Germination of older Pine Seeds

GermanBonsaiDude

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Hey Guys
I got myself some Pine seeds from the Internet . But after a little research i am now confused. I read about stratification, which is not a new thing to me, but i also found out that some people pour hot water over the seed to 'scarify' them(i have never heard of that before).
I think the seeds are not the freshest any more.. What should i do to improve the germination rate?

Thanks for your time and your knowledge :)
 

bwaynef

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I haven't had much problem with couple-years-old JBP seed sprouting after a 24h soak in what-started-as-warm water & 2-3 month cold stratification.
 

GermanBonsaiDude

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I haven't had much problem with couple-years-old JBP seed sprouting after a 24h soak in what-started-as-warm water & 2-3 month cold stratification.
Okay thank you, will try that. What do you mean with warm water, how many degrees?
Can i use my fridge for the cold stratification? And could it work to sprout the seeds in wet kitchen Paper and transplant them later or must they be in soil?
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I wouldn't use hot water whatsoever. Even when protocols say I should.
Fridges for cold strat. are fine. Kitchen paper is OK, but it can stay too wet and get moldy. I prefer using inorganic bonsai soil; it has very little nutrients for fungi and bacteria to take hold.

I transplant seeds to soil when they germinate or when time is up. I time my stratification moment so that they germinate around late spring when the frosts are gone. This will reduced the growing time in the first year by a month or two, but it prevents frost damage. If you start it too soon, you might end up with overly long seedlings due to a lack of light; they will grow in search of light in the fridge and if there is no light, they spend a lot of energy on nothing. Same goes for early spring, over here it can be cloudy during early spring.
 

bwaynef

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For reasons I won't go into, I know that the thermostat on my water heater is set below 125ºF. I let it run until it's as hot as it's going to get, then fill a cup and plop the seeds in and let them sit for a day. If there are a lot that float, I'll swirl the water a bit, maybe a couple times that day. (I dabbled with slightly warmer water for a couple of years to pretty poor effect.)

I use paper towels in a baggie in the fridge, though I'm not enamored with the results at the end of stratification. It tends to be a little moldy and tears as a result. The benefit is that you don't miss any seeds because they stand out from the paper towel pretty easily.

Basically, it sounds to me like you're overthinking it. Sounds like you've gotten pretty good information. Now just do it.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@bwaynef - has given you good advice.

Warm water is somewhere between 35 C ad 60 C. It is not "exact". The warmth melts some of the water repellent pine resins and other plant resins that coat seed, allowing water to penetrate for effectively.

Some claim water as hot as 100 C is "okay", but I personally believe water that hot would kill the germplasm. I have had good results with 50 C water. It begins cooling the minute the water is poured over the seed, so the duration of high heat is not terribly long.

Cold stratification definitely helps old seed to rehydrate and prepare for germination. Many pines can be sown without cold stratification. Member of the 5 needle pine group (subgenus Strobus) tend to require cold stratification. A few members of subgenus Strobus require both a warm stratification of 60 days, followed by a cold stratification of 120 days for maximum germination. Though I have found JWP germinate reasonably well with only a cold stratification.

Members of the 2 needle group and the group that Pondersosa pine belongs to, will often germinate without stratification.

Stratification of 2 needle pine seed does not hurt, seed ready to sprout will simply hold "dormant" until temperatures warm up. You tend to get more uniform germination if you do stratify seed. Where seed without stratification will have more staggered germination.

Seed to be stored long term should always be stored cool and dry, in a paper envelop in a refrigerator is ideal. Japanese black pine, and most 2 needle pine seed, stored at 4 C (40 F) cool and dry in a refrigerator will still have 50% or greater viability at 10 years. The same seed, stored dry at room temperature, 25 C, or 78 F will drop below 50% viability in less than 24 months.

The 5 needle pines, subgenus Strobus, most of them, their seed does not have as long of a shelf life. Stored in a refrigerator, cool and dry, somewhere around 18 months to 24 months the viability will drop below 50%. Stored at room temperature, 25 C, many 5 needle pines will drop below 50% viable in as little as 6 months.

