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20 Great Perennials to Start From Seed

Save money and get a lot more plants by sowing these garden staples yourself

Perennials are the workhorses of most gardens. They reliably return, year after year, and bulk up relatively fast. Perennials can be pricey, though, especially when compared to many annual plants, which only last for one year. A good way to save money and get lots more plants is to start perennials from seed. Not all perennials are easy to grow from seed, however. The following list offers a large sample of plants that are almost foolproof for the beginner and advanced gardener alike.

Perennial flax

Name: Linum perenne

USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 9

Size: 6 to 24 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 20

Germination conditions: Sow seeds indoors, and alternate temperatures between 55°F and 70°F six to eight weeks before the last frost. Or sow outdoors in cool soil in spring or fall.

Growing instructions: Plant or thin seedlings to 12 inches apart in full sun and in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. The plant doesn’t like to be transplanted, so do not disturb it once established.

Seed note: Allow seed heads to develop and dry on the plant. Collect and remove the seeds from the chaff, and store.

Perennial flax

 

Purple coneflower

Name: Echinacea purpurea and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 9

Size: 2 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 20

Germination conditions: Sow outdoors in spring or summer at least two months before the first fall frost. Start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Cover seeds with ¼ inch of soil.

Growing instructions: Plant 18 to 24 inches apart in full sun to partial shade and in deep, well-drained, rich soil. Deadhead regularly to maximize bloom production.

Seed note: Dry seed heads are prickly; wear gloves, or roll the seeds out between two pieces of paper.

Purple coneflower

 

Balloon flower

Name: Platycodon grandiflorus and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 15

Germination conditions: For summer blooms, start seeds indoors, uncovered, six to 10 weeks before the last frost. For blooms the following year, sow outdoors in spring or summer at least two months before the first frost.

Growing instructions: Plant 12 to 18 inches apart in full sun to partial shade and in rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil.

Seed note: Allow pods to ripen on the plant. Break them open to collect seeds, and store.

Balloon flower

 

Lupine

name: Lupinus spp. and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 30 to 36 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Days to germinate: 20 to 25

Germination conditions: Nick, then soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. It’s best to direct-sow in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Start indoors four to six weeks before the last frost.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in average, moist soil.

Seed note: Lupine will self-sow. Or you can collect and save the seeds; they can be stored for several years.

Lupine

 

Shasta daisy

Name: Leucanthemum × superbum cvs.

Zones: 5 to 8

Size: 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 14

Germination conditions: Sow indoors, uncovered, eight to 10 weeks before the last frost. Sow outdoors in spring or summer at least two months before the first fall frost.

Growing instructions: Plant 12 to 24 inches apart in full sun to partial shade and in rich, moist, well-drained soil.

Seed note: Allow seed heads to develop on the plant. Remove them before they burst, and set them out to dry for a week before rolling the seeds out.

Shasta daisy

 

Sneezeweed

Name: Helenium spp. and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Days to germinate: 7 to 10

Germination conditions: Direct-sow in spring or summer at least two months before the first fall frost. Indoors, sow uncovered eight to 10 weeks before the last frost.

Growing instructions: Plant or thin to 12 to 18 inches apart in full sun and in rich, consistently moist soil.

Seed note: Allow the seed heads to develop and dry on the plant. Collect and remove the seeds from the chaff. Dry for one week and then store.

Sneezeweed

 

Gaura

Name: Gaura lindheimeri and cvs.

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 14

Germination conditions: Stratify seeds for six weeks before sowing. Start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow outdoors in fall.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in well-drained soil. The plant tolerates heat, drought, and humidity.

Seed note: It is a moderate self-sower.

Gaura

 

Cheddar pink

Name: Dianthus gratianopolitanus and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: Up to 6 inches tall and 16 inches wide

Days to germinate: 7 to 14

Germination conditions: Sow indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Cover with ¼ inch of soil. Sow outdoors anytime in spring or summer at least two months before the first fall frost.

Growing instructions: Plant 6 to 12 inches apart in full sun and in light, sandy, well-drained soil. Deadhead regularly to encourage continuous blooms.

Seed note: Allow seedpods to ripen on the plant. Break open to collect seeds, remove the chaff, and store.

Cheddar pink

 

Catmint

Name: Nepeta × faassenii and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 15

Germination conditions: Sow indoors, uncovered, six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sow outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

Growing instructions: Plant 6 to 15 inches apart in full sun and in average, well-drained soil. It is heat and drought tolerant.

Seed note: Purchase seeds for the best results; saved seeds are often sterile or will not come true.

Catmint

 

Rose campion

Name: Lychnis coronaria and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 28 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 20

Germination conditions: Stratify seeds before sowing. Start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow outdoors in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked.

Growing instructions: Thin plants to 12 to 18 inches apart in full sun to partial shade and in fertile, well-drained soil.

