Clear Mountain Garden Treasures

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Turutu, Ink berry

Family Liliaceae
Name Dianella nigra
Common Names Turutu, Ink Berry

Turutu is related to flax, and looks like a miniature flax, growing to only 50cm tall. This easy to grow NZ endemic perennial produces insignificant white flowers, followed by sprays of blue/purple berries in late Summer. The grass-looking foliage has a yellowish-brown tint.

When grown from seed, the berry colour is variable. Keep the plants that have good berry colour and rogue out the rest.


Depth: ¼ cm
When: Autumn
Where: In containers for transplanting later.
The seeds are protected by a hard seed coat and will not germinate until this is broken. Furthermore, there are germination inhibitors that must be broken down by cold weather before the seed can germinate.

Pre-germination treatment:

The seed coat needs to be broken to allow water to soak into the seed. This can be achieved by one of these methods:

  1. Hot water. Pour hot (not boiling) water into the seeds and let soak overnight.
  2. Line the inside of a jar lid with fine sand paper. Put the seeds into the jar, close the lid and shake the seeds. The abrasion will wear down the seed coat.
  3. Very carefully, hold the seed using a pair of needle nose pliers and nick the flat part of the seed with a sharp knife. Be careful that you do not cut too deep into the seed or yourself!

The next step is to introduce a period of cold for the seed. You can let nature do this for you by sowing the seeds into a container of seed raising mix in the Autumn. Cover with a layer of sand. Leave the container to experience the Winter chills and the seed will germinate when the warm weather arrives in the Spring. This process will take 3-5 months.

The other alternative is to place the container into a plastic bag and put the bag into the fridge (not freezer). Check every week. If you see any signs of germination, remove from the fridge immediately. After a month, remove from the fridge to a warm place. The seeds will germinate in 2-4 weeks.

Keep the seedlings in the container until they are large enough to transplant. Once established, they can be gradually introduced to more light.


Dianella can be used where miniature flax or grasses are used. This is a very easy to grow and hardy native plant, with very few problems. Feed once in the Spring with 9-month slow release fertilizer (eg. Osmocote). Use half the manufacturer's recommended rate. Too much fertilizer will encourage leafy growth at the expense of flowers and fruits. It will tolerate a shady spot, but the fruit colour will be paler.







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