Growing Perennial Flowers from Seed

Tips for Starting and Growing Perennial Flowers from Seed

Perennial flowers in the morning sun
William Walsh/E+/Getty Images

Starting flowers from seed is an easy and inexpensive way to quickly fill your garden with color. Annual flowers are quick to grow and most will start blooming within a few weeks of being transplanted outdoors.

Perennial flowers will require more patience. You can start the seed in much the same way you would start any other seed, however most perennial flowers will not bloom until their second season of growth.

Since by their nature, perennial flowers are expected to live for several years and to put on a display of flowers that gets better and better each year, these plants tend to spend their first full year becoming well established. That first growing season in the garden, they put their energy into growing roots and storing food, rather than setting buds and flowers.

Don't let that discourage your from starting perennial flowers from seed. It is still a very inexpensive way to get a large number of plants, plus you have the advantage of growing some unusual varieties and colors that are not readily available in garden centers or catalogs.

How to Start Perennial Flowers from Seed

You have a couple of options as to when to start your perennial flower seeds.

  1. If you choose to start the seed indoors, treat them like any other seed. Sow them several weeks before your last frost date (check the seed packet for exact timing) and then move them outside, after your last frost date. Harden them off, before planting.
  1. For plants that don't like having their roots disturbed, like poppies, or seeds that need a period of cold to germinate, like Lupines, hold off and direct sow them in the garden, in early spring. Be sure to mark the spot, so you don't think they're weeds, and keep the area moist while the tiny seedlings mature.
  1. To fool your perennial flowers into thinking they have already been through their first growing season and winter - and trick them into blooming their first year - you can sow the seed in late summer or fall. This will give your plants a head start on the following season. They will have all winter to continue growing roots and they will be ready to bloom the following year. However they may need some winter protection.

One Final Tip

If you have the space, perennial seedlings can be kept in a separate nursery bed for their first year, where you can keep an eye on them and pamper them as necessary. This way they have time to mature and they won't be taking up space in your borders.

At the start of their second year, you can move them to a permanent spot in the garden... and start all over again with new seedlings.

Keep in mind that a lot of newly introduced perennials are hybrids and won't grow true to seed. These plants will have to be propagated by division, not seed. However, if a company is selling seeds of a perennial, you can rest assured that those seeds are open pollinated.