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Growing Sabatia angularis

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mighty oaks from tiny acorns do grow. Or...not.

The rosepink seedlings grew, all right, but they grew incredibly, painfully slowly. I kept expecting them to pop up, to get in gear, to become something. And they kept not becoming anything. 

I grew them all that spring and summer of 2010 in the same planter. By fall, this is what they looked like. 

My finger for scale.

Here's the planter with about 60 seedlings in it. The one above is one of the bigger ones.

(The big plant to the left is a seedling of royal catchfly that I had bought in summer 2010 at a native plant conference. Another slow-starter-late bloomer if I ever saw one!)

 I did a little reading and discovered that Sabatia angularis has only recently been discovered to be a biennial. Meaning it does not bloom its first year of life. No duh. Anybody who tried to grow them would figure that out fast. As to the recent discovery of this rather basic aspect of its natural history, I doubt most botanists could see the durn seedlings, much less figure out what they were!

The upshot of all this is that I would have to overwinter my tiny seedlings, which had now formed what gardeners call a "winter rosette" of leaves, again. I chose the floor of the greenhouse once more.

A winter rosette is a cluster of leaves that hug the ground closely. Many of our garden perennials form winter rosettes, saving their energy to send up a blooming stalk come spring. Dang, these were tiny plants. 

So I overwintered them in 2011/12. And though I'd been watering these teeny little plants since fall of 2010,  I got caught up in a two-week trip to South Africa in February 2012, and a bunch of them croaked while I was otherwise occupied. Bill watered them while I was gone; I forgot once I got back. A bunch of them croaked. But some lived.

And lo and behold in April 2012 they started to show an upward inclination. They were finally growing, albeit in extreme miniature. This is what those 2010-sown plants looked like on June 3, 2012. 

I was down to a mere dozen, and they were not even an inch tall. 

This is where I started to get suspicious that my growing regimen might not be the greatest. I had been afraid to feed them, knowing that rosepink grows in poor soils on hot, sandy slopes. But they sure looked like they could use a shot of Miracle-Grow. How could these Lilliputs do this by late July??


We are going to have to wait with you to see! I wonder how they would do at the edge of your meadow?

Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous June 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Any update on your Sabatia? I'd appreciate any further advice on how to grow them.

See this post, Nancy:

which will tell you how it all came out. My advice? Sow direct in the soil where you want them to grow when the seedpods finally mature in November/December. You can either sow then, or wait until March/April. Sow thinly, then mulch lightly with straw and keep it weeded. At least that's what I'm going to do next spring, having had three seasons of trying to grow the seedlings. Not worth the trouble! I think they resent transplanting, and need specific natural conditions in which to grow well. Here that seems to be dry banks, partly shaded OK.

I garden in Piedmont area of N.C. and have for years seen Sabatia growing beside the roads and hyways. I gathered seeds and had very little luck with germination. I do know that here, they grow best in full sun, with moist soil. And they do really well if they happen to germinate and grow in a mossy area.

I find that transplanting is not so difficult if you manage to dig it up without breaking the soil around the roots.

I accidently came across a patch of white ones many years ago. Seed did not germinate.

I had one bloom from a seedling last year (2012)- It was from a wild transplant the year before.

Just today, July 7th, 2013, I discovered at least four new seedlings from last years blooms.
They do not do much in the way of growing until the following spring.

I have seed which I plan to offer on Etsy.


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