Jump to content

- - - - -

Growing From Seed

  • Please log in to reply
3 replies to this topic

#1 Graham


    Advanced Tortoise Member

  • VIP Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 437 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Wales, GB
  • Interests:Looking after my Harry, of course, birdwatching, writing articles for my professional journal, Taekwon-Do, going to the ballet, eating out, holidaying in Scotland with my wife.

Posted 24 June 2013 - 08:31 AM

I’ve always believed it’s best to grow plants for our torts from seed whenever possible, for that way, we can be sure they’re fresh, and untainted by pesticides, traffic fumes etc. Growing from seed can be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, and over the last twelve months I’ve experimented. All of my attempts have been by using unfertilised earth from the garden, and seeds from various suppliers.

I’ve compiled a list of the twenty or so plants I’ve experimented with, along with the percentage success rate of seed to mature plants. I continue to try new species, and will add to this list with my results.



Californian Poppy

A very easy flower to grow from seed, with a high-yield rate.  90%+



Zero success growing from seed, but cuttings taken from existing plants settle and grow well.  0%



Easy to grow, sow seeds in a wide pot, and separate out when they’re about two inches high. Best to feed leaves from the plant grown externally to the enclosure or will be eaten to the roots.  80%



Grow very easy when seeds are sprinkled on the ground. There is some concern that during very cold periods, cyanates may form in the leaves, so it may be a good idea to grow in a particular patch, and dig up when torts are in hibernation, then replant in the early Spring.  95%



Grows rapidly with good success rate from seed. Leaves grow well into late Autumn, so very handy for feeding our torts later in the season when other weeds are becoming scarce.   90%+



No luck at all growing from seed, but the six plug plants I bought all took and grew very well. Grow outside the enclosure, or will be eaten to the ground. Also known as Scaredy Cat Plant, as cats don't like the odour they give off, and keep away; therefore, very useful for keeping cats out of the garden.  0%

When growing these, do make sure to pluck the tops out when they're about five or six inches high, otherwise they will grow all stringy and lanky; nipping them will ensure a bushy plant with lots of leaves and flowers.



A very easy plant to grow, with a high yield rate. Very handy too, inasmuch they flower into late Autumn, providing flowers for the torts to eat later in the season. A beautiful plant, and very good for attracting bees too.  95%+



I planted twelve of these as an experiment, and all them germinated, and are now growing to maturity. Very easy indeed. 100%.



One of the easiest to grow from seed, dandelion gives a good success yield, and if you plant at maturity in the garden, will re-grow leaves very quickly, providing a constant source of nibbles for the tortoise.  95%+


Evening Primrose

Another plant that’s easy to grow, and self-seeds in the garden.  90%



You’ll only need to grow these once from seed, they spread like wildfire and self-seed easily.  95%

Update: Do make sure your tortoises like this before you plant it; if they do, then great, they'll keep it down as it spreads rapidly. If they don't, don't plant it, it can take over the whole enclosure.



Never succeeded growing from seed despite many attempts. Better to buy as established plants.   0%

They do, however, take really easily when planted as cuttings from a mature plant, and as these are a most desirable tortoise food, it is worthwhile asking someone you know who has one if you can pinch a couple of cuttings.

I'll be posting another topic shortly describing the procedures for the successful planting of certain seeds and cuttings in detail.

Link to article regarding growing hibiscus from cuttings:




Easy to grow, but take a whole year to reach maturity before flowering. Depending on the particular variety, can be biennial or short-term perennial, so it may be wise to plant a couple each year to replace the spent plants. Grow outside the enclosure, or they will be eaten down to the ground.   80%+

Update: An alternative variety known as Black Hollyhock (Nigra Rosea) is a perennial, so will come back year after year. They take a couple of years to grow to full maturity, are much hardier, and far less susceptible to slugs and caterpillars. 

I'll write a fuller account of this plant later in the year and relay my experiences.


