From scorching peppers to tropical plants, find seeds for your next gardening adventure

Last week, someone asked if I could find a source for ginseng roots or seeds. They didn’t ask if the plants are hardy anywhere in Alaska and, frankly, I am not sure they will make it as our winters may be too long. However, I did find a source in Wisconsin that sells all manner of ginseng products. Wisconsin gets cold, right?

That got me to thinking that maybe the reader wanted to know where to get seeds to start Alaskan ginseng, aka devil’s club, Oplopanax horridus. No one ever asks about starting this one from seed, which, by the way, bears are said to love. Well, actually, it is the seed-containing red berries they love.

Given the possibility of a 9-foot bush with medicinal properties, used for ulcers, colds, digestion, diabetes and arthritis — tattoo ink, fishing lures and more! — it would make sense for this to be a great plant for the Lower 48, not here. Still, if you want seeds and don’t want to interfere with some bear’s meal, check out Native Plants PNW.

Another reader wanted to know where to find Carolina reaper seeds. These are the super duper killer hot peppers you have undoubtedly heard about and maybe even tried. You can buy them from several places online. However, it will be a lot easier to buy the peppers themselves from the supermarket, where you can usually find them.

On the other hand, there are sites that sell other hot, hot, hot peppers. Check out Pepper Joe’s. It has reaper seeds, Capsicum chinense, from all over the place. So does Puckerbutt — I am sorry. The use of “reaper” in names refers to the sickle-like tail on these plants which is reminiscent of the tool carried by Death, aka the Grim Reaper.

OK, does anyone sell seeds to grow indoor plants? Sure, though many indoor plants are much more difficult to start from seed than outdoor annuals so read descriptions carefully. Check out plantfix. I like their lithos and gloxinias from seed. I have grown both so so can you!

Another exotic seed seller is Serendipity Seeds. I am not sure any of these would make it very long in an Alaska home, but isn’t it fun to look at such tropical things when the ground is covered with feet of snow?

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Listen to the Teaming With Microbes podcast with Jeff Lowenfels and Jonathan White

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One tropical worth growing in a house or office is the banana. In fact, there are many different kinds and it is possible to get fruit even in Alaska. Grown from seed, the fruits won’t be like store-bought. That kind is grown from “pups” taken from mother plants. I don’t know if they ship to Alaska, but check out Florida Hill Nursery. They have a whole bunch of plants that might make you wish you lived somewhere in the Lower 48. I’d like a mango tree or two, a pomegranate and a passion fruit vine, please. No one says you can’t look and dream.

Finally, a kind reader suggest you check out Northern Homestead and I agree. This is not a catalog or weblog and you won’t find seeds for sale here. Instead, it is a great web article that will point you to sources for very short-season vegetables. In addition to descriptions, it gives the days it takes to grow. Any Alaska vegetable grower will find this a very useful source.

I spend the month of January on seeds and plants, catalogs and weblogs. Just because we are at the end of the month doesn’t mean you should stop here. And, don’t forget, when it comes to seeds, it is usually best to stick with local sources.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: Please join. Consider The Garden when you click, pick and give as you fill out your PFD. And, do check out the sweatshirts and hats at the online store. Perfect for this weather.

Garden Clubs: If you have an announcement get it to me a few weeks beforehand and I will try and post it here.

Turn plants. We have gained two hours of daylight this month. Your plants notice and should be turned every now and then to get advantage and grow straight.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.