Starting Gesneriad Seeds

I started some gesneriad seed a week ago--most of them came from Kyoko, who seems to have supplied me with a large fraction of the plants I now own, although the space they take up is minimal because they're small plants. It might be interesting to take an inventory of plant source and figure that out--I know am a loyal "customer," so I expect that the majority have come from five or so sources.

After putting together the last issue of Petal Tones, which contains a piece on starting gesneriad seeds, I got a bit better of an idea how to do this whole thing. I knew humidity was important with many gesneriads in particular, but it has taken me a while to realize that humidity can be encouraged with a covering! It makes sense, but it just really didn't sink in, and rooting Hoya cuttings and starting terraria were big factors in hammering that into my skull.

So, I decided to use a Chinese-food container, which I have previously been using as water trays for odd-sized containers or groupings of smaller pots. I mixed up some premoistened fluffy, perlite-amended seed-starting mix with some sphagnum moss. The mix was wet, but not soaked through, because I planned on keeping the container covered--I didn't want it to be a swamp, just humid! (When condensation appears more like lakes than mist, I sometimes adjust humidity in my terraria by leaving lids open or slightly ajar to allow water vapor to escape--I have done the same with these containers, because I really don't want to encourage the growth of fungi.) I then tamp down the medium until it's relatively smooth on the surface, because when sowing ubertiny gesneriad seed (which often need light to germinate, the Internet says), it's easy for them to get in a dark crevasse under the soil and they may not germinate--they want to be surface-sown, so it's easier to ensure that by having a flat surface to sow them on. I sprinkled the seed in rows, labeled the lid, and shoved it on my shelving unit on top of a fluorescent light fixture for a bit of bottom heat.

Here's my Chinese-food take-out tray with the seed placement labeled on the lids. I started Aeschynanthus longicaulis; Titanotrichum oldhamii; a mini Sinningia; S. tubiflora; and Streptocarpus 'Vampire's Kiss.'

And the first seed to germinate was Sinningia tubiflora after five days! (Sowed 13 February, sprouted 18 February.) I'm still waiting for the others to pop up--the Streptocarpus 'Vampire's Kiss' was two-year-old seed, but I've heard-tell that they'll germinate anyway, after two to four weeks; the Aeschynanthus longicaulis was also old seed, so we'll see whether that'll come up. Kyoko says it took 12 days for her mini Sinningia and 16 for her Titanotrichum oldhamii, so I have at least a few more days to wait to see whether those will come up or not.

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