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  Banner - Baggie Technique Seed Germination  

   

SEED GERMINATION
BAGGIE TECHNIQUE


by Phil & Jesse Bergman

 Description - Baggie Technique - for Easy Seed Germination - Palms, Cycads & Tropical Plants

INTRODUCTION


In another article at this Website, we discussed palm seed germination using containers and potting soil.  This is how most people do it and is called Container Germination.  But, there is another technique that has it's own advantages and is called the  "Baggie Technique".  With this alternative method, seeds can be germinated inside your home or garage, don't require a lot of water or time while waiting for germination and are easily removed from the baggie and potted up.  We've experimented with it over the past few years and have been very successful doing it.  There are certainly some good advantages to this way of germinating seeds.  It can be used on palm seeds, cycad seeds and many other seeds - both tropical and not.  Below we will described how to use the "Baggie Technique" with lots of photos to show this technique.  I shall use palm seeds for explaining this method but the technique works for almost all types of seeds.  

THE TECHNIQUE - OVERVIEW

In a nutshell, this is a technique where fresh and very clean seeds are put into new clear plastic baggies with a small amount of organic material to hold moisture.  The plastic baggies are then placed in a warm location.  The baggies are kept closed and do not have to have a large amount of light to germinate.  Baggies are usually stored in clear plastic bins with lids.  They are examined approximately every week or two for signs of germination.  Once seeds have germinated and have a new complete small juvenile leaf, the baggie can be removed and the  seedlings separated and put into a traditional small pot with potting soil.  They are kept moist and slowly acclimated to their new growing area, typically outdoors if weather permits.

STEPS FOR GERMINATING SEEDS INSIDE OF A BAGGIE

1.  OBTAIN FRESH, VIABLE SEEDS

Usually seeds germinate best if they are under three weeks old.  Hand collected fresh seeds are always best.  Do not pick green seeds, only mature seeds.  Mature seeds are usually a color other than green.  Typically you'll see red, yellow, orange, black or tan. Also, avoid seeds that are undersized or tiny.  Usually they are not viable.  It takes experience when collecting seeds to recognize seeds that are too small.  But, this is a common mistake made by novists.

Jubaea seeds with fruit
Jubaea chilensis fruit and seed
Green palm seeds
Green seeds Chamaedorea tepejilote
Rhopalostylis saida seeds
Ripe seeds Rhopalostylis sapida
 

2.  CLEAN ALL FRUIT FROM SEEDS

The fruit covering seeds often has germination retardants.  So, you want to remove it.  Any remaining fruit can lead to fungal rot in the baggie.  It is important to remove all fruit from the seeds.  This can be done by hand followed by washing the seeds.  We like to use a metal sieve under running water to accomplish this.  There are commercial seed cleaners for large volumes of seeds.  Just make sure all the fruit is removed.

Cleaning fruit off palm seeds
Ripe seeds in metal sieve
Cleaning fruit off palm seeds
Scouring seeds with running water
Cleaned palm seeds
Seeds - fruit cleaned off
Partially cleaned seeds
Only partial cleaned seeds of Rhopalostylis sapida
Partially cleaned seeds
Partially cleaned seeds
 



3.  WASH THE SEEDS AGAIN

Remove any slime or fruit film from the seeds.  Some will scour the seeds with a stiff brush to do this.  Some will put the seeds into a bucket and use a drill and a turbulence-producing drill bit (such as for stirring paint) to remove any slimy fruit.  If you inspect the photo below, you'll note the glistening appearance of the slime on the seeds.

Slime on Rhopalostylis sapida seed
Slime on un-washed seeds
   


4.  SOAK SEEDS

Soak the seeds if they arrived to you without fruit on them or if they are not freshly collected seeds.  The longer the period from removing fresh fruit after collecting seeds to putting down the seeds, the lower the germination rate.  Commercially purchased seeds usually have aged before you get them.  Soak any seeds that appear old or desiccated.  An overnight or 24 hour soak in clean water will suffice.  Viable seeds sink in water whereas nonviable seeds often have empty central cavities inside and will float.  This is the quickest way to check for bad seeds and is known as the Float Test.

Sinking palm seeds on float test
Sinking palm seeds
Float test - floaters
Floating palm seeds - no good
Sinking palm seeds
Good sinking palm seeds


5.  HAVE CLEAR PLASTIC ZIP LOCK BAGGIES AVAILABLE

Such bags are easily obtained commercially.  For small seeds a one quart baggie is usually adequate.  For large seeds or high volumes of seeds, use a one gallon bag.  You get clear bags so you can check for or observe germination when it occurs.

