Growing Seafoam

About Growing Seafoam For Model Trees and How to grow seafoam, Teloxis Aristata, for your own model trees.

A complete seed to tree guide for Seafoam or Teloxis Aristata. Included is a complete video series and text guidance.

Complete Growing Seafoam Video Tutorial Series

This series show you how we grow seafoam in a small patch in our garden, on our balcony and window sill.  It is a continuing series that we grow as we get requests from our visitors for information.  If there is information that you would like to have, contact us.  And if you would like to be notified when we add a new video, subscribe to our video channel.  You can do that through any of the videos below.


What Is Seafoam

Seafoam is a tumbleweed that is native to the Gobi Desert.

It is used in floral arrangements and by architects and other modelers to make realistic trees, bushes and flowers for their scenic renditions.

The plant having spread naturally or through intentional introduction is now well established throughout Europe and temperate parts of Asia.  It also grows in North America, Japan, and Italy.

It is of the Genus TELOXYS and Species Aristata

It grows well in worn out, dry, sandy soil. The initial growth rate is slow.  But as it approaches maturity it grows explosively.

The plants generally grow to 35 cm, sometimes shorter and sometimes as tall as 40 cm.

When mature (after growing for 4 to 5 months) the plants turn a red to reddish brown and are covered with many hundreds of minute seeds.  On gram of seeds is made up of about 9,000 seeds.

As a tumbleweed it is a prolific and aggressive self-seeder.  It is considered a pernicious weed and is banned in many regions.



Seeds are surface germinators.

In the wild, seeds lay on the soil surface over the winter and germinate without having to have been covered.

Some growers germinate seafoam seeds on paper. Others in seed trays on potting soil.

Best germination occurs when the seeds have been subjected to freezing temperatures for at least one month.

They germinate anywhere between 1 and 7 days when kept in the dark at 15 degrees Centigrade.

If the seed tray used for germination is covered, after germination, the cover should be removed. Keeping the seedlings covered in sunlight will cause them to get “leggy”.

KNO3 can be useful.


In What Regions Can Seafoam Be Grown

Considering the regions in which it has now established itself, one can say that as long as the climate is temperate and there is plenty of sunlight, there are few places that it cannot be grown.

Sunlight is the key to success. You can compensate for temperature and sunlight by growing indoors under grow lights.

Being a high value cash crop, growing in a greenhouse, can be profitable.


Why Is Seafoam So Popular Ang Modelers

Seafoam can be used to make a wide variety of trees that are incredibly realistic. In some cases the sprigs from the plant can be trimmed and then immediately have flock applied. In other cases, sprigs can be modified to make other types of trees.

For example, the image on the left shows a line of trees that require some special work with seafoam to form the armatures, but the end result can be quite stunning.

Trimmings, broken and small pieces make all sorts of bushes and flowers. Some modelers achieve a more bushy effect by adding static grass to the tips of the pieces.

The thickness of the trunks of prototype trees, when scaled to model size, of course, is greater than that of the seafoam sprigs.  To get around that modelers add pieces to plastic, wire, or wood armatures.

Modification does not stop there. Sprigs are combined to make multi-trunk trees.


Why Do So Many People Grow Their Own

Price is probably the main driving factor. It is incredibly expensive for a modeler to buy enough seafoam to make all the trees that you need.

It is important to have enough similar sprigs to be able to make the proper trees for a particular scene. The yields from a small patch of seafoam are so great that the modeler won’t run into this problem.

All in all, it is almost a no-brainer for a modeler, who needs more than just a few trees, to grow his own.

And for the few who are of the entrepreneurial bent, they grow extra to pay for their model supplies. Considering the demand and price, they actually do quite well.


Is It Difficult To Grow Seafoam

No.  It is a naturally growing, naturally self-seeding and self-spreading weed.  It spreads so fast and easily that in some areas it is banned.

All that one has to do is duplicate what is done in nature.

In the fall or early spring, one need only spread seed on a garden area and let nature take its course.

One can also go through the routine of starting seedlings indoors and later moving them to a growing area.


What Is Needed To Have A Successful Crop

Regardless of how one starts the seeds, the key to success is to be sure that the plants must grow in full sun.

If you grow seafoam during the fall and winter, you may need a grow light to get well developed plants.

There are other things that will help.

Seedlings planted with undisturbed root systems grow best.  Growing them in a seed tray, using a fork to move the dirt cube with the seedling to a plastic cup and then cutting that cup apart so the entire soil lump can be planted without disturbing the roots.

The most import soil quality is that it is well drained.

Mulching to  hold down weed competition and keep soil moist has been found to be effective.  Grass cuttings, mulched leaves or hay are fine.  (Put hay and leaves through your lawnmower to chop them fine and make them easy to handle.) Black garden plastic also works fine.  Cut holes and plant seedlings in the holes.


What Is Best Way To Germinate Seafoam

This pile of seafoam plants started with seedlings from 3 mini-greenhouse seed trays.

Such trays make it easy to control humidity, temperature and light.

Tray plugs can be removed using a fork without damaging the root system. So when the seedlings grow to about 2 inches tall,  the plugs can be moved to plastic cups for further development.

When the plants develop their first true leaves you can start the hardening off process. (See Below)

Keep the plants in the cups until they are about three inches tall.  By that time the root systems should be developed enough that you can transplant the seafoam without damage to the system.

Moving the plants to their permanent growing location requires care.  A hole sized larger than the cup should be dug.  The cup should be cut away from the dirt within.  The entire clump of dirt should be inserted undisturbed into the hole no deeper than the top of the dirt that was in the cup.