Brick and mortar seed companies keep their seed cool and dry. There are other higher tech methods to store seed that brick and mortar companies will use, like Sheffields, and Schumaker Seeds With Ebay sellers, you never know, some are buying out of date seed from brick and mortar seed companies. Some are storing seed correctly, some just leave the seed lay around at warm temperatures. Some simply don't care. There are a rare few Ebay sellers who are reputable, but in general Ebay is the least reliable place to buy seed.
 

Shibui

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On warm water for germination: We routinely use boiling water on acacia and other hard coated seeds. The seeds are placed in a cup and just boiled water, so that's 100C, poured over and the seeds left to soak from 1 - 12 hours. The sudden changes in temp is supposed to crack the seed coat and allow water to penetrate. Initially I was also worried about the heat killing the embryo but it does not and the treatment definitely speeds up germination of any hard coated seed. I have not used boiling water on softer coated seeds. A range of vegetable seed - tomato, pepper, cabbage family, celery, carrot and pumpkin - can be heat treated to kill off hitchiking diseases. Most are treated at 50C-56C for 30 minutes in hot water and that does not hurt the embryo. I often microwave soils before using in pots to kill off possible pathogens. 10-20 minutes on high to bring the temp up to boiling temp. I still get some weeds germinating so there are some seeds that can withstand quite high temps, at least for limited periods. Also consider that many species ripen seeds in summer where direct sun on the pods can reach quite high temps and the seeds are still viable. Warm water treatment at 50C should not hurt most seeds.

Usually I sow pine seed in winter so it gets natural stratification but I have also done some tests to see if they will grow without treatment. JBP seed, even after 4 years storage, will germinate well without heat or cold treatment.
Pines with hard seed coats appears to grow better after treatment but some white pine seed where I cracked the hard shells germinated without treatment.

Different species of plants have developed different strategies to protect the seeds so there are a range of seed treatments to help germination. @Leo in N E Illinois has already indicated that seeds and the treatments required can vary even within a genus so it can pay to be specific when researching seed pre-treatments. It has also become obvious to me that some growers are obsessed with making something simple into something really complicated so some of the treatments listed in some places are way over the top and completely unnecessary (but do not appear to actually reduce germination).

If you have more than a few seeds you might like to try some trials with different pre-treatments and record the results for us. Actual first hand trials are much better than 2nd or 3rd hand reports from internet sites.
 

GermanBonsaiDude

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Thank you all, for all your replies :)
The pine i have seeds for is Pinus bungeana by the way. If im not mistaken it is a 3 needle pine.
Initially i had two Packs with 12 seeds each. So First i wanted to do some expirements with them.. I took one pack soaked all seeds in Room Temperatured water . I put One half directly in a coco/sand Mix and placed it on the Windows sill(south window). The others were stratified for a month(i thought that would be enough) and then placed in the windows sill to. But there is nothing going in with them and it has been so long that i kind of gave up to be honest.
So i thought its best to ask here, because i want to get At least one pine from those two Packs..
Anyways, a big thanks to everybody Who took their time to share their knowledge with me. :)
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@BonsaiBoiGermany
When I sprouted P. bungeana seed (lacebark pine) I gave them a nearly 4 month cold stratification. The reason I did such a long cold stratification is I wanted to plant them directly outside, in full sun outdoors. They need full sun, a windowsill is less than full sun because the glass in the window filters out or reflects away at least 30% of the light. I probably could have gotten away with a shorter dormancy, but I was not in a hurry. I do think 1 month stratification might have been too short.

