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Best expert advice on growing flower seeds

It’s enormously satisfying to sow your own flower seeds and watch them bloom. Whether you want to grow annuals, perennials or a mixture of each, we’ve brought together this wealth of independent, expert advice to help you succeed. These articles, videos and Instagram posts provide some great tips on the best flower seeds to choose, along with sowing and growing advice to fill your outside space with scent, interest and colour. 

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Best advice on easy-to-grow flower seeds

Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic Mix’ from Suttons
Sow aquilegia seeds for a striking spring flower display
Image: Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic Mix’ from Suttons

Not only is it really economical to grow flowers from seed, it’s also a fun way to introduce children to the delights of gardening, according to Catherine at Growing Family. In her useful guide to 12 easy flowers to grow from seed she selects a mix of annual and perennial varieties that aren’t ‘time-consuming or fiddly’, including cornflowers, California poppies, morning glory, nigella and zinnia.

Becky at Sow Much More shares a stunning photo of marigolds she has grown by scattering seed in her vegetable patch. As well as being colourful and really easy to grow, she loves them because they bring wonderful benefits to the garden as companion plants, repelling invasive weeds and insect pests like greenfly, black fly and whitefly.

If you’re after a really unfussy but striking perennial to grow from seed, then the spring-flowering aquilegia, aka columbine, ticks all the right boxes, according to Carol, The Sunday Gardener. She says these tough little plants germinate easily in pots or seed trays in an unheated greenhouse from late winter onwards. Plant them out any time in the growing season and they will thrive without attention. And their delicate double or single flowers come in a lovely range of shades.

Best advice on growing annual flower seeds

Nasturtium seeds ‘Dayglow Mix’ from Suttons
Not only are nasturtiums easy to grow from seeds, their edible too
Image: Nasturtium seeds ‘Dayglow Mix’ from Suttons

Everyone has their favourite annuals – plants that germinate, flower, produce seed and die, all within one growing season. Sue at The Bridge Cottage Way reveals her choice in an excellent article: In Praise of Nasturtiums. She grows them from seed in the greenhouse from early spring and fills her hanging baskets with seedlings. The bees flock to harvest nectar from their flowers, while Sue taps into the free food offered by their leaves, flowers and seed pods.

As his blog name suggests, The Propagator enjoys growing flowers from seed. In his entertaining post, Stuff I’m Growing from Seed – 2021, JJ reveals that his selection of annuals includes climbers (like cup and saucer vine), morning glory, black eyed Susan and sweet peas, as well as reliable favourites for the border such as cosmos, cornflower, marigold and the brilliant pink Malope Trifida Vulcan. After mixed germination success with climbers, this year he decided to start some of them off in an indoor propagator.

Hema at Grow with Hema likes all the annual flowers she grows from seed to be edible. Her pick of the flower crop features nasturtiums and French marigolds, but she’s also a huge fan of the bee magnet and pest-repelling calendula. Hema says their beautiful flowers are good to eat and their petals can be dried and used in cooking instead of saffron.

Sunflowers are always popular annuals to grow from seed. Hayley at Hayley’s Lottie Haven has some great advice if you want your sunflowers to keep blooming. Deadhead your main sunflower from each plant as soon as it’s past its best. That will prompt the side shoots to start producing a succession of smaller flowers for you to enjoy through the summer.

Best advice on growing perennial flower seeds

Poppy seeds “Amazing Grey’ from Suttons
This unusual poppy fills your beds and borders with silvery grey flowers
Image: Poppy seeds “Amazing Grey’ from Suttons

Every garden or vegetable plot needs flowers, according to Claire of Claire’s Allotment. Apart from being lovely to look at, they attract lots of pollinators and the vital predators that feast on pests. Claire’s very helpful video on sowing perennial flower seeds runs through the process as she sows aquilegias, alyssum, armeria, delphinium and alstroemeria in March. She says you can sow directly outside, but she prefers to start them off in the greenhouse.

Elaine at The 3 Growbags reminds us that it’s important to check the seed packet for instructions when sowing perennial flower seeds as some have quite quirky individual preferences. Delphinium seeds, for instance, germinate better if you keep the seed tray in the fridge for three weeks, then bring it into a temperature of 15-21C. She sows hers in winter in the greenhouse so they’re well established for summer flowering. 

For more unusual flowering perennials to grow from seed, Mandy at Mandy Can U Dig It has drawn up a helpful list of favourites that she’s sowing this year. They include the ‘Amazing Grey’ poppy with its shimmering silvery blue single and semi-double flowers for a gorgeous display in containers and patio pots. She also suggests sowing the woodland native dodecatheon which produces flowers with distinctive backward-facing petals, the very striking echinacea ‘Doubledecker’ and the Himalayan native inula grandiflora, or Georgian fleabane, for its woolly buds and spider-like yellow flowers.

