One of the best ways to fill your garden with color is to grow summer flowers from seed. Growing flowers from seed is cheaper than buying plants, and you’ll also find a greater variety of flowers if you grow them yourself.
This is a long post so grab a cup of coffee and buckle your seatbelts.
Create a drift of flowers wherever you want.
When I start annuals and perennials from seed, I can plant a drift of flowers wherever I want them, especially for those flowers I start indoors or in the greenhouse. This gives me greater freedom, and it’s cheaper than buying transplants although I still buy transplants, especially perennials. You can grow many perennials from seed too, but it takes a bit longer. You might not get flowers until the second year.
Flowers grown from seed are pollinator magnets.
Because these flowers are grown from seed, they are also pollinator favorites.
In order to attract a pollinator, a plant either needs to have nectar or pretend to.
Flowers that need pollination will usually be high-nectar or high-pollen plants. Plants that require insects or birds for pollination usually do not cause hay fever. Wind-pollinated plants like the dreaded eastern redcedar or ragweed cause allergy problems, not beautiful flowering plants.
I get so irritated at antihistamine commercials that make beautiful flowers look like the offenders. How rude!
Here are my summer-blooming, seed-sowing favorites.
- Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth. We recently highlighted this fabulous plant on the Gardenangelists’ episode: Throwback to the 90s and more gardening ideas where we talked about dried flowers. The QIS series of gomphrena is my favorite hands down. Botanical Interests has QIS Fiery Sunrise Blend. If you want the ever-popular ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena variety, you’ll need to buy several packets of seed. It is a low-producer of seed which makes it very expensive.
- Saliva farinacea ‘Victoria Blue.’ This variety of salvia is super easy to grow from seed, I think that’s why it is such a perennial favorite at garden centers. If you want a swath of plants, grow them from seed instead of buying transplants. My friend, Wanda Faller, used to border her sunny beds with ‘Victoria Blue,’ and it was eye-catching. You can get seed from Johnny’s Selected Seed.
- Verbena bonariensis, Brazilian or South American verbena. It can be direct sown in the garden, but I like to start it indoors. Later, I scatter the plants around the garden like so much purple confetti. If you don’t heavily mulch your garden, it will multiply year after year. I mulch too heavily for that.
- Rudbeckia hirta varieties. All of the seed sown black-eyed Susans are great to start indoors. They aren’t as simple as some flowers to start, but they will produce flowers in the first year. I like ‘Cherry Brandy,’ ‘Indian Summer,’ ‘Irish Eyes,’ ‘Prairie Sun,’ Sahara mix, and Cherokee Sunset mix. One of the cool things about the mixes is you don’t know what you’ll get.
- Zinnias. An obvious choice. You don’t have to start them indoors, but you can if you want. Getting them up to size before setting them outside does seem to stop the birds from eating them before they get past their seedling stage. I love the Queen Lime series of zinnias, and I’m growing them as a mix instead of the individual colors this year. I also suggest the Oklahoma series because they are so beautiful and are mildew resistant. However, in the Oklahoma series, I like separated, individual colors as I hate that school bus yellow in the mix. I’m a big fan of Oklahoma Carmine, Oklahoma Salmon, and Oklahoma Pink.
- Cosmos. Like zinnias, cosmos seeds should be direct-sown after our last freeze date. In central Oklahoma, the last average freeze date is usually mid-April or April 20. However, we are occasionally tricked, and I’ve seen a freeze as late as May 1. What does that mean? Watch the forecast and don’t hurry the process. Favorite cosmos varieties in my garden are ‘Apricotta,’ ‘Capriola,’ the Velouette Blend, and ‘Rubenza.’
- Nicotiana alata, N. langsdorffii, or N. sylvestris, flowering tobacco. Whichever type you want to grow, these should be sown indoors under lights or in the greenhouse. I’ve grown all of them.
The perfume of flowering tobacco as the sun sets is one of the garden’s dearest pleasures.
Sunflowers. I sow sunflower seeds directly in the cutting garden. This summer, I’m also putting dwarf sunflowers in my potager. I think they will be beautiful with the lavender, and this sunflower garden is in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
If you want pollinators on your sunflowers, be sure to choose seeds that have pollen. Many sunflower varieties are pollen less because they are easier to use in bouquets.
By growing sunflowers from seed, you can create your own sunflower symphonies, and frankly, sunflowers are awesome.
There are many other flowers you can grow from seed, but these are pretty simple and a good place to start. I hope last night was our last almost-freezing-low temperature, and we get some rain soon. That will make our spring last longer, and our summer gardens sing. Have a great week everyone!
Thanks for all the tips. I am overun with seedlings as I got very excited about starting seeds. Now can you help me with the cold wet weather here in Indiana??
Really enjoyed this post, Dee, as always. I am going to try some celosia from seed this spring. Haven’t had it for a few years. You know my verbena bonariensis also comes back from the roots. So many great plants and so much to do but I love it. Have had a couple unexpected delays but still working on my website. Slow but (hopefully) sure.?
Hang in there Janet. It takes time to build a website and keep it going. I’m actually growing some celosia too. All-America Selections sent me some seed, and I’ve got it going in the greenhouse. We’ll see if it takes off in time to plant it out. My verbena also comes back from its roots a lot of the time. I just want more of it. I want drifts of color. We’ll see if I can make that happen. Happy Spring!~~Dee