Pinus bungeana is botanically in a subgroup of the subgenus Strobus. Even though it has only 3 needles. Bungeana is in genus Pinus, subgenus Strobus, section Quinquefolia, subsection Gerardianae, along with Pinus gerardiana & squamata. There are only 3 species in the subsection. The lacebark pine subsection and the strobus subsection are both in the same section, Quinquefolia or 5 needle section of the Genus Pinus. So the 3 lacebark pine species are more closely related to the 5 needle pine group that includes P. strobus, parviflora and flexilis. So biologically, it is more closely related to JWP and the other 5 needle pines than it is related to 3 needle pines of the subsection Australes, which includes Pinus rigida and radiata.

Point of that overly verbose paragraph, lacebark pine, bungeana is more closely related to JWP than it is related to other 3 needle pines like the pitch pine. Where this fact may have relevance, is the seed of P. bungeana has a fairly short viability. Stored cool and dry it looses viability rapidly after about 18 months. At 3 years one would expect seed to be less than 50% viable. Stored at less than ideal conditions, viability could decline even more rapidly.

As bonsai, the best feature of this species, Pinus bungeana, is its exfoliating bark. Key would be to create bonsai with a lot of trunk showing, so that one could see the best feature of the tree. So plan on taller, medium or larger size bonsai for this species. I am finding them in the seedling stage to be fully winter hardy in zone 5b, for others that are curious about this species.

In northern Germany, you could simply set the pot(s) with zero germinated seedlings outside for the remainder of the winter. The natural cold, with its variation over the winter, will satisfy the stratification, and they will sprout naturally in spring at the optimal temperature for rapid spring growth. Do put them under a wire mesh, cage, or a top over the pots, as birds, squirrels and rodents of all types find pine seed very tempting food.
 
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GermanBonsaiDude

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@BonsaiBoiGermany
When I sprouted P. bungeana seed (lacebark pine) I gave them a nearly 4 month cold stratification. The reason I did such a long cold stratification is I wanted to plant them directly outside, in full sun outdoors. They need full sun, a windowsill is less than full sun because the glass in the window filters out or reflects away at least 30% of the light. I probably could have gotten away with a shorter dormancy, but I was not in a hurry. I do think 1 month stratification might have been too short.

Pinus bungeana is botanically in a subgroup of the subgenus Strobus. Even though it has only 3 needles. Bungeana is in genus Pinus, subgenus Strobus, section Quinquefolia, subsection Gerardianae, along with Pinus gerardiana & squamata. There are only 3 species in the subsection. The lacebark pine subsection and the strobus subsection are both in the same section, Quinquefolia or 5 needle section of the Genus Pinus. So the 3 lacebark pine species are more closely related to the 5 needle pine group that includes P. strobus, parviflora and flexilis. So biologically, it is more closely related to JWP and the other 5 needle pines than it is related to 3 needle pines of the subsection Australes, which includes Pinus rigida and radiata.

Point of that overly verbose paragraph, lacebark pine, bungeana is more closely related to JWP than it is related to other 3 needle pines like the pitch pine. Where this fact may have relevance, is the seed of P. bungeana has a fairly short viability. Stored cool and dry it looses viability rapidly after about 18 months. At 3 years one would expect seed to be less than 50% viable. Stored at less than ideal conditions, viability could decline even more rapidly.

As bonsai, the best feature of this species, Pinus bungeana, is its exfoliating bark. Key would be to create bonsai with a lot of trunk showing, so that one could see the best feature of the tree. So plan on taller, medium or larger size bonsai for this species. I am finding them in the seedling stage to be fully winter hardy in zone 5b, for others that are curious about this species.

