plants are grown in near 100% humidity. If they are intended as houseplants and are suitable as so, you will need to slowly harden them off. This can be done by putting in a mostly sealed bin, and gradually increasing ventilation until you have reached ambient humidity, or by potting your plant and wrapping a bag around the pot until it puts out new roots. Once this happens, you can gradually open it up, and then remove it. Two weeks is a good timeline for this process.
-When you are unpacking your plants, it’s best to do so one at a time so they are not sitting out in the open for too long. Many species will wilt in short order (sometimes as quickly as ten minutes).
-Any plant that is not well-rooted should not be placed in direct light or mounted without sufficient moss to keep the roots moist.
-When in doubt, plant in sphagnum, in a sealed bin, in medium light with temps in the mid 70’s. Keep humidity near 100%. This works for most plants.
-Most plants hate coco-fiber! I advise never using it. You can read more about the science behind it here.
-Most plants appreciate some kind of drainage layer. This can be done with perlite, turface, gravel etc. or you can make a higher substrate layer.
Alsobia-well drained soil mix (lots of perlite) in medium light, can be grown as a houseplant but does not like to dry out for long periods of time. Bury the roots on each individual plantlet, unless you want to grow it in a hanging basket.
Anthurium-pure sphag works great. Most do very well mounted to cork or treefern. Once it acclimates it will put out roots that are not covered in substrate but when you first are potting or mounting it, try to cover most of the roots. They like a lot of light.
Aridisia-pure sphagnum works great. They seem tolerant of lower light but do well in medium to bright light too. I have not tried these much in soil.
Asplenium-sphagnum and perlite mix is good if potting, but they do best mounted. High humidity is essential with all the species offered here, and if you are mounting make sure to cover the entirety of the rhizome with moss. Many Asplenium seem to do better in lower light. I like to plant them in taller tanks, on vertical branches towards the bottom.
Begonia-sphagnum works well for most species if you fertilize regularly. The best I have found though is a mix of various mediums including pro mix type peat medium, turface, lime, and perlite. Begonias do not like wet feet and so it is essential that they are allowed to dry out slightly (not completely) between waterings. Many species do well as houseplants, please view the individual species pages for more information on which ones are suitable. Begonias are shade-loving plants but can do quite well with medium-light under normal terrarium conditions. If you have a rhizomatous species, be careful not to bury the rhizome. It should lie atop the potting medium and be allowed to breathe.
Biophytum-do well on sphagnum or potting mix. It does not have to be particularly well drained. They shouldn’t be allowed to dry out at all. You can plant them in streamside conditions. Clay also is a great growing medium for this genus, perhaps the best as it mimics their natural habitat most closely. These plants will close up at night, when stressed, or when touched. When you receive your plant it will be closed up. This is nothing to worry about. It should open up within 2-3 days. If it has not opened up within 5 days, re-evaluate your growing conditions.
Bulbophyllum-sphagnum or sphag and perlite mix. Medium light. Good drainage and regular fertilizer. Cover most of the roots but do not bury the stem. Some of the roots can be exposed. If possible, it’s best to mount them.
Burmiestera- I grow in well drained potting mix in medium light. I am not very good with this group so I would suggest not listening to me/experimenting for yourself.
Codonanthe- well drained potting mix in medium light. They should be allowed to dry out between waterings.
Columnea- well drained potting mix in medium light. Many are surprisingly tolerant of drying out, and should generally be allowed to dry out between waterings.
Costus-requires a very thick substrate layer to root. At least 4 inches, preferably more. SPhagnum or clay work well, potting soil they don’t seem to like as much. They are pretty tolerant of soggy conditions (at least if kept in clay), so should not be allowed to dry out until they are well rooted. While fast growing when mature, they can take months to acclimate.
Davallia- happiest when mounted, especially on treefern. Does best when placed in indirect light. Tie the rhizome to a mount and do not allow to dry out.
Diastema- well drained potting mix in medium light. Can get wilty quickly, don’t worry, they make up for it in vigor once they acclimate. If your plant dries out at all, simply cut off the wilty leaves and plant the stem into a moist potting mix. In 2 months you will have a very full plant.
Dinema-sphagnum or mounted works well, is very resilient. Pretty impossible to kill, but it will let you know, gradually and with plenty of warning, if something needs to be changed.
