Fine Gardening magazine

5 Fast-Growing Perennials That Flower Their First Year From Seed

Annuals aren't the only choice for flowers in the year they are sown

by the Fine Gardening editors

Starting your own plants from seeds is a labor of love. While you end up with a multitude of plants that cost a fraction of those you buy in the nursery, you often have to wait two to three years to see the results of your efforts in the form of bountiful blooms. Not the case with these five perennials. They'll bloom the first year from seed. That's almost-instant gratification.

Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis).

Blackberry lily
(Belamcanda chinensis)
In early summer, stems emerging from strappy foliage produce vivid orange, 2-inch flowers speckled with red. Seedheads split open in fall to reveal shiny black seeds.
Garden use: Great vertical accent for softer, mounded shapes. A good companion for blue flowers, or for hot-colored gardens of yellows, reds, and oranges.
Culture: Thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Mulch in cold winter areas. Zones 5-10.
Seed-starting tips: Start indoors 10-12 weeks before last spring frost for earliest blooms. Seeds may take 3 weeks to sprout, but then grow quickly.

Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora).

Blanket flower
(Gaillardia x grandiflora)
Bright, two-toned daisy flowers have red-brown centers and a vivid rim of yellow on the petals. The foliage is rough and hairy. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall by about 1-1/2 feet wide.
Garden use: Reliable though often short-lived perennial for the middle of the garden. Combine with sunny yellow coreopsis, true-blue bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus) or ornamental grasses.
Culture: Full sun. Almost any well-drained soil. Tolerates drought. Self-sows moderately. Zones 3-8.
Seed-starting tips: Very easy from seed. No special treatment needed. Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost. .

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
Gaura is a large, airy plant with delicate, white flowers like a flock of butterflies on slender stems. It blooms from early summer to fall and grows 3 to 4 feet tall by 2 feet wide.
Garden use: Gaura's delicate, see-through quality makes it suitable for the middle or front of the garden. Beautiful with blue Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and pinks (Dianthus spp.).
Culture: Full sun. Absolutely well-drained soil. Thrives in drought, heat, and humidity. Zones 6-9. Seed-starting tips: Seed germinates in about 2 weeks. No special treatment needed. Sow indoors 8-10 weeks before last spring frost.

Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria)

Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria). Photo: Steve Aitken.

Rose campion
(Lychnis coronaria)
Rose campion is a cottage-garden favorite with felted, silvery-white foliage and stems accented in summer by cerise flowers atop the branching stems. The plant grows to 2-1/2 feet tall and 1-1/2 feet wide.
Garden use: Create a cottage-garden jumble with biennial dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis), bachelor's buttons, hollyhocks (Alcea spp.), old roses, and other informal plants.
Culture: Full sun. Rich, well-drained soil. Short-lived, but self-sows to replace itself. Zones 4-8.
Seed-starting tips: Scarify seed before starting indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida).

Black-eyed Susan
(Rudbeckia fulgida)
This familiar, beloved daisy has golden petals and dark, central disk. It blooms in summer and grows to 2-1/2 feet tall and 2 feet across.
Garden use: Indispensable, thanks to its abundant, long-blooming flowers. Combines well with ornamental grasses, blazing star (Liatris spp.), and sunflowers (Helianthus annuus cvs.).
Culture: Full sun. Average, well-drained soil. Drought tolerant. Zones 4-9.
Seed-starting tips: Seed is simple to start. Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost.

Photos except where noted: Michelle Gervais

From Fine Gardening #60, foldout

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