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Flotation of Winged Seed

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FLOTATION of Winged seed Species
& Growing On
Bill Richardson

Seeds which do not hold their viability for a long period of time, often are best germinated by the Flotation method.
Amaryllids, or winged seeds such as Agapanthus, Hippeastrum and Cyrtanthus, can be germinated by flotation. If the seed is old or you are not certain how old the seed is, this method can be a way of determining viability of the seed.
It is also a method to use for better control of seedlings as they grow. The materials and the method used are most important and it is also wise to keep good records of successes or failures.


  • Potting Materials
  • Margarine container
  • Potting Mix
  • Pencil
  • Perlite
  • Plant labels
  • Small pots
  • Marking pen
  • Labels
  • Blood and Bone (Bone meal)

    Place the seeds in a clean, washed margarine container with the container 2/3rds full of water. Make sure you include the species name by:

    1. Writing on the side of the container, or
    2. Taping a plant label to the edge of the container,or
    3. Floating the named plant label in the container
    Polystyrene cups or paper cups are not suitable, as the surface area of the top is too narrow and crowds the seed together. This tends to cause fungal problems, which may be caused by the properties of the cups
    Margarine containers have a larger surface area, which helps keep the seed spread out and stops them from touching each other
    The water level must be often checked to ensure that the containers do not dry out. Keep the containers in a light airy place and check daily, topping up the containers with water as necessary
    Remove any seeds with fungus and keep seeds apart as much as possible so they do not touch. As the seeds start to germinate and the shoots are approximately 1cm long, it is time to put them into your pots. Be careful not to touch or break the growing tops and handle them very carefully when removing them from the container.
    The best way to remove them is to use a plant label to lift them up. Alternatively, use your fingers, being careful as the wet plants will often stick to your fingers and damage will be caused when trying to dislodge them.
    Seeds that do not germinate can be dried out and tried again at a later date. It doesn't matter which time of the year that you use flotation, as long as you can provide light and warmth.
    Good Growing


    Before removing the seeds from the container, prepare your pots, making sure the soil is damp.
    Use a mixture of good Potting Mix with equal quantity of perlite and fill the pot just over half way full. Fill the rest of the pot with perlite on top of this, but do not fill pot completely. Bottom water the pot by standing it in a container of water, or spray the top of the pot gently with a spray bottle. Write out a plant label for each pot, listing date, name of species and number of seedlings.
    Place up to 5 seedlings in each pot. An open mix is best with perlite on top, so that the seeds will push down very easily. When watering, use a spray bottle or bottom water, so as not to dislodge seeds.

    When ready to plant, with the end of a pencil or plant label, make a small hole for the shoot to go into. Do not worry if the seed is out of the soil on top, or sticking up in the air, as it will not affect the plants' progress. Gently, but firmly, press the perlite mix around the root shoot and spray with a little water to bed it in. Keep moist during the growing period and don't let them dry out.
    It is not harmful to leave the seeds germinating in the water container until some leaf growth appears, but make sure that the leaves/shoots of all seeds don't become entangled, as they may break when separating. They are very brittle and bruise and break easily.
    Plants can be kept watered past the dormancy period to get better growth.

    Do not over fertilise. Use a small quantity of bone meal or Blood and Bone mixed into the potting mix.
    Let the seeds grow on into the second year, then re-plant into separate pots.

    Do not re-plant the small bulbils too deeply; best to keep them at ground level or slightly out of the soil. Be careful not to break the roots when re-potting.
    The speed of germination, if any, will vary from seed to seed. There is no fixed rule or time element involved. It is nature's way of perpetuating the species by providing a staggered germinating period.

    Alternative method - Sowing into Potting Mix

    Seed can also be sown directly onto the top of the soil. Make certain that the mix is not too heavy and water carefully, so as not to dislodge the seeds. Experimentation with both methods will determine the best way for you to germinate these species of seeds.

    By keeping good records and results of successes and failures you can help by passing the information onto other seed growers.

    Bill Richardson.

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