Over Wintering and Germinating Mandrake Seeds in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Pamela Forman
Posted on: September 05, 2007

I live in in the Lower Mainland just outside of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Our weather is extremely variable but the winters are fairly consistent. Rain. Rain. A few weeks of cold and snow then back to the regularly scheduled rain! I won’t even mention the battle of the slugs and snails we have!

After 4 years of trying to grow mandrake seeds purchased off ebay I finally found your store. I must say that the directions for getting the seeds to sprout were quite daunting but I tried. And I tried. And I tried. I stratified more ways than I care to think about. Nothing. Gibberellic acid was next so I obtained some of that.

I received but a package of Richters mandrake seeds and, being on a ‘planting spree’ I figured that I’d just plop a few into some potting soil to see what happened. Well..they sprouted in about 3 weeks!

Later in the summer and since the others were doing well so why not try the rest of the seeds? The second lot are coming along much more vigorously than the first! These have quickly germinated at about 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with NO stratification of any kind.

The method used to germinate the seed depends a great deal on how long the seed were dry-stored before being sown. Too long a dry storage kills the seed. You may have noticed that the 2007 Richters catalogue says to just sow them and they will come up in about two weeks. Previous lots had to be stratified and in potting soil under sterile conditions had to be treated with gibberellic acid. With the latter treatment the dose is crucial, according to Dr Deni. In your wet climate, the fungi that produce gibberellic acid out of wet, dead leaves would be quite abundant and are bound to end up in your flower pots.

I have transplanted each group into deeper pots. I figured it may slow growth down but it would be easier to regulate moisture. I have kept the roots very moist up to this point and believe that it is time to back off on it.

Yes, but do not let the pots get completely dry.

Question #1: What sort of fertilizer would you recommend?

Use an organic fertilizer at a low rate.

Question #2: How do you suggest that I over winter my new babies? I’ve ruled out putting them in the house and I have no garage. Would my cheap little greenhouse be able to act as a cloche?

I think the greenhouse would fluctuate too much in temperature. Mandrake is hardy in zones 6 to 8 and should do just fine out of doors if the pots are buried up to their rims in soil.

Question #3: I’m thinking of using a mulch. Would fallen leaves be appropriate or would straw be better.

Use fallen leaves, since that is what the plant has in its native environment.

Question #4: Absolutely NO water over winter?

Unless you get a drought, the natural rainfall is very similar to that found in Europe and the plant will love it. Just make sure that you put some gravel in the bottom of the hole as you dig the plant in, otherwise they may get waterlogged and that is fatal.

Thank you very much for taking the time to give me some advice. It’s been a HUGE thrill to finally get some mandrakes growing. Thank you and Richters ever so much!

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