A Pretty Bloom and Some Seed-Starting Info

Photo of blue penstemon-like flower of strobilanthes

 

Strobilanthes dyeriana, the Persian Shield plant common in garden centers in the summer, is native to Myanmar. Some species of Strobilanthes are grown for their flowers, but Persian Shield is used for foliage. One of mine, that I brought to overwinter indoors, has put up dozens of flowerheads. Now some of the blooms are open, and as the photos show, they come out a pretty blue-purple, and with a shape like a penstemon flower, about an inch in length. (The two aren’t related; Strobilanthes is in the Acanthus family, and penstemon is in the plantain family.) 

 

I saw an article last year, in the New York Times where, discussing the collecting and sowing of wildflower seeds, a native plant expert said the Butterfly Weed, Asclepius tuberosa, is difficult to start. I’ve actually had good success with it, so I thought I’d share my method and observations.

I collect a couple of pods, which as you can see gives more than enough seed. I put them in an open container in my garage. When they split naturally, which takes some months, the seeds will puff out from the expanding floss. The floss, once the pods have opened on their own timetable, pulls loose from the seed easily. That makes sense. The seed wants to root itself somewhere, not be carried by the wind forever.

My intuition is that the cold of being in the garage in winter, while it probably matters, is less key to germination than letting the pod reach the stage of splitting, and planting seeds that need no tugging to remove the floss. I sow them like most others, upstairs in my cat-proof room with the lights and shelves, just tucked under the surface of the medium, and I get several new plants going that way.