Seed catalogs are out, (check our post on our seed catalog recommendations) and soon dedicated gardeners will be choosing what plants to grow this year from seed. We have some choices that make the experience a lot easier, with less frustration than you may have experienced if you have tried to grow plants from seed before. Choosing plants to grow from seed can be hit and miss, especially for the novice. Some plants are extremely difficult even under professional growing standards. However, luckily, there are many great garden plants that are easy to start from seed, either indoors, or outside after the last frost. I am sticking to flowering plants for this one, as vegetables are a whole new subject…but just for the record, except for tomatoes, most common veggies are easy to grow from seed! Here are TGG’s picks for the top plants you can start from seed this Spring! All our selections below are from Park Seed, and can be ordered from their site.
Annuals to Start from Seed
I am starting with the category of annuals. Annuals are plants that flower or fruit and then die in one season. They can be some of the easier plants to grow from seed. Many of them can be planted directly in the ground after the last hard frost, and don’t need an indoor seed starting set up. (Which really isn’t that hard, but does take some room. See our post on indoor seed starting.) You can find out the last frost date for your area by going to the National Climatic Data Center. Remember, these are just averages, watch your local conditions and forecasts. Here are our top annuals to grow from seed… all of these can be directly planted in the garden after frost, unless otherwise noted. However, for earlier blooms and fruit, you can start them indoors ahead of time. Sometimes I start them just a week or two early to give them a head-start, but I don’t have to create a lighting set up, and it takes up all that room for only a short time.
Cosmos – Tall flowering plant, with large daisy like blooms that go all summer. Great for cutting, don’t like to be transplanted so better direct sown. Full sun to partial shade. These look best used in broad swaths of color. They reseed readily, which I love. Purples, pinks and whites. Not very drought resistant, but not water greedy either. Do well in poor soil. Basically, you could toss out a handful of these, water in and wait! That easy!
Nasturtium – Great for spilling over containers. Yellow, orange and creams in a flowering plant, that is edible as well! Prefers some afternoon shade in hot climates. Some people like to soak the seed in water overnight, then direct plant in the ground, cover with a light layer of soil and water. Some great new varieties avaiable!
Sunflowers – I don’t even have to tell you how to plant a sunflower, but did you know that there are many, many different varieties? Dwarf or tall, bushy shrub like plants, or the more traditional stalk. Colors from bright yellow, to wine, to white. Large heads to dozens of tiny flowers. Pull out one of the garden seed catalogs we recommended, they all have great choices!
Annual Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) – Grow an ornamental grass to update your garden! This one has narrow leaves and grows about three feet tall and two wide. It may reseed. Sun.
California Poppy – Another one that is as easy as tossing onto some soil and watering in! Although I grew up in California and have fond memories of the bright orange blooms and ferny foliage along roadsides and highways early every summer, you might want to grow my favorite, California Poppy Rose. Pink in color, almost as easy to grow as the orange. Sun, drought resistant. Perfect for a cottage style garden.
Finally, who could leave out the old fashioned, but well loved Zinnia. Great for cutting, easy to grow from seed, pretty in the garden. Make sure you don’t water in the evening, as they can be prone to mildew. Keep cutting them and you will keep getting blooms! My fav is Zinnia Envy, a green variety that looks fantastic in any floral arrangement, and freshens the garden. Looks great with white.
Perennials to Start from Seed
Perennials are flowers that bloom and grow each season, only to go dormant in the winter and come back each spring. These usually bloom a little less than average the first year grown from seed. You can get a jump on the bloom by starting them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. However, these picks can be direct sown outdoors as well, and enjoyed season after season. Have patience with them ,while they will reward you with blooms the first year, it will be year two and three that they fully come into their own. This can be the most economical way to start a garden, so have fun with this!
Yarrow – Easy to grow from seed, yarrow gives you broad heads of blooms all summer long. Yellow, pinks and red varieties are available. Drought resistant. Ferny foliage looks great in the garden. Cut back after flowering to encourage re-bloom. Make great dried flowers.
Coneflower – Coneflower has become the trend plant the last few years with dozens of new varieties appearing on the pages of the catalogs. Originally a wildflower of the prairie states, it is tough, disease resistant, easy to grow and gives you some gorgeous flowers heads, many of unusual shape to add to your garden form. My fav? Last year we grew Pow Wow Wildberry…love it!
Coreopsis – More daisy like flowers, but on compact plants… and they bloom their heads off! work great in containers as well. Yellows, pinks and bi-colored, great in a hot border.
Pinks (Dianthus) – Pinks are charming, low growing cottage style flowers, that blanket the ground with pink, red or white blooms. Easy to grow from seed, some varieties bloom all summer, others give you one spectacular bloom in late spring. Some are fragrant, and all are beautiful! Tough little plant, likes some afternoon shade and even watering.
Shasta Daisy – Big, gorgeous white flowers all summer. Can be direct sown outdoors after frost, but they need light to germinate, so just press into soil and water, don’t cover. Old fashioned favorite that is practically care free. Cut flowers back when they get ragged to keep it blooming all summer.
Those are our top picks for best plant to start from seed, so this year, get a plan going! And plant those seeds!Image Credits: Park Seed