Strolling the aisles at the garden center to browse for flowers to plant in the spring is undoubtedly fun, but growing them from seed presents a few advantages. For one, it means you can choose from an abundance of varieties. I make flower lists of seeds, just like I do with vegetable and herb lists. Here, I’ve gathered a few of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. Some are so easy to plant, it literally involves dropping seeds from where you stand in the garden.
I still make some—okay, a lot!—of impulse purchases at the garden center when it comes time to plant up my garden. But I like being able to determine what I want to, so I’m not disappointed if I don’t find what I’m looking for.
The advantages of growing flowers from seed
To me, growing flowers from seed is just as rewarding as growing veggies. I plant them in my gardens, use them in container combinations, and dig them into my raised beds both to harvest for summer bouquets, and to attract pollinators to my vegetables and herbs. Here are some other benefits:
- You get to choose what you grow. You’re not at the whim of what the buyer at your local garden center ordered—though there are many with excellent vision and taste! But you can map out what you’d like and where you’re going to put it.
- Browsing a catalog, you may discover some varieties you’ve never heard of or seen. It’s fun to plant new things.
- You can customize your own plant order. Grow a whole flat of one thing—or a single cell.
- You control everything about your planting process, from the growing medium you choose to how you fertilize.
- You can stagger plantings so that not all of one flower variety blooms at once!
- You can pre-plan your containers because you’ll know exactly what you’ll have in your “inventory.”
- You can determine what grows best in your garden from season to season and tailor your future seed orders accordingly.
Tips for growing flowers from seed
I think the main piece of advice is to read the seed packets carefully. Some seeds benefit from being given a head start indoors, some can be winter sown, while others can be direct sown in the garden, starting in the spring. For the latter scenario, know your growing zone and count backwards from your region’s last frost date to determine your seed-starting timing.
If you’re starting flower seeds indoors, make sure you harden off your seedlings before planting them in their summer destination. Don’t miss this important step!
Don’t forget to deadhead blooms of cut flowers during the growing season to encourage more growth!
The easiest flowers to grow from seed
These are by no means the only easy flowers to grow from seed, but this is a list of blooms I’ve grown myself and have had success with in my gardens over the years.
Zinnias are probably my favorite cut flowers to grow. There are so many gorgeous varieties to choose from, like Queeny Lime Orange and the Profusion series, both AAS Winners. I love planting dwarf zinnias in border plantings, and showy varieties like Oklahoma Salmon that are perfect picks for a cut flower garden. Zinnia seeds can be started indoors or direct sown in the garden once the soil warms up. To start seeds inside, sow them 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date planting the seeds a 1/4 inch deep. Keep the containers beneath a grow light or on a sunny windowsill. When the seedlings are moved to the garden, transplant them in a site with full sun.
Cosmos are another raised bed favorite of mine. I love their delicate-looking wispy leaves that doesn’t seem strong enough to support the blooms. And you can choose based on petal types. I’m partial to the fluted petals of Sea Shells. I’ve had varieties self sow and reappear the following year. I also plant cosmos in my ornamental gardens for that blowsy, cottage garden look. Cosmos seeds can be started indoors or direct sown in the garden. To sow seeds inside, plant them 5 to 7 weeks before the last frost in cell packs or 4 inch diameter pots. I like giving them a head start. When you move them to the garden, select a spot that gets full sun (a little shade is okay) and be mindful of the height listed on the seed packet. You don’t want to plant them in front of anything shorter!
I appreciate a plant that cascades down the side of a pot (mounding types) or that will climb a trellis. Depending on the variety you choose, nasturtiums can fit either of these visual requirements. I love how they look spilling over the side of a raised bed. A lot of them have rounded petals, but I like the serrated edges of Phoenix. For an abundance of blooms, direct sow seeds in full sun around the last frost date.
Sweet alyssum is an annual that I like to purchase in flats. And while I don’t have the space to grow entire trays of alyssum under my grow lights, I can still sow several plants to add to the garden come spring. I plant it as a companion plant in my raised beds, as a filler in pots, and in empty spots at the edge of an ornamental garden. I love how it spreads to fill in spaces. And it’s low-maintenance. Choose a full-sun area to plant your seedlings.
Plant calendula once, let it go to seed, and it’s likely it will come back for you the following year. The seeds are easy to spot and collect if you’d like to plant them in a different garden. Milkweed falls into this category too. Allow milkweeds to go to seed and they’ll basically just do their thing. Or you can winter sow milkweed seeds. If you wish to get a head start on the growing season, sow calendula seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date. Plant the seeds a 1/4 inch deep in cell packs or 4 inch diameter pots. Calendula plants, also called pot marigold, like full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil. And they are drought tolerant and hardy. I’ve seen them shining in my garden in December with a little bit of snow!
The cheerful faces of pansies and violas are a welcome site in the spring. If you think ahead, you can get an early start by growing them indoors—about 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date. Cover the seeds lightly and place the pots or trays in a sunny window or beneath grow lights. And because pansies don’t mind the unpredictable temperature fluctuations of spring, you can include them in a spring-themed container.
There’s a reason school kids often come home with a sunflower in a paper cup: They’re very easy to grow and perfect for beginners! Just dig them into a sunny spot. While I’ve had success growing sunflowers in the garden, they rarely make it unless they are well established from being started inside. Sow seeds indoors just 4 weeks before the last frost date in 4 inch pots or peat pellets. Sow the seeds a 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and give them plenty of light to encourage healthy growth. When I move them outside, I put a cage around the small seedlings until they really get going. I find if a plant is a bit more established because it’s been started indoors, then it has a greater chance of survival around all the critters that frequent my gardens.
I think I like to grow marigolds because their interesting scent reminds me of brushing past them in our side garden as a kid. Again, this is something I would buy a flat of, so I love being able to start some from seed. To start marigold seeds indoors sow in cell packs or containers 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Direct sow in the garden around your last frost date. My favorite in the last few years are the giant pompom varieties. I plant marigolds as border plants in raised beds and the garden.
Petunias are annual flowers I used to be a little fussy about. They were sticky to deadhead and would look very bedraggled by mid summer. But there are some lovely varieties that look so pretty in pots and grow a little more compactly. I often include some in my flower rotation now. Start petunia seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last expected frost date. The tiny seeds need light to germinate and should be pressed gently into the soil mix – don’t bury them. Once the risk of frost has passed, harden off the seedlings and move them to garden beds or pots. Plant petunias in full sun in well-drained soil.
Poppies are like dill. They’re one of those plants that does not like to be transplanted from a pot. And they can be a bit fickle with their germination rates. But if you get a magic packet and they all grow, you’ve hit the jackpot. Poppies can be winter sown. It’s as easy as heading out into the yard in your snow boots and parka, and scattering the seeds in the snow.
More flower choices and seed advice
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