Cycad Seed Starting

I was recently visiting my Mom in Arizona, and I noticed that her cycad was fruiting. I tried bringing home some of these seeds a couple of years ago and I had no luck, but these looked different: reddish, not brown, and they fell off in my hand like any other ripe fruit. So I brought a bag home and looked up what to do with them. What follows is an amalgamation of info out there online.

First, it’s important to see which ones are viable. To do this, you place the seeds into a bucket or bowl of water. The viable ones will sink. Last time, all my seeds floated, so I went no further. This year, they all stayed at the bottom of the bowl. Encouraging!

Then, procedures varied: some said to take the outer coating off with a paring knife, but I couldn’t do that easily and I was afraid I’d damage the seeds within. Some just breezily directed me to peel off the coating, but it was hard and quite adhered to the seed. Plus, I had some ladies over for mah jongg and got distracted. So I just let the seeds soak for until I could get to them. After two days, I donned rubber gloves (apparently all parts of the seed are toxic) and was easily able to peel off the reddish coating to reveal the large tan seeds within.

After soaking
After red seed coat is removed

Directions then said to lay the seeds on the surface of potting medium and slightly press them in, but not to cover them completely. Then I’m to keep them warm and moist until they sprout in a couple of months. Fingers crossed!

Keeping them warm and moist

Midwinter Cleanup

Temperatures in the high 60s! The gardening bug strikes. What to do?

There are some seeds to be started indoors: onions, parsley and basil for indoor use, violas, sweet peas, and any chile that needs a loooong season to produce, like Chiltepin. This Sonoran desert native, also known as bird pepper, forms an airy 2′ tall profile with little round fruits that are hot, hot, hot. But addictive. One little chile in your salsa and boom! Or crush and sprinkle over vanilla ice cream, which tames the heat a little bit. I have to start these very early, plant them in a spot that gets a lot of reflected heat, and hope that it’s not too rainy. I usually get a handful of chiles from a plant, but every year I hope to do better.


Outside, the hellebores need trimming. Last year’s leaves have served as an insulating blanket, but they do nothing for this year’s looks. Cutting close to the emerging buds will let the flowers show in all their glory. Wish this warm weather, they should be opening soon.