Cut cups and plant entire cup contents without disturbing root system.

Water and let nature take its course.  If the weather is particularly dry, water occasionally.


Hardening Seafoam Seedlings

When plants grow in their natural habitat, they grow a film that protects them from UV light.

When grown indoors, that film does not develop.  So before these plants can survive outdoors, they must be slowly introduced to UV light which introduction process is called hardening off.

The process is

Day 0: Start hardening off seedlings when they’re a couple inches tall with their first set of true leaves.

Every day, as soon as your seeds germinate, brush your hand back and forth across the seedlings. Brushing seedlings with your hand helps them develop stronger stems.

Day 1: If temperature above 60 F and little or no breeze, set the seedlings outside in partial sun for 2 to 3 hours.

Day 2: Set the seedlings outside in partial to full sun for 3 hours.

Day 3: Set your seedlings outside in full sun for 4 hours.

Day 4: Set your seedlings outside in full sun for 5 to 6 hours.

Day 5: Set your seedlings outside in full sun all day.

Day 6: Set your seedlings outside all day and all night.

Your seedlings are hardened off and can be transplanted to their permanent location.


Post-harvest Processing

The mature seafoam plant will be a jumble of branches that are covered with hundreds of seeds and some leaves.

Start by carefully cutting the main branches from the root.

Examine each of those main branches and further separate into smaller branches that themselves will be trimmed and fashioned into trees, bushes and flowers.

Gently rub each piece to remove seeds.  Don’t crush the plant.  When the piece is put to its final use, the remaining seeds will be removed.

Gather all the seeds and chaff and put into a container to dry. The seeds and chaff will be separated after the mixture is thoroughly dry.

At this point to preserve the seafoam, some people spray  (submerge) each of the branches with glycerin and hang them to dry.

Others simply put the branches aside to dry.  When they finally fashion the branch, they use a coating of solvent based paint to both color and add a preservation coat of paint.

Finally, some spray (submerge) each branch with a mixture of pva and water instead of glycerin and then spray with solvent based paint.


How To Save Seafoam Seeds

When seeds are removed from seafoam branches, chaff comes along for the ride.

Everything should be put into a container and allowed to thoroughly dry.  This eliminates the weight that any moisture adds to chaff and makes it easier to remove the chaff.

There are two methods that work well.

Method one entails putting the dry mixture into a tray.

Blow air across the top of the tray. The chaff will lift and blow away from the tray. Tilting the tray so the seeds roll to one edge helps.  And be careful that airflow is not so high that it lifts seeds as well.

Method two entails putting the mixture into a bowl and blowing down into the bowl.


About Growing Teloxis Aristata / Seafoam

The branches of Teloxis Aristata aka seafoam make incredibly beautiful model trees. Beyond that, they are very easy to make.

You can uses seafoam to make many types of trees and bushes.  Our seafoam series of pages and videos will show how to make different bushes and trees as well as how to use it in other ways.

Though in some places in the world it is a pernicious weed, to buy Teloxis Aristata branches for hobby and architectural use in horribly expensive.

Growing your own is easy and inexpensive.

Why Teloxis Aristata Is Particularly Important To Modelers

Model train layouts are normally under treed. A small layout often needs a 100 or more to look realistic. A large layout needs a thousand or more.

And layouts really need a variety of types of trees.  Seafoam satisfies this requirement as well.

The cost of buying ready made trees and seafoam in such quantities is typically a budget breaker.

The cost advantages of buying some seeds and growing your own quickly becomes apparent.

A half gram of seeds will start you off with many thousands of trees.

Actually a single well grown plant with yield about 5 to 10 large trees plus many small trees and small pieces that can be used for bushes or branches on wood, wire or plastic armatures.

Ten plants can easily be grown on a window sill.  And, for that matter, grown all year round.


Where To Grow

Since plants should be spaced about 7 inches apart you  can grow enough for a small home layout in a couple of planters that you keep inside on a window sill or outside on a balcony.  A 2 meter by 2 meter patch in a garden will yield a huge crop. You can see how this is done in the videos above.

poor soil for seafoamThe plants like full, all day sun.  In the winter, you can grow them either on a window sill that faces the South or under a grow light.

They are native to the Gobi desert where they get little rain and grow in a worn out sandy soil.  They end their growing season as a tumbleweed that spreads the thousands of seeds each plant develops.

They will grow well in potting soil.




Getting Started With Teloxis Aristata

Teloxis Aristat SeedlingsWe recommend growing seedlings and transplanting them.

Seedlings are best started indoors in a simple seed tray.

Click to read a complete guide to Germinating Seafoam Seeds




The Growing Period

seafoam gardenPlants take about 5 months to mature. That means if you grow them outdoors, typically from May to September.

But if you grow them indoors, you can grow them all year round.

As they mature you will see black seeds develop. The plants will turn various shades of red.

When they stop growing, they are ready.

Pull them out by the roots. Seeds will fall off in the process. so to save the seeds immediately put them in a nearby box. Those that make it to  the ground will provide you with  next year’s crop.  They must not be turned under.  Just let the soil be as it is, except for any necessary weeding.

Here is more information on  Harvesting And Preserving Seafoam

To Get Started

Get a half gram of the  seeds that we have used in this series here.

And a detailed germination guide is here.

This link will take you to a step by step guide on making seafoam trees.  How To Make Seafoam Trees.   

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