Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Grow Plenty of Perennials from Seed

by Susan Littlefield

Did you experience sticker shock when you went shopping for flowering perennials at local nurseries and garden centers this season? Our dreams of a garden overflowing with blossoms can sometimes get dashed when we begin to add up the cost of all those perennials in containers.

Well, for a much smaller investment you can end up with lots of perennial plants if you grow them yourself from seed. Now starting flowering perennials from seed is not always as simple as growing annual flowers and vegetables from seed. The seeds of some perennials may take weeks or even months to germinate, while others may need exposure to cold temperatures before they are ready to sprout. And you may have to wait several seasons before seedlings are big enough to flower. But other perennials germinate readily or with just a little assistance and, depending on when they're sown, you may even get blooms the first season.

Here are some perennial choices that are easy to grow from seed and will add beautiful flowers in abundance to your garden. And now is an excellent time to get them started.

Easy from Seed Perennials

Not all perennials are good candidates for starting from seed. Some need to be propagated vegetatively- by division or cuttings- in order to produce cultivars or cultivated varieties that will be identical to the parent plant. But seeds of the flowers listed below are gardener-friendly. They are easy-to-grow choices that reward a little bit of effort with a lot of garden color.

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) — From summer to frost, the 2-3" gold-petaled, daisy-like flowers with dark centers add easy care color to the garden. Plants grow 25" tall. Direct seed in the garden spring through midsummer.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata) —With its spectacular, 3-4" yellow and red flowers, blanket flower provides plenty of color on 25-30" plants from June to frost. Easy to grow, they can be direct seeded in the garden.

'McKana's Giant Mix' Columbine (Aquilegia) —Large, spurred blossoms in shades of white, pink, violet and blue sway gracefully above a mound of ferny foliage. May be direct-seeded May through July for flowers the following spring.

Sweet William Mixture (Dianthus) — Large clusters of small, carnation-like flowers in a mix of white, pink and red on 15" tall plants add color to a sunny spot and provide blossoms for cutting. Can be direct seeded.

'Russell Mix' Lupine (Lupinus) — The tall spikes of flowers in this fancy mix bloom in pinks, blues and reds in June and July. Adaptable and easy to grow, the seeds of these 3' tall plants can be sown directly in the garden.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) —Blooming from midsummer until frost, this easy to grow perennial bears large, rose-pink, daisy-like flowers. Plants are heat and drought tolerant and have few insect or disease problems. Easy to direct sow.

Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) — Perfect for a sunny spot, these 18-20" tall plants are covered with white daisies with yellow centers in summer. Tolerant of tough growing conditions, their foliage is almost evergreen, especially in warmer areas. Can be direct sown in spring.

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