How do sterile plants reproduce?

Val Bourne / 20 November 2018

A reader wonders how sterile plants reproduce, after discovering her peach coloured foxgloves are sterile.



Question

I bought a beautiful peach-coloured foxglove with the hope that it would seed all over my garden, as the usual ones do. However, I have since learned that these are sterile! So how do they reproduce?

Answer

Sterile plants are normally raised by tissue culture. Pieces of plant tissue are put into revolving glass flasks and grown in growing medium under lights. Lots of plants are produced like this, in sterile laboratory conditions. Thompson & Morgan have an Illumination Series of foxgloves that’s raised in this way. It isn't fully hardy, so it's better treated as a bedding plant.

If you want a seed-raised, peachy foxglove I recommend ‘Sutton's Apricot’, which flowers in June. This produces lots of seeds and these can be collected and sown to produce more of the same. Foxgloves are disturbance plants and the seed only germinates on the ground when light conditions occur, so it's best to raise your plants from seed and then put them in position because self-seeding can be patchy.

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