Q: Last year sweet alyssum and impatients came up in my flower beb from seeds from plants of the previous year. They grew and bloomed but they were weak and not nearly as attractive as the new plants I had bought. I would like to save the expense of buying new plants every year if it is possible. What can I do for those that come up to help them give a good performance? Which kinds can be depended on to reseed themselves?
A: Almost all annuals available for purchase are hybrids. A hybrid is the result of cross-fertilization between two selected species. The seed of the hybrid rarely come true; you may know which plant the seed came from but not the one from which the pollen came.
The offspring usually are far different, because innumerable recombinations of character-carrying genes can occur. To depend on such seedlings will be disappointing. The only thing you can do is buy new plants every year, or buy the seed and start them yourself.
Q: How can I start water lilies from seed? I have tried several times without any success.
A:Water lilies can be started from seed but it is not recommended. The hardy ones usually seen in gardens are hybrids and they do not come true from seed; in fact, you rarely get a seedling that is worth anything.
Propagation is by diviosion of the clumps of rhizomes (roots) just before new growth starts in the spring. This should be done, in any event, at least every three or four years to keep them from becoming too crowded. Tropical water lilies are propagated by tubers ( the small ones that form around the base of the very large old ones).
Sow water lily seed in pots of sandy soil with a one-inch covering of stand over the seed. Keep the pots in 60-degree water so they are covered with two or three inched of water and keep the water temperature constantly at 60.
As soon as the seedlings develop floating leaves, transplant them to invidual pots.
Seed of tropicals are started the same way except that the watertemperature is maintained at 70 to 80 degress F.