Baggie empty
Baggie for larger seeds


6.  PREPARE GERMINATION MEDIUM, MOISTEN IT AND PUT INTO BAGGIE  

We have been using 50% sphagnum moss and 50% #2 Perlite.  But, you could use peat moss instead.  I've known of people who just put in a damp paper towel.  We mix it by hand and then put it into a baggie.  Before you put it into a baggie, dampen your medium with sprayed pure water.  Or, you can use a faucet but add only a small amount of water and make sure to ring out excess water thoroughly.  We don't recommend excess water accumulating in the bag.  Evenly add the mixture to the appropriate sized baggie.  Making the germination medium is shown below.

Coarse sphagnum moss
Close up sphagnum moss
Perlite
Perlite
Sphagnum in bowel
Sphagnum moss in bowl
Adding perlite to sphagnum
Adding perlite to sphagnum
mixing medium
Mixing the two together
Germinaton mediium
The finished medium
Spraying medium with water
Spraying medium with water
Putting medium into baggie
Putting medium into baggie
Putting medium into baggie
Baggie ready for seeds


7.  ADD THE CLEANED SEEDS TO MEDIUM IN THE BAGGIE

Disperse the seeds evenly throughout the mixture above.  As mentioned, don't overdo the number of seeds you add per baggie.  We think 50 to 100 normal sized seeds is plenty for the average baggie.  Otherwise, you may get root entanglement later.  In a one gallon baggie you can add more if the seeds are not overly large.  For very large seeds, fifteen to twenty seeds may be all you can do in that baggie.

Baggie ready for seeds Putting seeds in baggie Baggie with seeds and medium


8.  INSIDE THE BAGGIE SPRAY A MIXTURE OF 50% WATER AND 50% HYDROGEN PEROXIDE

This is to prevent rot or fungus from occurring.  Spray the seed and medium batch diffusely.  You are doing this to add a disinfectant.  Six to ten sprays throughout the mix is adequate for this step.

Spraying seeds and medium

 

9.   WRITE THE SPECIES NAME OF THE SEEDS AND DATE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE BAGGIE.   OR, MAKE SURE THE LABEL INSIDE SHOWS EASILY.

You do this on the outside so you don't have to move seeds around to see an interior tag.  The date allows you to how long it takes to get germination.  Or, if no germination, how long the seeds have been in the bag.  You will sometimes get absolutely no germination.  This happens.  No germination is six months is often a sign that no germination will occur.  But, there are certain seeds that may not germinate for a year or two.

Baggie label    


10.  PLACE THE BAGGIES INTO A CLEAR LARGE STORAGE BIN WITH A LID.

Put the baggies into the bin preferably with the zip-lock (top) upright.  This makes for easier inspection later and helps prevent moisture from dripping out.  The lid helps hold in the moisture inside and prevents fugal spores from entering.  The clear bins allow you to inspect some bags for germination without opening the bin.  Store the bins in any convenient area inside the house, preferably a warmer spot.  Just make sure if you put it in a shed or garage that it doesn't get too hot.  Seedlings don't need bright light to germinate - They can actually germinate in the dark.  But, later they need light to grow after germination. 

Empty Bin with Lid Empty bin with lid
Bin with Baggies    


11.  CHECK THE BAGGIES FOR GERMINATION FROM TIME TO TIME 

Some seeds are quick to germinate and others are bitterly slow.  You'll almost never see any germination for several weeks.  An average time to see the start of germination is one to three months.  You'll first see the seed's light tan or white colored radicle root.  This is the first root that emerges from the seed.  The leaves come later.  When many months have gone by without germination you have to decide if the seeds were not good or if it's worth you while to hang in there and await germination.  If you see nothing for twelve months, many seeds (baggies) would simply be discarded.  See below for further discussion.

Germinating seeds in baggie Germinating seeds in baggie Germinating seeds in baggie


12.  IF YOU SEE SIGNS OF FUNGUS, DEAL WITH IT IMMEDIATELY

Fungal infections typically look like a white chalky powder.  It can be fluffy and raised.  Sometimes it's other colors than white.  You could see fungus within a given baggie or on the inside walls of the bin itself.  Both mean trouble.  Sometimes you'll see "damping off" where a whole batch of germinated seedlings start to die.  It's almost always caused by a fungus.

If it's within a baggie, remove and isolate that baggie.  You can treat the entire baggie contents with a fungicide such as Cleary or Daconil.  If it's on the walls or floor of the bin, remove all baggies., wipe down the outside of the bags with peroxide or alcohol and, after cleaning the bin, leave it open to dry out open for a few weeks.  Make sure no fungus returns.

Below is a community pot of palm seedlings.  Note how several of the seedlings have unexpectedly turned brown while a few others remain.  This is early "damping off" and will probably kill all of these seedlings.

