Seed Stratification & Germination

Please note that the following methods are generalized guidelines on how to stratify and germinate seed. Germination times for Native Prairie Seeds will vary from year to year depending on climate conditions for that growing season, sometimes causing seeds to enter a deep dormancy that can take longer to break. By using the following methods (stratification, scarification, etc.), we are recreating nature’s cycle to break dormancy and encourage germination.


Indoor & Climate-Controlled Germination Methods

No Stratification - Seed directly into a container of choice.

Cold/Moist Stratification (30 – 60 Days) - Mix seed with vermiculite or sterile sand. Add water to the vermiculite or sand. The resulting media should be wet, not soupy.  Use more media than seed, making sure the seed is evenly spread in the wet mixture.  Seed can also be placed in a wet paper towel. Put seed mixture or paper towel in a resealable plastic bag and place the mixture in a refrigerator for the recommended time frame (typically 30 – 60 days). Occasionally check the seed to make sure it is still moist.

Cold/Moist Stratification (120+ Days) – Some seeds require a longer period of time for stratification. When a seed’s stratification time starts to exceed this number, we recommend using the “Winter Sowing” method. Although the seed can typically be stratified indoors, it prefers nature’s cycle for germination.

Hot Water Treatment - Place seed in a bowl. Bring water to a boil and pour directly over the seed. Prepare enough water so the seed is fully immersed. Allow seed to soak in the poured water for ≈ 2-3 hours. Dry the seed until it can be easily handled and seed it into trays.

Scarification - Scarification is the process of breaking the hard outer shell that some seed species have. All seeds requiring this process will arrive scarified from 3 B Natives, LLC. Once the seed is received, it is recommended to cold/moist stratify for approximately 10 days.

Outdoor Germination Methods

Winter Sowing - Either broadcast seed on a prepared site or seed directly into trays during early winter. The seed will go through periods of freezing and thawing. Some species will germinate in early spring, while others will not begin germination until the warmer temperatures of summer. All of our seed can be winter sowed.

Seeding the Germination Trays:

Use a tray of choice with either a fine mix or a germination mix type of potting soil. The depth a seed should be planted correlates to the size of the seed. Smaller seeds (such as Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower) should be planted near the surface and should barely be covered by soil, whereas larger seeds (such as Silphiums) should be planted ≈1/4 inch below the surface.

When you first top water trays with smaller seeds, the water will carry the seed a little deeper into the soil. This is okay, and even intentional! The idea is for the seed to be thoroughly mixed with the soil up top, but not buried. 

Keep germination trays wet and do not allow them to dry out. Once the seed has started germinating, proper watering becomes more critical as the seedling can easily become diseased and begin to rot.

When seeding trays, our recommendation is to always cover lightly at first. It is easier to add soil than to remove it.