Grow Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona Formosa) From Seed

Intro: Grow Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona Formosa) From Seed

Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) is an Australian wildflower. I reckon their superhero-styled red and black flowers are unrivalled - Especially in their natural setting standing against the harsh desert landscape.


The seeds are tough guys too. Their outer layer rivals a superhero's body armour - They’ll withstand 30 plus years in the desert waiting to take a beating from bushfires and floods before sprouting.

This Instructable will show you how to reproduce similar conditions and get these seeds germinating with a just few easy steps.

If you don’t live in the natural range of this awesome plant don’t worry - Neither do I.

Step 1: What You’ll Need

Sturt’s Desert Pea seeds - I usually use seeds saved from previous years but they are available from some nurseries and some online retailers.

Sandpaper to rough up the seeds

A jar for soaking the seeds in hot water

A kettle to boil water for soaking the seeds

A tea strainer to catch the seeds when you pour them out of the jar after soaking them.

A few seed starter granules (optional) to recreate the smoky conditions of a bushfire - I have been using the same packet of granules for at least five years so I don't know whether the granules are still working their magic.

Jiffy pellets or modified toilet rolls (there are a couple of Instuctables on this topic already) filled with approximately nine parts composted pine bark to one part washed river sand. I used jiffy pellets this time around.

A mini greenhouse - I picked up a cheap heated one years ago. Heating is optional but if you don’t have it you’ll need to bring your greenhouse inside each night during the cold weather.

Step 2: Roughing Them Up

To get them to germinate you need to help water penetrate the hard coating. This is done by roughing the seeds up with sand paper. Get stuck in - It doesn't need to be a gentle process. These seeds are tough.

Step 3: Sturt's Desert Tea

Put the kettle on.

When the water is boiled pour it into the jar and then use the left over water in the kettle to make yourself a cup of black tea.

When your tea reaches a drinkable temperature (but still hot enough to burn your tongue if you are not careful), the water in the jar will be the perfect temperature to add the seeds and a few seed starter granules. Close the lid on the jar and leave overnight.

Step 4: Planting the Seed

The following day, put the jiffy pellets in a shallow dish. Pour warm water from the tap into the dish and watch the pellets suck up the water and grow into little coir peat filled pots

Transfer the pots to the mini green house.

Get the jar containing the seeds. You will see the seeds have swelled up and look like miniature baked beans. Strain out the seeds. Then plant 1 or 2 seeds in each pot.

If you have a heated mini greenhouse turn it on and wait...

Step 5: Germination

After 2 to 14 days the seedlings should erupt from their pots. Not all of them will germinate - Expect a 60 to 80% success rate.

Water the seedlings twice per week. Only a few drops are required each time.

I will post another step when they are ready to plant out.

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    3 Discussions

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    ptevyesaur

    Tip 2 months ago on Introduction

    If you live outside the natural range of Sturt’s Desert Pea grow it as an annual plant.

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    Bubbler

    2 months ago

    I have seen these growing in the street I live in, which is in an area north of Adelaide, South Australia. The flower is our state flower. You post has set me off on a trip to the nursery for a packet of seeds. :)

    1 reply
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    ptevyesaurBubbler

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks! Some seeds from nurseries produce flowers with a slightly more coral colour than the classic blood red and black we are used too. Nonetheless, they look awesome in a sunny rocky area in the garden, a raised garden bed, deep pots with well drained sandy or loamy soil or in hanging baskets. Keep snails away from them and don’t damage the tap root when it is time to plant them out. Have fun.