Germinating Mutisia

Includes the following species: Mutisia brachyantha, Mutisia cana, Mutisia decurrens, Mutisia ilicifolia, Mutisia latifolia, Mutisia linearifolia, Mutisia oligodon, Mutisia rosea, Mutisia sinuata, Mutisia spectabilis, Mutisia spinosa, Mutisia subulata.

Mutisias have the ill-fame of being difficult to germinate. That is not true; what happens is that it is usually very difficult to obtain good, viable seeds, since about 90% to 99.9% of all seeds (depending on the species and the particular location) are not viable, but are still sold by many on-line shops. The most complicated species is Mutisia decurrens, where about 1 seed out of 1000 is viable, while Mutisia spinosa is one of the easiest to get viable seeds, where around 1 in every 10 seeds is viable.

If the seeds look plump and full, the germination rate is at least 50%, and it does not seem to depend on the species. Mutisias can also be stored for long time without major loss of quality. We used one lot of M. spinosa which was stored for three years for producing commercial seedlings and have not observed any palpable reduction in germination rate.

From experience we have made, Mutisias germinate without light and even at very cold temperatures (+4 +6C). If you do cold stratification, you must check the seeds often in order not to miss out the beginning of germination. We are not exactly sure whether cold stratification is absolutely required. Some species were germinated using cold stratification (Mutisia spinosa, Mutisia subulata) (30 days at +5 C, followed by +20 and up to +25C), and some were germinated without (Mutisia sinuata), at cool temperatures of around + 10 +15 C. It is well worth mentionning that the latter species grows in a very cold environment (-10-15C and snow cover for 3 - 4 months) where one would expect most the need for cold stratification, which was not the case.

So, the best strategy to germinate the seeds is to give them a short cold stratification of 15+ days and then sow at +20 C. Or one can sow directly at cooler temperatures of +10 C + 15 C. In either case the germination will start after about 3 to 4 weeks. We have not tested yet any species with direct sowing at higher temperatures (+20 C or more), but probably that will result in failure.

Most Mutisias need poor, very well drained substrates (quite standard for most of the Chilean plants), but some will tolerate richer substrates as well (Mutisia decurrens and Mutisia cana)