Seed note: It readily self-sows, but unwanted seedlings are easy to pull up.

Rose campion

 

Flowering onion

Name: Allium spp. and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 11

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Days to germinate: 20 to 40

Germination conditions: For the best results, sow outdoors in late fall to midwinter. If you sow in spring, growth may not emerge for an entire year.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in fertile, well-drained soil. When large and crowded clumps fail to bloom, it’s time to divide the plant.

Seed notes: Stratify for four weeks prior to sowing.

Flowering onion

 

Yarrow

Name: Achillea spp. and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 9

Size: 6 to 30 inches tall and 1 to 2 feet wide

Days to germinate: 7 to 10

Germination conditions: Sow indoors, uncovered, eight to 10 weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow anytime in spring or summer at least two months before the first fall frost.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in average, well-drained soil. Avoid overhead watering.

Seed note: It may bloom the first year from seed.

Yarrow

 

Joe Pye weed

Name: Eupatorium spp. and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 11

Size: Up to 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Days to germinate: 12 to 20

Germination conditions: Sow stratified seeds indoors, uncovered, alternating temperatures between 70°F and 85°F eight to 10 weeks before the last frost. Outdoors, sow in early spring through fall at least two months before the first frost.

Growing instructions: Full sun is best, but the plant tolerates partial shade and loves wet soil.

Seed note: Plants grown from seed can flower in the first year.

Joe Pye weed

 

Coreopsis

Name: Coreopsis grandiflora and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 18 to 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 15

Germination conditions: Start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow in spring to midsummer at least two months before the first frost.

Growing instructions: Place 12 inches apart in full sun. The plant tolerates humidity, poor soil, and some frost.

Seed note: Harvest individual seed heads as they dry on the plant. Roll them between your fingers to extract the seeds.

Coreopsis

 

Anemone

Name: Anemone spp. and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 9

Size: 1 to 5 feet tall and up to 20 inches wide

Days to germinate: 21 to 28

Germination conditions: Rub fresh seeds with dry sand to remove the coat of fuzzy hair. Stratify seeds for eight weeks, then sow seeds indoors five to 10 weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow fresh seeds in late summer for blooms the following year.

Growing instructions: Plant 6 to 15 inches apart in full sun to partial shade and in moist, well-drained, rich soil.

Seed note: Some hybrids may not come true from seed.

Anemone

 

Blanket flower

Name: Gaillardia × grandiflora and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: Up to 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Days to germinate: 10 to 15

Germination conditions: Sow indoors, uncovered, six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sow outside in spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Growing instructions: Plant 8 to 15 inches apart in full sun and in light, sandy, well-drained soil. It tolerates heat and drought.

Seed note: Harvest individual seed heads as they dry on the plant. Roll them between your fingers to extract the seeds.

Blanket flower

 

Hardy ice plant

Name: Delosperma cooperi

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: Up to 6 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Days to germinate: 25 to 35

Germination conditions: Sow indoors, uncovered, five to 10 weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow in early summer after all danger of frost has passed. Indoors or out, germination is slow and erratic.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in normal, well-drained soil. It tolerates heat and drought.

Seed note: Seeds are dustlike, and it might be helpful to mix them with a fine talc to facilitate distribution when sowing.

Hardy ice plant

 

Butterfly weed

Name: Asclepias tuberosa and cvs.

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: Up to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Days to germinate: 15 to 20

Germination conditions: Sow seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost; cover seeds ½ inch with soil, and alternate temperatures between 70°F and 85°F. Sow outdoors in spring or summer at least two months before the first frost.

Growing instructions: Plant 8 to 12 inches apart in full sun and in light, sandy, well-drained soil. Due to a long taproot, it doesn’t handle transplanting well.

Seed note: Gather seeds by picking an entire seedpod just as it starts to break open. For the best results, plant the seeds immediately after you harvest them; dried seeds have a poor germination rate.

Butterfly weed

 

Delphinium

Name: Delphinium cvs.

Zones: 3 to 7

Size: Up to 5 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches wide

Days to germinate: 7 to 14

Germination conditions: Sow seeds indoors, covered, five to 10 weeks before the last frost. Sow outdoors in spring or summer at least two months before the first frost.

Growing instructions: Plant 1 to 3 feet apart in full sun to partial shade and in rich, loose soil. Water regularly.

Seed note: Seeds do not live long, so do not save them.

Delphinium

 

Cushion spurge

Name: Euphorbia polychroma

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: 12 to 15 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Days to germinate: 18 to 25

Germination conditions: Place seeds in a bag of soil, and put it in the refrigerator for six weeks before sowing. Start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Direct-sow in late fall or early spring.

Growing instructions: Plant in full sun and in average, well-drained soil.

Seed note: It readily self-sows. Seedlings can easily be dug up and transplanted to a new location; the sap, however, can irritate skin and eyes.

Cushion spurge

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