10 Easy Annual Flowers to Start from Seed

Growing These Flowers from Seed Is Fast, Frugal, and Fun

Whether you like to start your flower seeds indoors, or whether you sow them directly in the garden, these seeds have high germination rates and quick maturation rates to bring you armloads of summer blooms in your sunny or shady landscape. These easy annuals include giants for expansive gardens, petite flowers for container gardens, and vines for vertical drama.

  • 01 of 10
    Alyssum
    photographer, loves art, lives in Kyoto/Moment/Getty Images
    Sweet alyssum seeds may germinate in as little as four days, maturing quickly to produce masses of tiny fragrant flowers for your spring garden. Start them indoors a month before last frost, or outdoors after frost. You don’t need to cover the seeds, just sow them thickly and press them lightly into the soil with your finger. Use a spray bottle to keep the seedbed moist until the plants germinate.
  • 02 of 10

    Celosia

    Celosia
    Photo Mike Sutton

    This annual doesn’t enjoy the popularity of sunflowers or marigolds, but its unusual blooms that may resemble brain coral or feathers deserve a featured spot in every sunny garden. Although the seeds are tiny, they have a quick and high germination rate, and the plants may even self-sow in favorable areas. Start the seeds indoors a month before last frost. Sow three to four seeds per pot. Press the seed lightly into the soil to ensure contact, and keep moist.

  • 03 of 10
    Cosmos
    Photo Jamie McIntosh

    Cosmos flowers are as tough as nails from the day they germinate until fall’s first frost. Plant them once, and then watch each year for the ferny foliage that will let you know the plants have volunteered in your garden again. Sow them directly in the sunny garden anytime in the spring; the plants know when to germinate, so these flowers are truly a no-brainer for beginners.

  • 04 of 10
    Hyacinth Bean
    Photo Patti Haskins

    Finally, a beautiful flowering vine that’s easier to grow than a weed! This plant will cover your chain link fence or pergola for the summer, without self-seeding everywhere or becoming a nuisance. Push the plump seeds just under the soil’s surface when day temperatures average 75 degrees F, and keep them evenly moist until germination occurs, about 10 days later. The vines will be a source of interesting pods and flowers for the vase by late summer.

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  • 05 of 10
    Impatiens
    Photo Leonora Enking

    Although impatiens seeds are tiny, avoid buying the pelletized version of the seeds covered with a substance that makes them easier to handle. This coating slows down germination considerably. Impatiens need light, warmth, and moisture to germinate. Sow seeds directly on top of the soil indoors about two months before last frost. The well-branched plants will light up your shade garden all summer.

  • 06 of 10
    Marigolds
    Photo Arty Guerillas

    If you’ve had trouble growing marigolds from seed in the past, try growing some of the French varieties, which are more disease-resistant than the American types. ‘Queen Sophia’ is an All-America winner to try. Seeds germinate in less than a week in warm, moist soil.

  • 07 of 10
    Morning Glories
    Photo Anders Sandberg
    Don’t be intimidated by the hard seed coats of morning glories. Just soak them overnight in warm water, and plant the swollen seeds under a quarter inch of soil indoors two weeks before your last frost. Make sure the transplants have something to cling to when you set them out. Are you a night owl and not a morning person? Just swap morning glories for moonflower seeds and get the same results.
  • 08 of 10
    Nasturtium
    Photo Lori L. Stalteri

    What’s not to like about nasturtiums? They’re edible, they scramble over eyesores in the landscape, they have interesting foliage and brilliant flowers, and they thrive on neglect. The size of peas, nasturtium seeds are easy to handle and plant, but they don’t like transplanting much, so stick them in moist soil in a sunny spot as soon as the danger of frost is past.

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  • 09 of 10
    Sunflowers
    Photo Matthew Mendoza

    There’s a reason these flower seeds are included in every pre-packaged children’s garden kit you’ve ever seen. Sunflower seeds are raring to go as soon as a child’s pudgy finger pushes them into warm, moist soil. These seeds are best started directly in the ground outdoors, as the seedlings get large and gangly fast in a little jiffy peat pot. If you must start them indoors, give them a strong light source to keep them stocky. And, whatever you do, resist the urge to pluck the seed casings from...MORE the emerging seedlings! The plants don’t need this “help.”

  • 10 of 10
    Zinnias
    Photo Amy Ashcraft

    If you like the look of dahlias but don’t want the fuss, grow zinnias. This is the way to go if you want an entire cutting garden of ruffled blooms from one packet of seeds. Zinnias are eager to germinate and perform in your summer garden, but the trick in getting them to grow is to give them warm conditions. They will wither away from damp-off in your cold spring soil! Plant them outside when you set your tomatoes out, when evening temperatures average 60 degrees. You can start them indoors a...MORE month before last frost if you desire earlier blooms.