There seems to be much improved germination of sprouting daylily seeds when they are soaked in a 1 ounce solution of house-hold hydrogen peroxide mixed into 2 liters of water (used soft drink bottle with label removed and labelled "Peroxide"). We used to use 1 ounce of house-hold bleach but the results are better with peroxide. Yogurt cups are ideal for this soaking process and can be reused year after year. Keep seeds and soaking solution out of reach of children and pets. Soft drink bottles are too easy to confuse so be very careful where you store them.
Leave the seeds in the solution until they just start to sprout. That may take a while for some seeds. A small white rootlet will begin forming at the end of the seed. When one or two seeds show this white rootlet, plant all the soaking seeds in that container. We don't wait for all the seeds of a given cross to sprout before planting. If left soaking too long, the rootlets will turn to mush. Some are seeds are slower to sprout than others. After a week, or ten days, it is best to plant the seeds whether or not they have begin to sprout and hope for the best. Soft seeds can be rejected as they will not sprout and take up planting room. Some peroxide solution may have to be added to replace that lost in evaporation.
Never allow sprouting seeds to dry out. That is a sure-fire way to bring germination percentages down to zero! This is one of the problems of using small compartment seed sprouting trays.
Seeds loose moisture in storage. We keep our seeds in the veggie drawer of our refrigerator. Check the temperature and adjust it as necessary to hold 39 to 40 degrees. A higher temperature may encourage molds and premature sprouting. The poorly developed seeds may mold but the good ones tend to resist molding. At first we used coin envelopes and found them to absorb moisture from the seeds. We also observed that good seeds stayed good and poor seeds molded in the same envelopes. Tiny lock top bags reduce the amount of moisture loss- there's not much of a place for the moisture to go so the seeds tend to withhold most but not all moisture loss.
We've observed sprouting under refrigerator conditions. In '98 we did not see cold sprouting in any of the 5000 seeds we kept. However, in '99 with over twice that many seeds in cold storage, we did see some germination. John McBride of Bellingham, WA, a commercial seed specialist, recommends drying daylily seed for 7 days at room temperature before storing in a lock top bag in the "crisper" in your refrigerator. This drying not only helps prevent seed rot from molds but also preserves original germ and vigor. It may also reduce the unexpected cold germination. If seeds are found to have sprouted in the refrigerator, they must be handled and planted very carefully so as not to break the tiny rootlets. They should grow just fine as long as they haven't become mushy.
The seeds need to replace the moisture lost in storage before they will germinate. They can re-absorb it from the planting medium or we can induce it by soaking. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which is faster. It also may explain why some direct-planted seeds are very slow to germinate.
We were slow to plant some soaking and germinating seeds and they developed some rather long rootlets. There didn't appear to be any harm done to these as long as these rootlets had not become soft (semi-transparent) and we were careful not to break them during planting.
Seeds seem to have a surface tension resistance to moisture. Surface tension is what causes moisture to bead up and form droplets rather than spreading outward. You can observe this by putting a seed in a glass of water. It will probably float which is one indication that it has lost moisture. Push the seed down with a pencil and release it watching closely how the moisture runs quickly off the seed. It runs off rather than soaking the outer skin of the seed due to surface tension. Non-floating seeds have re-absorbed lost moisture and should be ready to germinate. If we want to get moisture inside the seed quickly, we need to break down the surface tension. Some household detergents will do this work. One teaspoon per gallon would be plenty. [Edited and reprinted from AHS Region 4 Newsletter.]