Dischidia- well drained potting mix (orchid bark works too) or mounted, tend to be very resilient. If you mount it, cover roots in moss or place stem directly on moss and tie tightly. Pretty impossible to kill, but it will let you know, gradually and with plenty of warning, if something needs to be changed.
Episcia- well drained potting mix in medium light. Can get wilty quickly, don’t worry, they make up for it in vigor once they acclimate. If your plant dries out at all, simply cut off the wilty leaves and plant the stem into a moist potting mix. In 2 months you will have a very full plant.
Ficus- seems to prefer sphagnum or clay to potting mixes, but a very well drained potting mix low in nutrients can work too. Do not allow to dry out until well established. Bury roots in subsrate and prop against background if you want it to cover a background, vs planting it epiphytically.
Floscopa- seems to prefer clay substrate, likes high humidity.
Geogenanthus- seems to prefer clay substrate but can also be grown in peat mix or sphagnum. Is slow to get going but after about six months really takes off. Place stem about 2″ into potting mix if unrooted.
Gesneriad- well drained potting mix in medium light. Many can dry out rather quicky, but usually bounce back just as fast.
Gomesa- likes more humidity and wetness than many orchids, I’ve found it happiest growing mounted, with 90% of the plant allowed to hang off into open air or touch the wet glass. Treefern or cork both work well.
Hoya- well drained potting mix (orchid bark works too) or mounted, tend to be very resilient. If you mount it, cover roots in moss or place stem directly on moss and tie tightly. Pretty impossible to kill, but it will let you know, gradually and with plenty of warning, if something needs to be changed.
Lemmaphyllum- sphagnum and perlite mix is good if potting, but they do best mounted. High humidity is essential with all the species offered here, and if you are mounting make sure to cover the entirety of the rhizome with moss.
Marcgravia- plant in dirty sphag or another well drained mix, allow to dry out slightly between waterings. Best to mount on the floor of a vivarium and allow to grow up, instead of mounting mid-way and risking drying the plant out.
Medinilla- sphagnum or mounted, should dry out well between waterings.
Microgramma- sphagnum and perlite mix is good if potting, but they do best mounted. High humidity is essential so if you are mounting make sure to cover the entirety of the rhizome with moss.
Mikania- clay substrate works best, well drained potting soil also works well. Does not like to dry out much between waterings.
Nautilocalyx- well drained potting mix in medium light.
Paradrymonia- well drained potting mix in medium light.
Pearcea- well drained potting mix in medium light.
Pellonia- well drained potting mix in medium light.
Peperomia- well drained potting mix in medium light. For a long time I was keeping Peperomia constantly wet, but, have found that most appreciate a slight dry period between waterings to prevent rot. Can be used epiphytically, just be sure to cover roots and keep evenly moist until it has put out new roots.
Philodendron- can be grown in bright light, tend to be resilient. Will generally have better color if planted in medium to low light, but they will grow more slowly.
Pilea- well drained potting mix in medium light. Prone to rotting, so best not to water leaves as little as possible, and go straight for the rootbase.
Pothos- true pothos, the species that are available on the webstore such as barberianus and kingii, do much better when allowed to grow up a wooden surface. Plant the roots in potting mix or sphag and give medium light.
Rhodospatha- if potted, well drained potting mix in medium light. They do much better when allowed to grow up a wooden surface though. Plant the roots in potting mix or sphag and give medium light.
Selaginella-well drained potting mix in medium light. Can be grown on wood, or sphagnum successfully as well.
Solanum-well drained potting mix in medium light. Can also be grown on spagnum but will need to be fertilized regularly.
Sonerila- sphagnum only, or sphagnum with perlite. Does not like potting soil. Do not allow to dry out between waterings. If it isn’t getting enough water it will wilt quickly. Plant in lower light to start off, with opportunity to grow towards more light.
Triolena- well drained potting mix in medium light.
Utricularia- pure sphagnum or sphagnum with perlite works best. They can be grown in almost any light condition it seems. Must be kept constantly moist. If grown in high humidity, you can sort of ‘toss’ the plants ono the medium and they will work it out. You can also cover the roots loosely with moss. Many species from this genus can be grown as windowsill plants. If so, it is best to fully cover the roots when potting. Set the pot in a shallow dish of water.
If you are still left with questions, please contact me.