In northern Germany, you could simply set the pot(s) with zero germinated seedlings outside for the remainder of the winter. The natural cold, with its variation over the winter, will satisfy the stratification, and they will sprout naturally in spring at the optimal temperature for rapid spring growth. Do put them under a wire mesh, cage, or a top over the pots, as birds, squirrels and rodents of all types find pine seed very tempting food.
Thank you for this Post, i have quite a lot to add to my notes on this species now :) You also mentioned that a window reflects a bit of the light, to be honest I'm a bit embarrassed i didnt think of that myself..😂
But do you know Pines or needle trees in general that could be kept as Indoor Bonsai too?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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To be a suitable species for "indoor bonsai" a tree has to be "shade tolerant". There are no pines that truly are shade tolerant. Possible exception might be Pinus glabra, the spruce pine. This is one of the few pines found in the shade of a forest. Outdoors it tolerates some shade. Its needles are in bundles of 2, and are usually less than 8 m (3 inches) long on mature trees. Seedlings will have longer needles. It is in the same sub group as Pinus rigida and P. taeda. It is native to the southern coastal plains of southeastern USA, South Carolina and Florida being the heart of its range. This suggests that it will not need a prolonged winter dormancy, and that winter dormancy will not need to be terribly cold.

So while I have no knowledge of anyone successfully using this species as "indoor bonsai", and actually no knowledge anyone using this species for bonsai at all, indoor or outdoor. But just looking at wikipedia descriptions, this is the species I would consider as a "maybe" for a pine to attempt "indoor bonsai" with. Remember, shade outdoors is "full sun" indoors. So if you want a pine to attempt indoors, you might want to look into this one.

Some of the Podocarpus species, which are conifers mostly from the southern hemisphere, and Asia, some of the Podocarpus survive for years in indoor culture. Growth is very slow indoors, but they survive.

Juniperus procumbens - this is the only juniper that will survive indoors. It needs as much light as possible. It is not easy to keep indoors year round, the ones most successful use under lights set ups with 18 hour long day lengths year round.

Cupressus species - the North American species. recently moved to genus Hesperocyparis, H. pigmaea, goveniana, and macrocarpa have been successfully grown as under lights bonsai.

Again, NONE of the conifers are easy subjects as windowsill or under lights bonsai. They examples above have been grown with some success, but they should not be viewed as "easy subjects" for indoor horticulture. Easy indoors are things like Ficus.
 

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To be a suitable species for "indoor bonsai" a tree has to be "shade tolerant". There are no pines that truly are shade tolerant. Possible exception might be Pinus glabra, the spruce pine. This is one of the few pines found in the shade of a forest. Outdoors it tolerates some shade. Its needles are in bundles of 2, and are usually less than 8 m (3 inches) long on mature trees. Seedlings will have longer needles. It is in the same sub group as Pinus rigida and P. taeda. It is native to the southern coastal plains of southeastern USA, South Carolina and Florida being the heart of its range. This suggests that it will not need a prolonged winter dormancy, and that winter dormancy will not need to be terribly cold.

So while I have no knowledge of anyone successfully using this species as "indoor bonsai", and actually no knowledge anyone using this species for bonsai at all, indoor or outdoor. But just looking at wikipedia descriptions, this is the species I would consider as a "maybe" for a pine to attempt "indoor bonsai" with. Remember, shade outdoors is "full sun" indoors. So if you want a pine to attempt indoors, you might want to look into this one.

Some of the Podocarpus species, which are conifers mostly from the southern hemisphere, and Asia, some of the Podocarpus survive for years in indoor culture. Growth is very slow indoors, but they survive.

Juniperus procumbens - this is the only juniper that will survive indoors. It needs as much light as possible. It is not easy to keep indoors year round, the ones most successful use under lights set ups with 18 hour long day lengths year round.

Cupressus species - the North American species. recently moved to genus Hesperocyparis, H. pigmaea, goveniana, and macrocarpa have been successfully grown as under lights bonsai.

Again, NONE of the conifers are easy subjects as windowsill or under lights bonsai. They examples above have been grown with some success, but they should not be viewed as "easy subjects" for indoor horticulture. Easy indoors are things like Ficus.

I know there was that guy in the U.S. (I forget his name right now) that kept procumbens for like 20 or 30 years under lights. He had quite the elaborate set up for that iirc.
Do you have other examples of people that have also done it?

I am curious as to how many have been able to replicate that and be successful? As you say, its definitely not easy
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@Paradox - Sandy
The name you are thinking of is Jack Wilke, I have attached his article to this thread. Last I heard Jack is still around, though I think he is well above 80 years old.

