Friday, June 13, 2014

How to grow Dyckias from seed

So your Dyckia has produced a bunch of little seed pods and you want to try growing some bromeliads from seed. Each pod contains dozens of seeds and they're fairly easy to grow. Note: this method also works with other members of the Pitcairnioides group, like Hechtia, Encholirium, Puya and Pitcairnia. These all produce dry flake-like seeds that are easy for a beginner to work with.

There are probably many different ways to germinate bromeliad seed, but this is an easy way that works for me. Keep in mind that a self-pollinated species will produce seedlings of the same species, but there may be slight variations between the plants. Seeds of hybrids will produce plants with a wide variety of characteristics due to their more diverse genetic makeup.

Collect the seeds as soon as the pods start to split. The seeds are lightweight and if you wait any longer they're likely to blow away.

Soak the seeds overnight in water. This speeds germination, but makes it difficult to separate them for planting. I dump the seeds and soak-water out onto a fine mesh.

The water quickly drains through and the seeds can be easily separated and picked up with a flat wooden toothpick.

Any kind of clear, closed container makes an excellent humidity chamber perfect for starting bromeliad seeds. Plastic clamshells or pastry trays are ideal. I like the ones with aluminum bottoms. You can quickly punch drainage holes in the bottom with a pencil or ice pick, then fill with sterile potting soil or seed-starter mix.

I like to get the germination tray going a few days ahead of time. Fill it with soil and water thoroughly. Close the top and place it in a bright, but shady location. Humidity will build up and run back into the soil creating a moist environment perfect for germination.

Carefully spacing the seeds on the soil makes transplanting so much easier later on as the plants develop.

Tightly close the container and keep it in a bright shady location. The water should recycle providing all the moisture needed by the developing seedlings, but check the soil periodically and add water if needed.

Airborne moss or fern spores often find their way into the germination chamber, but their growth rarely causes a problem for the bromeliad seedlings.

Within a few months the seedlings will have several leaves and it's time to start venting the germination chamber to harden off the plants. Start by propping open the lid a small amount to allow humidity to escape. Increase the amount of venting over a period of a few weeks, keeping a close eye on the soil moisture and watering as needed. Once the seedlings have been hardened off, they can be carefully transplanted to small individual containers. Keep them shaded until they become well-established in pots and then gradually acclimate them to the light levels they'll get in their permanent location.

Congratulations! You've now grown your own bromeliads from seed!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dyckia leptostachya

Dyckia leptostachya is a spring-blooming bromeliad that has thick, succulent leaves with an attractive reddish tint. The margins are armored with small sharp spines pointing outward.

 Individual plants are about 18 inches across, but they pup freely and form large clumps with time.

Flower spikes appear in mid to late spring from the base of the plant, rather than from the center. This allows the rosette to continue growing after flowering, unlike most bromeliad genera.

The yellow flowers are quite showy as they open in sequence from the bottom of the stalk to the top.

The inflorescence eventually reaches a height of about 3 feet.

Dark brown, three-sectioned seed pods develop from most of the flowers.

When these are mature they split open to reveal a multitude of dry papery seeds that are scattered by the wind.
Dyckia leptostachya grows well in full sun to light shade. Temperatures as low as 26° F can be tolerated for short periods of time without damage.

Next up: Growing Dyckia from seed