Seedlings damping off
Seedlings in community pot
damping off
   


BAGGIE TECHNIQUE - GERMINATED SEEDS. REMOVAL OF SEEDLINGS AND POTTING THEM UP

1.  SPOT WHICH BAGGIES WITH SEEDS HAVE GERMINATED AND ARE READY TO REMOVE AND POT UP

Inspect the baggies individually for any signs of germination.  First seen is the formation of a root.  This is usually and initially just a single light colored nubbin of a root that extends from one end of the seed.  Over time it develops a larger root and then a visible root system .  With age this root will bifurcate and enlarge.  Once a root occurs you may see a light colored spike coming from the opposite end of the seed.  This spike will become a leaf.  It can be a simple leaf like a blade of grass or a bifed leaf with two leaflets.  It is best to not remove the seedling until you see a small but established new leaf.  You can pot up germinating seeds with just a root (no leaf) but you'll suffer more losses if you do.  Photos below show germinated seeds with either leaf spears or visible small leaves.

One thing to be aware of and that is commonly seen with this technique of germination is that leaves or roots can be bent, curved or entangled.  Note below in the photos the twisted or somewhat malformed leaves and roots.  It's more of a problem for the perfectionist who wants a perfect leaf on germination.  If this is the case, such a person should consider the traditional germination of seeds in community pots.  I've described this community pot technique in a different article at this Website.  But, with time, malformed seedlings usually develop new nice perfect new leaves.

Also be aware that, if seedlings are left in the bag too long, they can punch holes in the side of the plastic baggie or force the zip-lock top to open.  Or, they can just go downhill and die.  If the top of the bag is opened by plant growth, it can lead to desiccation of the medium and eventually the seedlings.

Bin with germinating baggies Bin with germinating baggies Bin with germinating baggies
Binns with baggies    
Baggies with newly germinated seeds Baggie with newly germinated seeds Baggie with newly germinated seeds
Row above young seedlings    
Baggies with germinated seeds Baggies with germinated seeds Baggies with germinated seeds
Row above more developed seedlings    


2.  SPOT BAGS WITH NO GERMINATION OR SEED ROT - DECIDING WHICH BAGGIES TO DISCARD

Visually inspect the baggies for seeds that have germinated.  If no germination has occurred, all you see are the seeds mixed among the medium.  If rot has set in on the seeds and any sprouted seedlings will look different.  They'll often turn from tan or white color to a dark brown or black.  They could be mushy appearing or falling apart.  If this is present, open the baggie and closely examine the seeds.  Pinch Test:  If the seeds collapse when pinched with your fingers, they are absolutely no good and have rotted.  (incidentally, such seeds almost always float as well).  Usually you can spot bad rotten seeds just by looking at them or by a foul smell.

The photos below show baggies with no germination.  You'll note all you see is the potting medium and a few seeds with no growth.  The rotten seeds in row two is what you'll find in the baggie with rotten seeds.  But, if the seeds still look good and are hard when you pinch them, they could still germinate.  Remember that many types of seeds are very slow to germinate.  So, if everything looks good, be patient.

Baggie with no germination Baggie with no germination Baggie with no germination
Row above no germination    
Rotted Seeds Rotted Seeds Rotted Seeds
Examples of rotten seeds    

3.  REMOVAL OF SEEDLINGS FROM BAGTGIE AND POTTING THEM UP

Care must be taken when you removed the batch of seedlings from the baggie and when you separate the seedlings for potting up.  This is because the seedling roots can become entangled with each other and with the medium.  The latter is not a problem as the seedling can be potted up with your seedling potting mix.  But, if you haphazardly pulling the new seedlings apart, it can tear roots that are tangled together.  If a seedlings root(s) are torn, it usually dies.  So, gently tease apart the roots carefully and immediately pot them up.  We put the entire cluster of seedlings with their medium on a table and take time to separate them.

We have our seedling potting soil ready - which is totally different than the germination medium described above.  Seedling potting mix is a lighter mix that absorbs water and gives ample aeration to the roots.  It also drains well.  We'll fill our band size container (3 x 3 x 9 inches) about half way with the soil, suspend the seedling above the mix and gently add new soil around the roots.  We then lightly compress the soil and water it immediately.  New seedlings should be grown in filtered light, away from harsh wind and kept damp.  Typically water twice a week is adequate.  The recipe for our potting soil is elsewhere at this website.

