Gardens don’t have to be expensive. Here are several flowers to grow from seed. All can be sown directly outdoors too. Many of them come from cottage gardens or your grandmother’s garden, and there’s a good reason. They are almost all self-sowing and easy to grow. If you have decent soil and can scratch a little of it away to plant your seeds, they’re that easy. If you want to know more about starting seeds indoors, please visit my other blog, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide because I’ve posted a lot about indoor seed sowing there. These seeds are in no particular order as to favorites. I like them all and plant them every year. These flowers are also high in nectar and pollen if you plant older varieties. That means your garden will be full of butterflies and other pollinators too.
1. Sunflowers–when my children were little, one of the spring projects every year was to sow a sunflower seed in a cup. All of those concentrating and hopeful little faces as kids stuck their fingers in the soil and gently dropped a sunflower seed. Then, they took a handful of soil to cover their “babies.” Later, those same faces became less hopeful when their mothers transplanted young sunflowers into the garden. Either from lack of water or transplant shock, their once robust plants often died soon after. Sunflowers don’t like transplanting. Sow them directly into the soil where they will grow with abandon. As young plants, they are easy to damage. I know a few of these small sunflowers survived, but many didn’t, and it was a first garden attempt and failure.
Let’s scatter sunflower seeds outdoors for our children, grandchildren and ourselves. Maybe even make Sunflower Houses like I did with my children when they were small. Where do I buy my sunflower seeds? Burpee has Strawberry Blonde hybrid seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds has beautiful mixes of sunflower seeds. I like Sun Samba. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds carries heirloom varieties–Evening Sun anyone? Botanical Interests also has great sunflower seed collections including their Elves Blend that would be excellent for a container garden. Or, how about beautiful yellow ‘Mammoth,’ or diminutive ‘Teddy Bear?’ All sunflowers are great. You will probably get some bugs on them though. Some butterflies, like the Silvery Checkerspot will eat them alive. You may need to use a bit of Bt or your fingers to squish some of the caterpillars if you want to save your sunflowers. Or, you can simply relocate any caterpillars to one sunflower as a trap plant. Just watch out for them. Later, when the sunflowers are larger and tougher, caterpillars aren’t a problem.
2. Zinnias–another great plant that just wants a little soil, water and sun is the zinnia. From stately Z. elegans to the smaller ‘Liliput’ and finallly the trailing Z. haageana ‘Aztec Sunset’ ones, zinnias couldn’t be easier to grow. Do they get mildew? Yes, many of the taller cultivars do especially in wetter climates. Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and parts of Arizona can enjoy zinnias all summer long. To hide mildew, I plant something in front of the taller varieties–the same thing I do for roses that get blackspot. The garden doesn’t have to perfect. All I ask is for is for it to be fruitful. Zinnias accomplish that with aplomb. Note the Dreamland Series has excellent disease resistance as does the Zahara and Profusion series. Swallowtail Seeds has 104 varieties of zinnias. Try to choose just one.
3. Amaranth–I know, you’re thinking, that’s a grain. Yes, indeed, it is. It also has flowers before the seeds (grains) come. Grow this for yourself and for the birds. I’ve had great luck with Autumn Palette from Botanical Interests. I also love Amaranthus tricolor which is a whole different animal. You can start these indoors for an earlier start or simply plant them outside. They will cross and reseed with other amaranth.
4. Morning glories—Ipomoea purpurea–I have ‘Grandpa Otts,’ but I really like the true ‘Heavenly Blue’ not to be confused with another weed we have in Oklahoma, bindweed. For something different, why not try Venice Pink or Venice Blue?
5. Cosmos–Taller varieties sometimes fall over on windy days, so I’m going with a shorter variety, ‘Cosimo Purple Red-White.’ That’s not three colors. It’s just a triple play on one bloom. Below is the hybridizer’s photo.
6. Four o’clocks—Mirabilis jalapa–I grew ‘Salmon Sunset‘ last year, and I did start these inside because it takes them awhile to get off from the starting line. They were beautiful in photos, but rather lackluster in the actual garden. I think I would rather grow Marbles Yellow-Red this year.
7. Bachelor’s Buttons—Centaurea cyanus–have the most beautiful silvery foliage I would grow them for that alone. The other plus is you can get ones like ‘Blue Boy’ that are a blue as pure as the Oklahoma sky. But, don’t limit yourself to just blue. Try ‘Black Ball’ for something different. So easy to plant and so worthy of a place in your garden. Hard to take a photo of though. Next to it is Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ another easy direct sow beauty. You can also start them indoors for a head start on summer.
8. Cleome–spider flower–You can go with the tall traditional ones, or you can now get seeds from Swallowtail Seeds for the smaller cleomes in the Sparkler series. Guess which ones I’ll be planting this year. It’s Sparkler Blush for me, or wait, maybe the combo. I love that rose shade too.
9. Gomphrena globosa–also sometimes called bachelor buttons–can be started inside or planted directly outdoors. Last year, I started QIS Purple and Pink inside and transplanted because I wanted blocks of specific colors. You can simply sow them outside if you aren’t as much of a control freak.This year, I’m starting ‘Fireworks’ inside because you don’t get many seeds to take chances. Sometimes, Bustani Plant Farm has the plants, but not always.
10. Calendula. Sow outdoors very early because they like cool weather. However, they are wonderful in the vegetable garden. Eat petals in salads and other vegetable dishes.
I hope this post will help you start some seeds this year. If you do, please comment and tell me which you will grow.