Updated/Fact-Chacked on January 22, 2022 by John
Alpine plants love to grow at altitude — near the snow line, where there are no trees and in cool air. Alpine growing conditions are often rocky, with constant overnight frost and intense winds. Flowering will produce intense colours, and some species are grown for their medicinal properties.
If you are building a rockery on a budget, then growing alpines from seed is a great way to keep costs down.
Seedlings or Seeds?
Shop-bought plants cut out a lot of the development time of waiting for seeds to germinate. But there are good reasons for planting Alpines from seeds: –
* COST — The cost of a packet of seeds is far less than a single alpine seedling. And, in the packet, you will have enough seeds to plant tens of alpines.
* DIVERSITY — A packet of seeds may have a range of species that will produce an assortment of sizes and colours.
* LONGEVITY — You may also find that alpine seeds develop better when they have not moved around too much and that they live longer as a result.
* EXPERIMENT — You can experiment by planting your alpine seeds in different areas of your garden to see where they grow best.
* VARIETY — A garden shop will have a limit on what they can sell as a living alpine, but they will be able to sell rare and endangered species of alpine seeds.
Growing Alpine Seeds
Consider the soil properties in your garden: is it dry and rocky with sand, or wet and dense like clay? Choose a species that fits its natural habitat, and you will have a better chance of success. Online seed exchanges allow you to plant a greater variety than you can buy at a garden centre.
Picking the Right Time to Plant Your Alpine Seeds
Alpines grow in extreme conditions, so they develop well when the air is cool. The beginning of the winter is the best time to plant an Alpine. If you sow the seed as the weather warms, there is a good chance the germination process will wait until the following winter.
Picking the Right Fertiliser for Your Alpine Seeds
Alpines prefer compost mixed with coarse sand, like you would use to make concrete, to help it drain. Alpines may enjoy a more acidic mix, which you can achieve by mixing composting bark into the compost.
Potting Your Alpine Seeds
The most crucial factor for your alpine is good drainage, but they do not need a lot of space to grow. A pot ten centimetres in diameter is enough for several seeds if it has a large drain hole.
Find a Home for Your Alpine
Alpines like the sun, but not the heat, so wait until they develop before moving them to an open patch. The seeds will also wash away in heavy rainfall — you may need to start in a greenhouse or cover the pots in plastic.
The roots of an alpine can twist in with neighbouring seedlings if they get too long, so split the plants out to separate pots at the two-leaf stage. As the plant grows to maturity, you can move them into direct sunlight and boost their development with nutrients.
Guide to Potting Your Alpine Seeds: –
* Add your compost mix to the pot and lightly press it in.
* Assess the drainage by pouring in water up to the edge of the pot. The water should drain straight out.
* Plant large seeds two centimetres deep into the compost, then add a layer of coarse sand to finish. You can lay small seeds on top of the sand and then water them.
* If you are planting more than one species of alpine, label the pots. You will want to know the best growing conditions of each when it comes to transferring them to your garden.
You may want to net over the pots to prevent birds from picking at the seeds.
CARE TIP: Check the progress weekly until germination. When the shoots appear, put down slug bait.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.