Stratification and scarification are seed pre-treatment methods that aid in germination. Some seeds we offer require these treatments to germinate.
Stratification replicates natural temperature fluctuations that signal to the seed that it’s time to germinate. This serves a valuable purpose in nature to prevent germination until the conditions are suitable, but also means that certain steps must be taken to be successful under controlled conditions.
In most cases "cold stratification" means cold/wet stratification. Generally speaking, these types of seeds must be imbibed (have absorbed water) before stratification will begin to break dormancy.
Some seeds don't actually "require" stratification, but it greatly improves germination, or can take years if not stratified. While others simply will not germinate unless the proper conditions have been met. The diversity of specific requirements is astonishing. The truth is that there are still many aspects of germination and dormancy not fully understood by science, and there is no single correct way to achieve germination.
For example, there are hormonal treatment methods that can be used to break dormancy. We won't go into too much detail here and we don't generally recommend these methods (for various reasons), but a plant hormone called gibberellic acid can be used in many species (in very specific concentrations) to break dormancy without stratification. The point we're trying to make here is that seed dormancy is complex.
Scarification replicates natural processes that break down the seed coat to allow for water to be absorbed (stomach acid of a bird for example). If you don’t have bird stomach acid around, there are other ways to achieve this. Nicking, sanding, hot water, and other acid treatments can also do the trick, but require a little extra work.
Based on our experience and research for each variety we offer, we've provided what we believe are the pre-treatment methods most likely to break dormancy. But there are other ways to get there, and for some varieties, nobody really knows exactly what works best.
Some seeds we offer do REQUIRE stratification and/or scarification. If so, this will be displayed on the product page under the ‘germination’ heading. Without proper treatment, these seeds will most likely not germinate or will perform poorly. Please do not purchase seeds with pre-treatment requirements unless you are ready to provide suitable conditions for germination.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions!