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I live in the native range of Hibiscus moscheutos, Swamp Rose Mallow, which is a perennial herbaceous plant with really striking flowers.

There are two robust populations of it in wetlands near where I live. Both have dozens of individuals with many stems each, and abundant seed production, so I have been able to gather seed easily.

I have several spots that have similar conditions (full to near-full sun, filling with standing water after it rains but drying out after a week or more without rain) to where I see it growing in the wild, and where I would like to get it established.

However I have struggled to get it established. I can't seem to get the seeds to germinate, and if they are germinating (I have not found and identified any seedlings) they are not surviving to maturity. In the past I have tried scattering the seed in the fall, and that didn't work. I have also tried sowing the seed shallowly in fall. It's not clear to me what is going wrong: are the seeds not germinating, are animals eating them, or are the seedlings dying? I have watched the area though and I have not seen any germinate so I think they probably aren't getting to that stage.

What can I do to get this established? Is there perhaps some factor that is limiting their growth and establishment, such as a different soil type? They seem to grow naturally in wet, muddy soil high in organic matter, and that's exactly where I'm trying to get them established, but perhaps there is something else about the soil that I'm not noticing.

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    I can't get mallow seeds to stop germinating!. They have not been planted for 15 years in my garden but seedlings from the previous owner keep showing up!
    – kevinskio
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 23:16
  • @kevinskio That's fascinating. They must have a long dormancy period and form a long-term seed bank then. Perhaps I need to be patient, perhaps some of the seeds I planted in previous years will eventually germinate but not immediately. If that's the case maybe I need to scarify or otherwise the seeds to encourage faster germination.
    – cazort
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 23:51

2 Answers 2

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I don't know about swamp rose mallow specifically, but for seeds in general, it could be due to a number of factors, including inappropriate nutrient balance, such as low nitrates (they help seeds to sprout; they're produced naturally when it rains).

If the soil is too alkaline, too acidic, too full of the wrong microbes, etc., I'm guessing that could cause issues, too.

Inappropriate moisture levels are also a possibility. However, it's not too dry; so, maybe it's actually too wet. Maybe they like the wetness more after they sprout instead of before. I don't know.

Maybe the temperatures aren't ideal. That's a big factor.

Maybe there are chemicals in the soil that inhibit germination (such as chemicals produced by other plants).

What I would do is start the plants in containers, and transplant them later. That's usually a lot easier than direct-seeding, when it comes to germination. Foam cups should work pretty well, and they're insulated, too, but containers specifically for seedlings are fine.

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It helps if you nick them with a knife or ruff them with sandpaper.

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  • Welcome to the site!
    – MackM
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 19:42

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