General information

Location: Ellis Bird Farm Lacombe, AB
Initiation date: May 22, 2004
Growing conditions: all mixes were planted into clean, 21” clay planters
Growing medium: Pro-Mix BX
Seeding: random samples were selected from the seed mix, planted directly on to a firmed seed bed within the planter and then covered lightly with the growing medium
Growing conditions: planters were located outdoors in full sun, kept moist until germination occurred then regularly watered as required

Growing Details

In 2004, the Red Deer River Naturalists funded a small study of the seeds contained in some readily available seed packets at popular stores and nurseries. We recorded the species claimed to be in the packets, planted the seeds according to the package instructions, and identified the plants which grew. The growing pots were separated from other pots and were located away from other gardens.

Our observations for one summer are tabulated below.

No attempt was made to keep windblown, or other seeds, out of the pots.

We admit that this is not a fully controlled scientific study, but that was not our objective. We simply wanted to see what the average gardener might expect from the planting of seeds from the packets we chose.

The packets are identified only with letters. We cannot release the names of the companies that package or market the seeds.

In general we found that the labels on the packets:

  • are cleverly designed to “hook” the customer into a sale
  • often do not list either common or Latin names for the species contained in the packet
  • are totally inadequate when dealing with germination conditions. They assume that all seeds germinate under the same conditions
  • never list the locations where the seeds were collected
  • are misleading by using terms like “Rocky Mountain Wildflower Mix”, and “Native Wildflower Mix”
  • seldom record when the seeds were collected or packaged
  • never list an expiration date on the packets

Repeating the test in 2005 produced almost identical results.

Summary of the Trials

1. Did the package list the species contained: 8 of the 10 did. 80%

2. Did the package include the Latin name for each species? 1 of the 10 did. 10%

3. Did the package states the origin of the seed? 0 of the 10 did 0%

4. Did the label state germination requirements? 3 of the 10 did. 30%

5. Did the label have and expiry date? 1 of the 10 dd? 10%

6. What percent of the species list on the package grew?

  • Package 1: 30%
  • Package 2: 0%
  • Package 3: 13%
  • Package 4: 0%
  • Package 5: 0%
  • Package 6: 0%
  • Package 7: 20%
  • Package 8: 30%
  • Package 9: 39%
  • Package 10: 28%

7. What actually grew?

  • Package 1: California poppy, Corn poppy, Annual baby’s breath, Baby blue eyes, Cornflower, Pineapple weed, Scarlet flax, Sweet alyssum
  • Package 2: Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia, Dwarf or Bush morning glory, Grass, Larkspur, Nasturtium, Sweet william, Unknown
  • Package 3: Black-eyed susan, California poppy
  • Package 4: Dandylion, Pineapple weed
  • Package 5: Bachelor button, California poppy, Prairie coneflower, Rudbeckia, Shirley poppy, Silene armeria, Sweet alyssum, Sweet william
  • Package 6: Bachelor button, Bird’s eye, California poppy, Cosmos, Grass, Pineapple weed, Shirley poppy, Unknown, Veronica
  • Package 7: Larkspur, Marigold
  • Package 8: California poppy, Corn poppy, Annual baby’s breath, Baby blue eyes, Cornflower, Pineapple weed, Scarlet flax, Sweet alyssum
  • Package 9: Blue Flax, Corn poppy
  • Package 10: Afircan daisy, Baby blue eyes, Blue Flax, California poppy, Clarkia, Corn poppy, Gypsophilia, Sweet alyssum