For a hardy perennial that’s really heavenly to look at, Kirsty at Get Planting recommends sowing Himalayan blue poppy seeds. Native to high altitude, with summer monsoon rains and heavy snows in winter, she says it can be a little tricky to get the sowing and growing conditions right. She recommends storing your seeds in the fridge and sowing them between December and February. Just look at her stunning harvest!

Best flower seeds to sow in summer, autumn and winter

Lupin seeds ‘Russell Mix’ from Suttons
Some bloggers sow biennial lupins in early autumn to give them a good head start
Image: Lupin seeds ‘Russell Mix’ from Suttons

Spring is the traditional time for sowing most flower seeds, but Erica of Erica’s Little Welsh Garden believes in sowing perennial flower seeds in early autumn so her plants are well established before she plants them out. Her informative video shows how to sow seeds in September, which is generally a quieter time on her two allotments. Her key focus is on the biennial lupin, but she also sows rudbeckia, aquilegia, campanula and hollyhocks, reckoning to see them all in flower within a year.

Pansies are lovely, cheerful, easy to grow biennials and perennials that brighten up containers and borders all year round. Two Thirsty Gardeners Rich and Nick – big fans of no fuss gardening – advise you to sow pansy seeds in June and July in a tray or seed bed. They should germinate within a week or two, ready to plant out in late August or early September for an autumn and winter display.

As one of her great top ten seed choices Katrina at Homegrown Garden picks out a very special pansy called ‘Frizzle Sizzle Raspberry’. Sown in summer, she says it will provide a welcome splash of rich pinky red and burgundy colour when all around is mostly brown on a cold November day. 

You can attract wildlife to your garden by setting aside an area for wildflowers, says Louise at Blooming Lucky. In her comprehensive post she explains that autumn is a good time to sow wildflower seeds, whether you go for individual species or a meadow mixture. She advises close mowing and hard raking the area before spreading the seeds.

It’s a great idea to start your sweet pea seeds off in the autumn and keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame over winter, according to Carol, The Sunday Gardener. She finds early sowing creates stronger specimens that have a head start when planted out in spring, producing flowers earlier. A useful trick is to sow your sweet pea seeds in root trainers, rather than the customary cardboard tubes, for extra protection from cold.

Elaine of The 3 Growbags likes to sow some summer flowering plant seeds in January because they can take quite a long time to mature. On her list are pelargoniums, lobelia, petunias, coleus, begonia, snapdragons, Iceland poppies, sweet peas, dahlias and cobaea.

Best flower seeds to grow for cutting and drying

Zinnia seeds ‘Queen Red Lime’
Sowing a cut flower garden is a cost effective way to keep vases full 
Image: Zinnia seeds ‘Queen Red Lime’ from Suttons

Anyone growing flowers for cutting for the first time should check out the top picks for beginners from Claire at Plant Passion. She gives clear, individual guidance for sowing and growing five flowers that are great to cut for arrangements – sweet peas, cornflowers, ammi, scabious and nigella.

Bex of Botanical Tales shares her experiences of sowing a variety of flowers for drying and pressing in her Devon garden. As well as cosmos and zinnia, she chooses to sow varieties of helichrysum, gomphrena, amaranthus, achillea, salvia, rudbeckia, hyssop and loosestrife in the greenhouse in April.

Cosmos can make lovely cut flowers. Rebecca at My English Country Cottage prefers to sow cosmos seeds directly into the soil once the risk of frost has gone. She makes a trench with her finger, then sows the seeds two to three inches apart, covering them with a thin layer of soil and watering very lightly.

Ambitious Hayley at Hayley’s Lottie Haven is growing all her wedding flowers from seed. Covid restrictions have delayed the event itself, but her great results are evident in a practice-run photo of Hayley proudly clutching a gorgeous bride’s bouquet, packed with home-sown and grown flowers and foliage.

Sow early enough and you can cut stunning flowers in early summer, says Julie of Peonies and Posies. She shares her image of a lovely jugful of assorted annual flowers, sown in September and picked in June – her earliest harvest ever. Some were sown in trays in the greenhouse and some outside in a dedicated bed, protected by a fleece tunnel.

The perfect cut flower for Adrienne at Wild About Gardening is a bold and fragrant wallflower like ‘Fire King’ or ‘Blood Red’. In her inspiring article on creating a cutting patch, she talks about sowing plenty of wallflowers – yellows, reds, oranges and pinks – in early summer for a fantastic show the following spring. She also recommends sowing snapdragons, nicotianas, rudbeckias and cosmos as half-hardy annuals that will give you cut flowers for four months of the year.

Armed with such a rich range of tips from the experts, you can look forward to some blooming wonderful results, no matter how large or small your garden. The really difficult bit will be choosing from the dozens of flower seed varieties available. Happy sowing!

Lead image: Echinacea ‘Sundress’ from Suttons

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