Perennial flowers may not bloom their first year, but if you have the patience to wait, you can fill your garden for a fraction of the cost of buying mature plants. Annual flowers will bloom right on schedule, and many of them will even seed themselves, so you'll only have to plant them once to receive years of beautiful blooms. If you've been dreaming of nonstop color, pick up some seed packets, and get started with the tips below.
Growing Annual Flowers From Seed
Annual flowers are the backbone of billowy cottage gardens. Many annuals will seed themselves, so all you have to do is leave the flower heads on the plants at the end of the season. They will eventually drop seed, and the seeds will weave themselves throughout the garden with a little help from the wind. You may sometimes end up with too many seedlings in one spot, but they should be easy to pull or transplant.
Keep in mind, annual flowers tend to grow quickly, so even those you direct sow outdoors in the spring will flower at their usual bloom time or very soon afterward. Just about any of the annuals that self-sow are good candidates for starting from seed, either indoors or direct sown.
Growing Perennial Flowers From Seed
After your perennial flowers are established, they will begin blooming and grow larger every year. In a few years' time, you'll be able to make even more plants by dividing the ones you have.
How to Speed Up Seed Starting
Not all seeds know it's time to sprout just because they're planted in soil. Some need a signal that it's time to germinate, either from a change in temperature or moisture levels, or an increase in light. To trick your seeds into germinating sooner than they might typically, you can use one of the below methods:
- Winter sowing: To sow your seeds in the winter, you'll want to start them outdoors while the temperatures are still frigid. Not all seeds can survive freezing temperatures, but there are some that need the freezing and thawing action to break dormancy or to crack their hard coverings, including heartier vegetables like broccoli, beets, and carrots.
- Scarification: Seeds with really tough or thick coverings (think: apples, nasturtium, and false indigo) can take forever to germinate. Scarification (nicking them or rubbing them with sandpaper) can help give them a jump start and speed up the process a bit.
- Stratification: Stratification is a way to simulate the warming and cooling conditions seeds would be privy to if left in their natural environment through the winter. It's especially useful for people in zones that don't have a long enough (or cold enough) winter for their desired plant, as well as any gardener looking to harvest delicate perennials like delphinium and violets, which will germinate more seeds if they're put through the process.
Starting Seeds Indoors
If you have a short growing season or are just impatient to see those late-blooming flowers, starting seeds indoors can help move things along. To do so properly, you'll need to know your last frost date, as your seed packets will note which varietals can be successfully started indoors (not all seeds transplant well) and the proper time frame. To start seeds indoors, you'll need potting mix, something to plant your seeds in, and a way to keep them moist. Your supplies can be anything from paper cups or paper egg cartons and clear plastic bags, to tiny pots, peat pots, or seed-starting trays with a clear lid.
Some seeds may require hardening off (exposing to cool temperatures) before planting outside, but this will be noted on the seed packet if required.
Growing a Wildflower Garden
There's a certain storybook quality to a field of wildflowers, and many gardeners are drawn to them for their natural, organic look. If you plan to start your own wildflower garden from seed, know that it is not as simple as picking up one pack of wildflower seeds. A wildflower garden is an ecosystem unto itself that includes perennial native plants, grasses, and self-sowing annual flowers. They require a lot of diligence to become established and regular maintenance and renewal to keep them looking good and prevent them from becoming weedy.
Prepackaged wildflower seed mixes are a great way to start off your garden. The label will list how wide of an area the package will cover, and some larger bags may even come with fertilizer and mulch mixed in with the tiny seeds.
You'll need to keep your eye on the wildflower area for balance between species (overseeding the species you want, annually, can help). Any perennials in the mix may not sprout the first year. Weeds will want to encroach while the area becomes established too, so you'll need diligence in your efforts to pull those. Just remember, the results of your efforts will be well worth the work to establish the wildflower garden.
Collecting and Saving Seeds
Cultivating a long-blooming garden has another perk. At the end of the season, you can collect seeds from your plants to sow the following year. You just have to wait until the seeds or seed heads ripen. Harvest them by tapping the seed heads and having the seeds fall from them into a brown bag, or by snipping off the seed heads whole. Ensure they're dry before putting them in labeled envelopes to store for the following year.
Remember that hybrid plants will not grow the same as their parent plants (a pink flower may get you red and white plants the next year, for example), but heirloom self-pollinated plants will grow true (just like their parents).
If you already have enough of your existing plants and want something different, either swap seeds or start the seedlings next spring anyway and swap them with friends. Look for seed swaps in your community, at public gardens, or online, or start one of your own.
Source from Thespruce
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