Hi Janet & Steve,
Can you name some perennials that are simple to grow
from seed? I don't want to fuss with freezing seed or waiting
around forever, just want to have some fun and grow some from seed.
Which do you suggest? - J. J. -
We decided to ask professional growers
for their recommendations, and came up with the
list of easy-grow from seed perennials, below. (We've also
added this list to our perennial lists page where you'll find
other aids for choosing perennials.)
Thanks for asking, J.J., because this project was fun at every
turn, starting with the reminiscing involved. It took us and te
growers we polled right back to our first years of growing, because
it turned out there is no better way to recall the simplest than to
think back on what we first had in abundance in our own gardens.
Those tended to be the species that had started so readily we'd
ended up with extras. Since no one who grows from seed can bear to
throw away a seedling every extra or unsold plantlet goes out into
the grower's own garden.
We polled this group and compiled one list from their
- Karen Bovio
of Specialty Growers in Howell, MI
- George Papadelis of Telly's Nursery in Troy, MI
Thele of Sage Advice Nursery in Keego Harbor, MI
- Erma Rhadigan of Ray Wiegand's Nursery in Macomb,
Bennerup, first part of this "gang" when she owned Cheryl's
Gardens in Milford, MI; now with Sunny Border Nursery in Berlin,
Connecticut (and helping us help you with the Secrets workshop
- Karen Wendland of Shady Lane Greenhouses, Menominee Falls,
- Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nursery, a leading-edge wholesale
"Can you name four or five easy-seed perennials we can list in
an article on GardenAtoZ.com?" All of these folks could quickly
name four or five. We'd expected that, and to hear some repetition
between them. However, we didn't imagine we'd have a
nearly-unanimous number one pick: Coreopsis.
Cheryl Bennerup sums up our joint perspective on this topic:
"Your question was an excellent one and I had a lot of fun
with it. I wrote down my own list and then asked Pierre
(Bennerup)..., our grower Sarah, our grower and propagation manager
Jan... and wow, what a list we created"
Karen Bovio also contributed lots of practical how-to for seed
starting in Growing Perennials from Seed. Her
Specialty Growers website is chock full of this kind of help; we're
very glad to be able to feature her here, too. Many thanks for that
The growers' picks for
easy-to-grow perennial seed
The perennials below are quick to germinate (usually within 2
weeks) and do not require stratification (alternate freeze and
thaw) or scarification (manual breaking of a hard seed coat, such
as by abrasion, sanding, or nicking). We include notes regarding
preferred site and hardiness: Sun, part shade, whether EDR
(excellent drainage required) and USDA hardiness zone number.
For more about an individual perennial including use and care
advice, follow the link from the plant's picture or name, or type
its scientific name into our Search field for more articles.
(We're still creating all the
individual perennials' pages,
and forging these links as we go. Bear with us --
tell us which you most want to see, perhaps by
Sponsoring that page!)
Below: Right to left, aster, balloon flower, bee balm,
Below: Left to right, Blanket flower, butterfly weed,
catmint, perennial bachelor button, columbine.
bells (Heuchera sanguinea); Part shade to sun, Z3.
Note: All the new varieties with colorful leaves are not only
complex hybrids but patent protected, yet we still love the
delightful green-leaf, red flowered species, do-able from seed. *tiny
- Coreopsis. Lanceleaf tickseed
(C. lanceolata) mouse ear tickseed (C.
auriculata) and others. ; Sun, Z4. Many hybrids and varieties
sold at garden centers can't be grown from seed but for each of
those there are a half dozen tried and true varieties that can be
- Daisy (Leucanthemum
species); Sun, Z3
- Delphinium (tall Delphinium
elatum); Sun, Z5
- English daisy (Bellis perennis); Sun to part shade, Z4
(not pictured here)
- False indigo
(Baptisia australis); Sun, EDR, Z3
Below: Left to right, coral bells, Coreopsis,
daisy, delphinium, false indigo.
Below: Left to right, foxglove, gayfeather, goldenrod,
hollyhock, leopardsbane, leopardplant.
- Lychnis species (such as Maltese cross
L. chalcedonica or scarlet campion L. coronaria);
- Meadow rue (Thalictrum
species); Part shade to sun, Z4
- Mullein (Verbascum
species); Sun, EDR, Z5, *tiny
especially Chrysanthemum species; Sun, Z5
other violets (Viola x wittrockiana is the traditional
"pansy" but many other Viola species are fun and easy to
grow from seed); Part shade to sun, Z5
Below: Left to right, scarlet campion, meadow rue, mullein,
mum, downy violet.
- Pigsqueak (Bergenia
species); Sun to part shade, Z3
(Dianthus species, especially sweet William/D.
barbatus); Sun to part shade, EDR, Z4, *tiny
(Papaver species); Sun, EDR, Z3
- Primrose/Cowslip (Primula
species); Part shade to sun, Z5, some Z3
- Purple coneflower
(Echinacea purpurea); Sun to part shade, Z3
Below: Left to right, pigsqueak, pinks, oriental poppy,
primrose, purple coneflower.
Below: Left to right, sage, shooting star, swamp
* Tiny indicates tiny seed. Although it germinates
quickly it can be tricky to handle. See Karen Bovio's advice for sowing
Dianthus for help sowing tiny seeds.
Cheryl Bennerup adds: "...once (perennial seeds are) germinated
or nearly all germinated they should be... kept on the cooler side
not the warmer side. Not too cold where you end up having to deal
with botrytis but not necessarily super warm like many think it
would be." One way to accomplish this is to move the flat of
just-emerged seedlings outdoors into a cold frame such as shown
Below: Some of grower Barry Glick's cold frames at Sunshine Farm & Garden in
Renick in the zone 5 hills of West Virginia. Covered with glass or
plastic but without supplemental heat (heating cables or manure
would make it a hot bed) a cold frame holds enough warmth
from the ground to keep seedlings from freezing -- even in March or
April -- but allows them full sun. The result: stocky, vigorous
More seed-starting information in these related articles:
Concerns 555: Simple seed sowing, great for kids in late
Concerns 505: Special tricks for seed starting, Norman
Deno's fine book
Concerns 504: Poppy from seed, as an example of cold
What's Coming Up 159 pp. 7-8: The straight scoop on
growing hardy hibiscus from seed: Go for it!
Coming Up 79: Notes about seed germination requirements,
and learning about Tom Clothier's great seed information website