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Coix lacryma-jobi

Coix lacryma-jobi
Job's tears

Common name Job's tears
Family poaceae
Life cycle tender perennial
Flowers green
Size 3-4'
Light sun-part shade
Cultural notes ordinary garden soil, not too dry
From seed Soak, germinate at room temperature or slightly warmer. Scarification may be helpful.
Flowers first year from seed sown indoors early.
detailed seed-starting info below
Seed ripenslate September

The pearly gray seeds of this grass species are used in necklaces. The foliage is like floppy corn, mid-green in color. Flowers arrive early on, although they are easy to miss, being mostly green – the yellow tassels can only be seen when you get up close. Seeds start developing shortly thereafter (by early summer most years, for plants started indoors in March), and continue on through fall. They progress from a lustrous green to black, and finally a shiny gray color. Seeds can be harvested when they are uniformly black – they will acquire their pearly sheen in storage. Seeds that turn white or a duller gray are likely not viable; I used to recommend a float test, but see comment below for experimental evidence that that's not a reliable method of separating viable seeds from duds. Still, obviously light-weight seeds are sure to be non-viable. I've never managed to grow Job's tears as impressive as others do, but most years I got a good crop of seeds. At least, that was the case when I was gardening in Pennsylvania. As shown in one of the photos below, my results in the Houston climate have been decidedly more meager: the plants look bedraggled, and the majority of the seeds are in the dud category. I'll keep trying for a bit: I would have expected good results in our hot and humid climate, so maybe I'm doing something else wrong...

Coix lacryma-jobi
Close-up of the procreation apparatus
Job's tears
Red bits and yellow bits (I'm quite the botanist, don't you think?)
Coix lacryma-jobi
The pearly beads look great en masse
Job's tears
Just starting to burst into growth with the arrival of late-spring warm weather
Coix lacryma-jobi
Lots of duds on our Houston crop

This plant used to grow in our garden, but it slipped away...

Seed for this plant is included on my seed trade list

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Seed-starting details for this plant

  1. Seed from '99/'00 AHS exchange. Soak overnight, cellpack 70F (90%G, 13-15d)
  2. Seed from '03/'04 AHS exchange. Soak overnight, pot 70F (20%G, 15d)
  3. Seed from '04 garden. First attempt: soak overnight, pot 70F (no G). Second attempt: sandpapered a window into each seedcoat, baggy with peat moss 75F (37%G, 8d)
  4. Seed from '05 garden. Nicked, placed in baggy with potting soil at 75F (10%G)
  5. Seed from '07 garden. Determined that only the pearly-gray seeds are viable - black and white ones are not. Nicked individual seeds with a file, baggy 75F (89%G, 7-13d)
  6. Seed from '08 garden. File-nicked, then baggy 75F (78%G, 8-16d)
  7. Seed from '09 garden. File-nicked, then baggy 75F (70%G, 9-15d)
  8. Seed from '10 garden. File-nicked, baggy 75F (80%G, 6-10d)
  9. Same seed as above. File-nicked, baggy 75F (83%G, 6-9d)
  10. Seed from '12 garden. File-nicked, baggy 70F (6d) - 75F (90%G, 3-15d)
  11. Seed from '14 garden. File-nicked, baggy 75F (92%G, 7-12d)

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