Separating seedlings baggie technique Separating seedlings baggie technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique
Separating seedlings Baggie Technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique
Separating seedlings Baggie Technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique
Separating seedlings Baggie Technique Separating seedlings Baggie Technique  

ADVANATAGES AND DISADVANTAGES TO BAGGIE TECHNIQUE - COMPARED TO TRADITIONAL OPEN COMMUNITY POT GERMINATION

Introduction

Traditionally, germinating of seeds has been done in community pots.  With this method one takes viable cleaned seeds and plants them in a small plastic pot in soil.  The seeds are usually planted below the soil surface.  Pots are usually kept in a greenhouse or patio.  As you can see, the baggie technique is totally different.  Below I will discuss the pro's and con's of the two techniques.  Far below I'll show some photos of typical open community pot germination. 

Difficulty

Neither technique is difficult.  But, the Baggie Technique has the advantage that seeds can germinate inside the home - even in one's closet.   And, that you don't have to water them.  They hold their own moisture within the baggie.  So, once seeds are put in baggies, all you have to do is wait.

Watering

The Baggie Technique definitely wins here.  You don't have to water unless occasionally you want to spray water inside the baggie.  Community pots need watering about twice a week.

Weeds

The Baggie Technique again wins here as well.  Baggies essentially never get weeds whereas community pots outdoors need continual weeding.  If the latter is not done, the weeks can kill the young seedlings.

Insects

As there is no way for insects to get into your baggies, the Baggie Technique is less likely to every have insect problems.  But, insects can easily get to your outdoor community pots.  Snails and slugs can move down a whole pot of seedlings in one day.

Fungal Problem and Seed Rot

Rot and fungus can occur with both techniques.  But, with the Baggie Technique, if you are cleanly and employ a near sterile set up, you can dodge fungus quite easily.  Outdoors there is more exposure to airborne fungus.  Thus, one usually sees more fungal problems and rot with outdoor community germination. 

Germination Rates and Success with Germination

Success with germination with both techniques totally depends on what one is trying to germinate.  And, both techniques can work well.  We've found that the baggie technique probably gives more successful germination than community pot germination.  But, it is a small difference.  I think its because there are more outdoor variables with open community pot germination.

Ease of Potting Up Seedlings

The community pot technique wins here.  Its seedlings are easier to divide them up and it's easier to avoid injury to the roots.  And, I think the roots are a bit stronger and more developed as they germinate in "soil".  Remember that the Baggie Technique seedlings can have entangled root.

Strength of the Seedlings

I think that the community pot seedlings win here.  Seedlings have the advantage of quickly developing roots and unobstructed growth of the new leaves.  You'll see less leaf deformities and the seedlings are getting use to their ambient humidity and temperature.

Time Crunch - Rush to Separate Seedlings

This is one of the main advantages to open community pot germination.  With open germination there is no rush to remove seedlings.  They just keep growing and developing larger and new leaves.   But, with baggies, the longer you wait the more the leaves can become mis-formed and the more the roots lock up. 


PHOTOS OF OPEN COMMUNITY POT GERMINATION:

Open community pot germination
Brahea moorei
Open community pot germination
Rhopalostylis baueri
Open community pot germination
Archontophoenix maximax
Open community pot germination
Chamaedorea benzei
Open community pot germination
Jubaea chilensis
Open community pot germination
Dypsis baronii

EASY AND DIFFICULT SEEDS TO GERMINATE

We've been germinating seeds of all types for over forty years.  Most of our experience has been with palm and cycad seeds.  We've learned from our experiences - both with failures and successes.  The most important factor is to get fresh, viable seeds.  Never select green seeds.  Always clean off the fruit.  With cycads remember that many types of cycads seeds need to "mature" (develop an embryo) prior to the time that you attempt to germinate them.

With this said and with fresh, viable seeds there are some palm tree genera that are typically easy to germinate.  There are others that are difficult and/or super slow to germinate.  I'll give some examples of each group below.

Easy Palm Genera to Germinate

Archontophoenix
Areca
Chamaedorea

Pinanga
Pritchardia
Sabal
Veitchia.

Difficult or Slow Palm Genera to Germinate

Acrocomia
Astrocaryum
Borassus

Jubaea sometimes
Jubeopsis
Lemurophoenix
Parajubaea
Syagrus unuual varieties
Voaniola,

CONCLUSION


The Baggie Technique for seed germination offers many advantages and is very easy to set up.  It works for palm, cycad and most tropical seeds.  Seeds can even be germinated in the dark with no light.  And, it can be done in any warm location inside the home. There is little maintenance and no watering until you pot up the seedlings.  But, you must observe the baggies and remove the seedlings before the leaves become mis-shaped or the roots become overly entangled.  Many new growers and those in colder areas may wish to give this technique a try.  It's not complicated to do. 
Be aware that we are a nursery, not a seed broker and we do not sell seeds.  But, we have many thousands of palm and cycad seedlings for sale.

 

CLICK TO READ ABOUT OPEN COMMUNITY POT GERMINATION 

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Email:

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Nursery Phone:  619 291 4605
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