Italian Cypress- Planting Instructions

Q: When my wife and I were in Italy, we admired the Italian cypress, Cupressus sempervirens. I ordered some seeds but when they arrived the instructions were a little fuzzy: “Scarification: soak in water for 48 hours. Stratification: cold stratify for 30 days. Treat with Captan.” What does this mean?

A: Darn those horticulturists and their unfathomable words! Scarification sounds scary…like something you’d do during a pagan ritual. And stratification? Somehow it reminds me of fifth grade earth science.

In truth, this is what’s meant:

Scarify – to break down the seed coat to prepare seed for germination. Some seed need gentle nicking (with a knife or fingernail clipper) to enable them to absorb water and start the sprouting process. Other seed can be scarified by a long soak. Your first task: put your cypress seed in lukewarm water for 48 hours.

Stratify – to give seeds several weeks of cold, moist conditions so allow biological processes to start in the seed. One simple way to stratify is to put the seed in some damp sphagnum moss, put the mass in a plastic bag and place it in the crisper drawer of your fridge for a month. Put Captan fungicide on the seed before inserting them in the moss.