Last year I tried to grow agretti (Salsola soda), sharing seeds with friends and what agretti growing advice I could find. It all adds up to one thing – agretti is not the easiest plant to grow. You need fresh seed, and even then germination rates are poor.
My early indoor sowing was a complete failure. Eventually I succeeded with seeds sown outdoors, with some in a raised bed and some in a small trough.
A handful of plants matured, and we had one or two harvests. We liked it. But given the reluctance of the seed to germinate, I didn’t think I would bother trying again any time soon. Autumn soon caught up with us, and the plants died back. Prior to that they had produced little balls of flowers(?). I wasn’t sure, and conventional wisdom is that the UK growing season is too short to produce viable seed, so I didn’t ponder them too much.
And now this has happened. This isn’t supposed to happen. I have self-sown (I assume, rather than seed from last year germinating very late) agretti seedlings in my raised bed. I also had a couple of agretti seedlings growing in the small trough, which has no drainage holes and had been a bog all winter, and froze over occasionally. I have potted them up in slightly better conditions.
I am not the only one. Two Twitter contacts confirmed that they also have agretti seedlings. My friend Susanne Masters tells me that she has some as well, which “sprang up in an unwatered window box tub abandoned in a corner of the garden where they were covered in fallen birch leaves and twigs”.
I draw two conclusions from this. (1) Agretti is a semi-wild plant that germinates as and well it will, and is best direct-sown in a place where you can let it get on with it. You can try sowing in the autumn, to see whether being over-wintered encourages them into life in the spring. It does not like to be coddled. And (2) agretti can and does produce viable seed in the UK. So either keep an eye on it and try and collect some, or do the laissez-faire thing and see if you can create a self-sustaining agretti patch.
Did you try growing agretti last year? Have you got any self-sown seedlings? Go and check! They’re easy to spot, with those red stems.
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.