A couple of weeks ago, I started growing my seeds inside. Over the years, I have discovered that not all seeds are alike. Certain seeds need to be scarified, stratified, soaked, or inoculated. I will be focusing on seed scarification for this article and will touch upon the other methods in future articles.
I grow many plants (including perennials and flowers) from seeds since it is cheaper and more rewarding than buying them at the garden store. In order for me to be successful, I need to know how to germinate the seeds.
As I mentioned above, some seeds need scarification.
What is seed scarification?
Doesn’t the words, seed scarification sound scary? The word seems right out of a Freddie the 13th movie! Scarification means that you need to roughen up the seed by using a nail file or sandpaper. (And no, it doesn’t mean to send Tony Soprano’s “boys” to shake up the seeds.)
Why do some seeds need scarification?
Some seed coats are impervious to water. It is nature’s way of protecting the seed during dormancy. Fall planted seeds that go through a freeze/thaw cycle or pass through the digestive system of an animal naturally scarify. Did you ever notice how seeds just pop up in your garden? Thank the birds.
Helping Mother Nature to germinate certain seeds.
So how can we help nature to break the seeds’ dormancy?
According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, there are several ways you can scarify your seeds:
“For mechanical scarification, seed coats can also be filed with a metal file, rubbed with sandpaper, nicked with a knife, or 2 cracked gently with a hammer to weaken the seed coat. Another method is hot water scarification. Bring water to a boil (212°F), remove the pot from the stove, and place the seeds into the water. Allow the seeds to soak until the water cools to room temperature. Remove the seeds from the water and sow. Following scarification, the seeds should be dull.”
If you want to learn how to grow trees through this method, read here. I had no idea you could grow crab apples, Holly, and oak trees from seed.
The Lady Bird JohnsonWildflower Center adds the following seed scarification suggestions:
- Rub the seed with sandpaper. (I have done this.)
- Freeze the seeds overnight and then soak at room temperature for several days.
- Freeze the seeds overnight and then put them in boiling water and let them sit in the water for several hours. (Be sure to watch the video below regarding the results using boiling water.)
You can use a microplane grater as well to scratch the seeds.
Some commercial growers use sulfuric acid. I won’t try this method.
Seeds that will need scarification:
- Nasturtiums (pictured above.)
- Morning Glories
- Moon Flowers.
- Flowers or perennial seeds that are large. (Beans are large seeds but don’t need to be scarified. It will help them to germinate quicker but not necessary.)
See this list that identifies which plants needs certain germination requirements including scarification.
Tricia from Peaceful Valley suggests soaking perennial seeds overnight. If they swell, then they don’t need scarification.
Vegetable seeds don’t need scarification unless you want to germinate the seeds quickly. I wouldn’t suggest this unless you give them a light sanding. You don’t want to harm the seeds.
Be sure to watch the below video which shows several ways to scarify seeds, as well as the results. He is using beans which wouldn’t be my first choice to show on a video. Beans grow so well by themselves.
Note, if you do nick the seeds, plant them right away.
Join the Conversation:
Do you use seed scarification in germinating your seeds and if so, which ones?
Next up. Learn how seed stratification helps in germination.
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