Jack's set up was not all that elaborate. Ordinary T-12 Fluorescent shop lights is what he originally started with. I don't think you can get T-12's anymore. Key to Jack's success. He used long day length, 18 hours per day, 6 hours of night, and he kept the trees very close to the lamps, almost touching the fluorescent tubes. He would prop up pots to bring foliage within an inch or two of the fluorescents. The 3rd factor he had the light garden in his basement, which in winter stayed relatively cool and a little more humid than the living area of his home. The 3 factors combined resulted in his success. Many ignored how close to the lamps he kept his trees, and they were frustrated in not being able to reproduce his results.

It is true you can grow some high light plants like Juniperus procumbens, but most high light plants will be a problem.

If you put enough effort into it, you can raise just about anything under lights. Search threads by CMeg1 - Craig does a fabulous job of raising pine seedlings under lights. But he does invest in the latest of under lights technology.

For the average windowsill, the shade tolerant Ficus and other shade lovers are still the ones that will give the average person a good response without having to spin up on technology.
 

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Paradox

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@Paradox - Sandy
The name you are thinking of is Jack Wilke, I have attached his article to this thread. Last I heard Jack is still around, though I think he is well above 80 years old.

Jack's set up was not all that elaborate. Ordinary T-12 Fluorescent shop lights is what he originally started with. I don't think you can get T-12's anymore. Key to Jack's success. He used long day length, 18 hours per day, 6 hours of night, and he kept the trees very close to the lamps, almost touching the fluorescent tubes. He would prop up pots to bring foliage within an inch or two of the fluorescents. The 3rd factor he had the light garden in his basement, which in winter stayed relatively cool and a little more humid than the living area of his home. The 3 factors combined resulted in his success. Many ignored how close to the lamps he kept his trees, and they were frustrated in not being able to reproduce his results.

It is true you can grow some high light plants like Juniperus procumbens, but most high light plants will be a problem.

If you put enough effort into it, you can raise just about anything under lights. Search threads by CMeg1 - Craig does a fabulous job of raising pine seedlings under lights. But he does invest in the latest of under lights technology.

For the average windowsill, the shade tolerant Ficus and other shade lovers are still the ones that will give the average person a good response without having to spin up on technology.

I am not looking to try and grow junipers in my basement. I barely have room for the tropicals I put down there in the winter. It is interesting someone was able to do it though.
I just couldnt remember Jack's name at the time that I posted
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I personally leave all my junipers, even procumbens, on the ground, in the back yard for the winter. No point in trying to grow them indoors when I have the luxury of a backyard to grow them, and they are very winter hardy. Never lost a one left outside. There's a couple inches of snow on the ground right now, all are happy.

But there are always people asking if junipers can be grown indoors. And there are many who protest that junipers absolutely can not be grown indoors. Jack's article is good documentation that "absolutes" are rarely absolute.

As an avid under lights grower of orchids, I know what it takes to keep plants happy under lights, and I will emphatically say, it is easier to plop an juniper on the ground outside than it is to try to grow them indoors. But if one really wanted to grow indoors, it can be done.
 

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I personally leave all my junipers, even procumbens, on the ground, in the back yard for the winter. No point in trying to grow them indoors when I have the luxury of a backyard to grow them, and they are very winter hardy. Never lost a one left outside. There's a couple inches of snow on the ground right now, all are happy.

But there are always people asking if junipers can be grown indoors. And there are many who protest that junipers absolutely can not be grown indoors. Jack's article is good documentation that "absolutes" are rarely absolute.

As an avid under lights grower of orchids, I know what it takes to keep plants happy under lights, and I will emphatically say, it is easier to plop an juniper on the ground outside than it is to try to grow them indoors. But if one really wanted to grow indoors, it can be done.

I agree. Why would you keep an juniper indoors when it is so much easier to keep them outside and better for them too.
For inside plants, I have my tropicals to keep me happy in the winter
 

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