About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Perennial Flowers from Seed

One of the advantages of growing perennials from seed is you get a lot more bang for the buck.  Even small starter perennials you get at Colemans's, Alexander's or the Farmer's Market will cost $1.50-$3 per plant.  Large perennials cost $5 to $15.  The big ones make sense if you need instant results - like you're trying to sell your house - but growing plants from seed allow you to be much more extravagant in how many plants you use. 

Another advantage is the selection.  GeoSeed offered 8 different kinds of Primula acaulis this year, and that is besides the other 21 varieties they are offering of other species.   I chose Danova and paid $5.35 for a packet of 100 seeds.  They came up like radishes and I ended up having to thin them out.  Even after doing that I had 28 primrose plants for $5.35.  Of course, I am  not exactly sure where I will plant 28 primroses, but it is a nice problem to have and they only need to be about 8 inches apart so I will come up with something.

Danova seedlings sown on January 30th
Danova primroses
There are disadvantages to growing perennials from seed.  With many perennials you want a clone of a specific plant, not a seed grown strain.  For example, bearded iris, peonies and daylilies are almost always sold as clones of named varieties.  These plants will be exactly identical - your 'Festiva Maxima' peony will look exactly like every other 'Festiva Maxima' in the entire world. 

Many other perennials such as dahlias, hardy asters, echinacea, hellebores, and hardy geraniums are available as both seed strains and particular clones. Whether or not this matters depends how similar the seed strains are to the named clones and how fussy you are about obtaining a particular plant.

Some plants are also not really worth germinating from seed.  For example, I love bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) but they are available everywhere for very little money.  The seed is difficult to germinate without stratifying it outside for months and they self sow quite readily outside so you soon have more than you need.

Lisianthus at Two Months

Here is a picture of how the lisianthus look two months after they were sown.  Much bigger than the head of a pin but compared to the speed many other things grow they are creeping along.  The biggest ones are about the diameter of a quarter, maybe a bit larger.

Fairly soon I will transplant them into small liners (72 cells per flat) and eventually they will go into larger liners (36 cells per flat).