Lamb's Lettuce

Very easy indeed to grow; I planted a total of 45 to evaluate the success rate, and to my surprise, 39 of them are on their way to maturity. A really good tortoise food, so well worth growing. 90%+



Not one single seedling ever produced, so bought a set of five plug plants, all of which grew into beautiful plants two feet high. Very good for attracting bees, too.  0%

Update: I must have purchased a pack of duff seeds first time round; I recently acquired some Tree Mallow seeds, ignorant of the fact that this is another name for lavatera. Most of them germinated, and are growing well at the time of writing this.


Milk Thistle

Another weed with a high-yield rate. Best to grow outside the enclosure and sparingly feed freshly-plucked leaves to the torts.  90%+



A delightful little plant that is very easy to grow. One problem though, slugs love them, so grow them in trays on shelves where the slugs can't get at them. 90%

At the heighth of the season, don't be afraid to pluck all the flowers in bloom to feed to your tortoises; they grow back within 24 hours, providing a constant source of food.



Very easy to grow, but will be eaten entirely if grown in the enclosure. Best to grow externally and feed occasional leaves and flowers.  90%+



Easy, with a high-yield rate. Procedure same as Catsear.  85%+

Update: A really good weed for torts, nutritional and palatable for them. They are, however, only annual, so you need to grow some every year. The middle of February is a good time to get them started from seed.



Zero success growing from seed; ready-established plants can be purchased online.  0%



Very little success growing from seed, better to buy as bedding plants in the Spring. Leave a month or so for new growth to appear before feeding so as to ensure they are free of pesticides etc. 10%



Planted many hundreds of seeds in different soil types, and never had one single seedling. You’re better off uprooting plants from the local park (while no-one’s looking), and then plant these instead.  0%


Poached-Egg Plant

Very easy to grow, and they make a very colourful addition to the garden. Grow outside the enclosure, as torts are partial to them, and will devour the entire plant in one sitting.   95%


Pot Marigold

Grows easily and rapidly. Safe to eat, but torts don’t seem to like them on the whole. Worthwhile planting one though, for it makes an excellent shade within the enclosure. One downside; they attract flies better than a cowpat does.  90%


Purple Loosestrife

A very easy plant to grow, and good tortoise food. Lives in damp areas such as wetlands and lakesides. One real downfall is that it spreads invasively, to the extent it can really overtake the area. Indeed, some states of America have actually banned the selling and planting of this flower. I therefore recommend you grow it in pots to ensure it doesn't spread. 80%+


Salad Burnet

Grow very easily with high success rate from seed.  90%+



Quite good yield rate, but like hollyhocks, take a year or more to reach maturity.  60%+

Update: This year I tried the Tom Thumb (minature) variety, and they all grew really well with a huge yield rate. As we all know, torts are expert escape artists, and Snap-Dragons make excellent ladders for them to scale the enclosure walls; by growing this dwarf variety instead, it minimizes the chance of escape, and being shorter, the tortoises can reach the flowers easier. I recommend the Tom Thumbs for these reasons. 95%+



Easy to grow from seed, with a high yield rate. Important note: Zinnas will die if you transplant them from pot to garden; for some reason even the slightest root disturbance will kill them. Grow from seed in biodegradeable pots (available from any garden store or eBay), and then plant the pot directly into the ground when ready. When about six inches high, pinch the tops of the plants out, that way you'll get a more bushier plant with many more flowers. 90%+

#2 Guest_Stella_*

  • Guests

Posted 24 June 2013 - 06:54 PM

Interesting Graham, I do not have any success with seeds. I don't know why. It surprises me that plantain is unsuccessful from seed....but I do as you suggest.... Pull up the plant!!! X x x hugs x x

#3 Guest_Stella_*

  • Guests

Posted 26 June 2013 - 06:25 PM

Ha ha! I have visited Naturescape for British pond plants for my wildlife pond.... And puzzled who would buy dandelions and plantain.
I think I need to revisit with a different mindset, c x hugs x

#4 Guest_Stella_*

  • Guests

Posted 27 June 2013 - 06:18 PM

Ozric, I am going to Naturescape on Sunday...and will be getting some of the two plants you mention. Can you recommend any other plants x x x hugs x x

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users