Southwest Regional Reports

Regional Reports: The Best Perennials to Start from Seed – Southern Plains

Perennials to start from seed

Fine Gardening – Issue 155

1. Hollyhock

Name: Alcea rosea cvs.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9

Size: 5 to 8 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; fertile, well-drained soil

From double- to single-flowering plants, hollyhock is back in fashion. It is easy to start from seed and, once established, will self-sow for years. I grow single-flowering types to encourage more pollinators. There’s nothing like watching a fat bumblebee grab the flower and vibrate pollen from it. Sow seed indoors in small pots, press into soil, and lightly cover. You can also direct-sow in the garden and thin to the strongest plant. Hollyhock can be plagued by rust in moist areas, so keep its leaves dry.


2.‘Burgundy’ blanket flower

Name: Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; sandy, unamended, dry soil; drought tolerant once established

Not your average blanket flower, ‘Burgundy’ is an intense red that holds its color well in a hot and dry climate. The center is dark red with a bright yellow dot. Due to its daisy­like shape, blanket flower is attrac­tive to butterflies and other pollinators. Sow seeds outdoors after frost, or get a jump start on the season and sow seeds indoors five to six weeks before the last frost date. Cover seeds lightly with soil, and keep moist. After plants are 2 inches tall and have two or three sets of leaves, place them outside in full sun in an area with sharp drainage. This plant can be short-lived in some climates.


3. Daylily

Name: Hemerocallis spp. and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 10

Size: 1 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, depending on the cultivar

Conditions: Full sun; moist, fertile, well-drained soil amended with nitrogen to increase clump size; tolerates clay

If you ever wanted to create your own plants, daylily is among the easiest to propagate—hence, the multitude of cultivars (‘Hold Your Horses’, pictured). Buy seeds online, or hand-pollinate by brushing pollen from one flower onto the pistil of another. Once pods turn dark and begin to split, seeds are ripe and ready to plant. Seeds can be direct-sown outdoors in a protected area or grown in starter pots of sterile potting soil, either outdoors in a shaded area or inside under lights. Seeds germinate in about two weeks, but it takes about two years for a daylily to bloom from seed. There is no plant with a wider range of form and color than daylily. The only color it doesn’t come in is true blue.


4. ‘Summer Sorbet’ mullein

Name: Verbascum ‘Summer Sorbet’

Zones: 5 to 8

Size: 2 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; lean, alkaline, well-drained soil

Mulleins can be annual, biennial, or peren­nial. ‘Summer Sorbet’ is a short-lived perennial in our prairie climate, so grow it each year for seeds. Scatter the seeds under lights indoors in January, and place outdoors after frost. Mullein-moth larvae can be a problem early in the season before additional leaves emerge; I pick them off and dispose of them either by feeding them to my chickens or dropping them in soapy water. Deadhead to increase flower spikes. Although seed sources describe the flower color as raspberry with a peach or melon center, I notice a variety of colors, including pale lavender.

Dee Nash is a garden coach, an author, and a grower who specializes in vegetables, roses, daylilies, and other heat-loving plants in Oklahoma.

Photos, except where noted: courtesy of Dee Nash, Michelle Gervais, Jerry Pavia, Bill Johnson

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