Reader question… “I just read your post on jack-in-the-pulpits and my question is about the red berries and seeds. Is it possible to plant these seeds and grow new jack-in-the-pulpits? If yes, is there a special procedure for getting the seeds to germinate, or do I just plant the berries?” –Amy H.

Fall is the perfect time of year for harvesting jack-in-the-pulpit seeds. The berries will be a bright red and have a very soft and fragile skin. Inside each berry is a large amount of juicy pulp and one or more seeds. I haven’t found any correlation between the size of the berry and the number of seeds, or the size of the berry and the size of the seeds…. some berries just seem to have more or bigger seeds than others. Remove the seeds by squeezing the berry over plastic or some surface you can clean easily… there will be a lot of “juice.”

There is some possibility that the berries may be poisonous, so keep them away from pets and children. My parents had some firsthand experience with how badly the berries and juice can burn when my sister was about two years old, found some of these berries, and put them in her mouth before anybody could stop her. So be careful, especially if you have children or pets.

Once you have removed the seeds, you can plant them outside without any special preparation except be sure to plant them in an area that will have partial shade and moist soil. Plant the seeds about one half inch deep.

If you want to start jack-in-the-pulpit seedlings indoors, the seeds must be stratified. Stratification simply means that the seeds need to go through a cold period lasting two or three months before they will germinate. You can simulate this cold period by putting the seeds in damp sand or sphagnum moss in a plastic bag and storing the bag in the refrigerator. After the specified time has passed, plant the seed as you would any other seed. In the spring, transplant the seedlings to a suitable location outdoors.

Comments

Buff

Thanks. My mom had Jacks in her garden grown from her mother’s garden. When mom passed recently, I brought home the seeds from her plants. I wasn’t sure how to plant them. Thanks for helping me save a bit of my heritage.

barb

One jack volunteered an appearance in front of our North Carolina Mountain house. It’s been returning for the past 3 summers. This year no “jack” flower has appeared. Lots of baby plants are clustered below it. In fact one group appeared early and then “gave up”, but another group has appeared and is surviving.
Why didn’t we get a flower (jack) this year and what will next year bring? Can I dig and move those babies that are clustered together?

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Barb, I would guess that your plant wore itself out last year producing so many seeds, or perhaps there was something stressful about the weather or growing conditions. Jack-in-the-pulpits are unique in that the same plant can produce either male or female flowers in different years. Very young plants will have male flowers until they are several years old, then have perhaps both male and female flowers but still no seeds, and finally when the plant has stored up enough energy it will have female flowers and will finally produce seeds. Your plant has obviously had female flowers in the past it has produced seeds. However, if the plant becomes stressed or its energy source is reduced, it will produce male flowers the next year and it won’t produce female flowers again until it has stored up enough energy. So what happens next year pretty much depends on if the plant regains the energy to produce female flowers and seeds. And yes, you can plant out the baby plants. I have found them to be quite easily transplanted.