This is how we germinate woodland seeds at the nursery.

Baneberries (Actaea)* False Meadow Rue (Anemonella) Wild Ginger (Asarum)
Spring Beauty (Claytonia) Bead Lily (Clintonia) Canada Dogwood (Cornus)
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum) (2yr) Snakeroot (Cimicifuga) Dicentra sp.
Shooting Star (Dodecatheon) Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium) Geranium sp.
Hepatica sp. Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum) Virgina Bluebells (Mertensia)
Mayflower (Maianthemum) Solomon`s Seal (Polygonatum) (2yr) May Apple (Podophyllum)
Rosy Bell (Streptopus) Indian Pink (Spigella) Bloodroot (Sanguinaria)
False Solomon`s Seal (Smilacena) Wood Poppy (Stylophorum) Trilliums (2yr)
Star Flower (Trientalis) Meadow Rue (Thalictrum)* Bellwort (Uvularia) (2yr)


Most woodland plants are not difficult to grow from seed, but some are slow to reach bloom size. Here are 3 things to remember:

  1. Most woodland seeds shouldn't dry out.
  2. They need a cold and moist period to break dormancy.
  3. They may take 2 seasons to germinate or send up the first leaf.


1. Collecting

 Collect seeds from garden plants or practice ethical wild seed collection:

  • Never collect live plants
  • Never collect seed from rare plants
  • Collect only 10% of healthy populations
  • Always get permission from landowners before collecting

  Most woodland seeds are ready when they start to change colour (to brown/black).  Check plants frequently a few weeks after blooms. Two exceptions are Thalictrum dioicum  (Meadow Rue) and Hepatica:  their seeds remain green but are ripe when they easily fall off the plant.



If you don't plant seeds immediately in a seed bed, store seeds in a resealable plastic bag with barely damp vermiculite.  Label with name and date.




2. Germinating  (Start Oct/Nov for outside or Dec/Jan for inside)

I provide all seeds with 3-5 months of cold/moist conditions.

·        Choose a pot at least 15cm deep (some plants will be spending 2 years in the pot)

·        Fill almost full with moist soil-less mix.  Sow the seed on top (large seeds can be buried 2X their width) and then cover with a 1cm layer of vermiculite or coarse sand/grit (this allows light and air for germination and helps maintain moisture).  Very small seeds can be sown on top of the vermiculite/grit layer and watered in with a mister (they usually need light to germinate).

·        Water pots (from below for small seeds) and drain.

·        LABEL with name and date    


      INSIDE:   Put the pot in a plastic bag and store in the fridge.  Check each month for dryness or mold.  After at least 3 months put the bag into bright light (not direct sun - fluorescent lights work well).  When germination starts, remove the bag






      OUTSIDE:  Sink the pot into a sheltered bed and mulch when the ground freezes for the winter (you may also have to protect it from rodents with hardware cloth).  Uncover the mulch in April and watch for germination




3.  Care of Seedlings

Most plants should remain in their pots for the whole first year - exceptions are marked in the table with * - they can be removed to individual pots after developing a few leaves.

 Some plants may not appear until the 2nd spring - marked with (2yr) on the table - always leave a pot of seeds for 2-3 years before discarding it.  Trilliums and Solomon's Seal grow an underground rhizome the first year and don't send up a shoot until the second spring.

Keep pots watered and in a shaded spot outside during summers.  Watch out for rodents!  You may wish to place a mesh screen over your pot.  Move to individual pots or the garden after 2 seasons of leaf growth.