Continuing the theme of Anthurium magnificum this month, I also recently harvested my Anthurium’s berries and successfully germinated the seeds!
Most of what I’ve read about Anthuriums has said that they’re not self-fertile, but this plant made two blooms that just happened to be perfectly staggered for the earlier one to pollinate the later one. With consistent water and regular fertilizing, the pollinated inflorescence developed into an infructescence, and it just took some patience for it to reach the right stage.
When I did this with my A. forgetii, I waited a little too long and some of the berries were drying or partially rotted. If you’re waiting for your infructescence to have berries start to “pop” out on their own, you may end up waiting too long. In either my A. forgetii or the A. magnificum, the berries never did the popping out thing that I’ve seen in photos, particularly from people who grow in greenhouse conditions.
Below is the photo of when I harvested my berries; the stem had clearly started to die, even though the base of the infructescence was still green.
To harvest the berries, I used snips to cut off the infructescence and then got it set up to process the berries immediately. A key part of the seeds with this is that they cannot dry out completely; if you’ve ever ordered seeds from overseas and they arrive after a few weeks as typical dry flower seeds, those are all dead.
My set up for harvesting berries was a plentiful amount of paper towels, and a red solo cup with water and a tablespoon or so of hydrogen peroxide mixed in. The water with peroxide helps clean off the seeds from the berries, and seems to help with germination, although my sample size for this is admittedly small.
To get the berries off the stem, you gently squeeze the end and pop them out. That’s all there is to it – if you’re worried, don’t be! Just use your fingertips, or the edge of your nail, to pop out berries. You’ll probably easily pop the seeds out too for the ripest ones, but that’s okay.
If you get seeds out when you squish the berries, great! Pop em in your cup of diluted hydrogen peroxide and let them get cleaned up. If you pop out berries, that’s also great! You can either set them aside as you go, or pop out the seeds right then and stick them in your peroxide water. The one upside to keeping the seeds in the berries is that the berries can be easier to store before the seeds start to germinate. You could potentially keep them in a fridge to keep them cool and preserve them, but I worry about it being too cold and just process mine all at once.
Below is a photo of a seed in a berry, one partially popped, and the empty skin. The seed shown is a good, ripe seed that is definitely ripe and ready to plant.
Below is a comparison between a seed that’s fertile and ready to be planted, and one that’s…questionable. For my Anthurium forgetii seeds, even these little green seeds germinated, but it was about 50/50. The ones like below, half the size and bright green rather than pale tan, almost never did. Green seeds that were closer in size and “fullness” to the tan colored seeds were the ones that germinated.
Once you’ve processed the entire infructescence, you can either strain the seeds and rinse them thoroughly, or pull them out and immediately start planting them.
I’m a bigger fan of putting them on a seive and rinsing them thoroughly, as this washes off any remaining berry skins or fruit bits left behind. Getting those bits off helps reduce the potential for mold on your seeds, since you’ll be sowing them in extremely high humidity conditions and they are very, very prone to mold and rot.
Below is a batch of the best looking seeds, all nice and plump and clean. Notice that they’re on damp paper towel; my goal the day I did this was to process and sow them all before they could dry out. Once you’ve rinsed off all the berry bits, it’s crucial to immediately get them placed somewhere that they can stay damp and start germinating.
Your next step is sowing.
I used seedling starter trays for my Anthurium forgetii seeds and was distinctly unimpressed; they were too big for the roots to grow in quickly enough even though these were the small “plug” trays used for starting vegetables. This time, I used 1 oz salsa cups both because they had lids, so it’d be easy to create little “pods” to germinate the seeds in, and because they were small enough to make it easy for the roots to grow in and reach all the moisture. A challenge with larger starter pots was that the roots don’t grow as extensively as you might think to start, and so you’ll end up with pockets of extra water-logged soil that lead to rot.
I carefully packed each salsa cup with a pinch of wet/damp sphagnum moss, and for the cups I planned to keep for myself, I placed 2 seeds each in the cups. I listed some for sale, and those I placed 5 to a cup so they’d stay moist.
I kept the ones I listed for sale at room temperature (68 – 72 this time of year), and the rest went into my grow case and hit 80 – 82F during the day. The ones in the grow case began shooting out roots within a couple days; the ones at room temperature needed almost a week.
To “sow” the seeds, just place them on top of the moss. I cut a slit in the tops of the salsa cup lids to allow for some air flow and that was it.
They do not really need any light at this stage; you could germinate them on a seed mat in a dark closet and they’d still grow roots.
When germinating, the seeds will first produce a hairy initial root that bears a strong resemblance to an alien. Once that root has reached out a bit and connected to something, then the seed will produce a tiny baby leaf. Usually this takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks from the root emerging to the baby leaf coming out.
At that point, light is key! Too little light, and the baby seedlings will grow small, spindly stalks and small leaves. You also don’t want to burn them, so don’t go overboard on your grow light, placing it 4 inches away from your seedlings.
If you, like me, used sphagnum moss as your germination medium, you may see the moss sprouting tendrils of green – that’s the moss regrowing! You can theoretically continue growing it to make your own sphagnum, which is much more sustainable than buying dried sphagnum on its own. Much of the dried sphagnum that is readily available is harvested in a way that’s fairly damaging to the environment it grows in, so the less of it we can use, the better.
I tried a batch of seeds in coconut fiber, which is significantly more sustainable, and so far it’s seemed to perform almost exactly as well as the sphagnum moss. When the baby plants get larger leaves and look more established, we’ll see if the coconut works as well for humidity and giving a good base for the roots to grab onto.
I have not fertilized these to date, but once there’s some larger baby leaves, I plan to dilute my regular fertilier to 1/4 strength to use for an initial watering. Since the germination cups don’t have drainage holes, it’s important to be cautious in how much water is added to them. The inability to flush out excess fertilizer also means extra caution should be used when applying it; too much will burn the roots.
My plan is once there’s at least a couple solid leaves, I’ll divide up the seedlings and move them into seedling pots for continued development. I had a low success rate with my A. forgetii, but so far these have done much better, with about 3/4 of the seeds I have on hand germinating and showing at least 1 baby leaf to start.
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