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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.

This article was reviewed by the Suttons horticultural team and updated on 27 March 2024.


Best advice on easy-to-grow flower seeds

Multicoloured Aquilegia 'Mckana Hybrids' from Suttons
Sow aquilegia seeds for a striking spring flower display
Image: Aquilegia Mckana Hybrids 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 zinnias.

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 from 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/©Photos Horticultural

Everyone has their favourite annuals – plants that germinate, flower, produce seed and die, all within one growing season. Matt from @museum_gardener is no different, writing that sowing wildflowers is a great way to achieve a cheerful spring display. Out of the annuals, he has enjoyed sowing California poppies in his own garden, which, he says, have been great for filling empty borders while other things get established. Visit his Insta for the gorgeous before and after photos.

Speaking of spring planting, why not take a leaf from @peoniesandposies and plant up a few trays of cosmos each spring? You’ll be glad you did, come the end of summer. As Julie says, while many of her summer blooms are coming to an end, her cosmos is “going from strength to strength, cheering up my borders and providing plenty of temptation for the bees”.

Another favourite for spring sowing and sure to be a great hit with the kids is the bright, cheerful Antirrhinum. Otherwise known as the ‘snapdragon’, this traditional garden favourite is the perfect way to add a splash of annual summer colour to your beds, borders and larger containers. Ella at @ellas_flower_farm says the seeds are “so tiny, but they will grow into a plant nearly half a metre tall!

If you decide to grow Antirrhinums, try this tip from Sophie from @runningwild_flowers. To make her budget go even further, she manages to get two plants from every Antirrhinum seed. How? She simply pinches out the tips of her young Antirrhinums and puts them in water until they’ve sprouted roots and are ready to pot on. See her full post for more.

Best advice on growing perennial flower seeds

This unusual poppy fills your beds and borders with dark purple flowers
Image: Poppy Seeds – Laurens Grape 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 off her seeds in the greenhouse.

Elaine from 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.

One perennial that Kirsty at @getplantinghort says she’s obsessed with at the moment is the gorgeous Echinacea pallida. Not only does it photograph stunningly, but, as Kirsty writes, it’s “one of the best perennials for pollinators and easy to grow from seed.” In terms of growing advice, she says, “echinacea don’t like to be crowded; give them space to establish in your garden and avoid winter wet spots and heavy mulching over crowns in winter.” But choose your spot well, she says, as echinacea doesn’t like to be moved.

Looking for something for the back of your borders? Over at @anya_thegarden_fairy, Anya heartily recommends Verbascum perennials. Anya writes, “we have some large herbaceous borders, and I need a lot of plants. Just one pack of seeds and now probably about 50 plants…They are so lovely and perfect for the back of your border.

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. Here at Suttons, our team of horticultural experts recommends pansies for June and July sowing. In fact, we have recommendations for flower seeds to sow all year round, so make sure you check out our monthly flower sowing pages before you make your next purchases.

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.

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

Colourful zinnia flower seeds
Sowing a cut flower garden is a cost effective way to keep vases full 
Image: Zinnia seeds Molotov Mix from Suttons

I’m beginning to hear soft whispers here and there, whispers of the beauty of dried flowers, murmurs of the positives over their longevity vs fresh blooms,” says Bex of Botanical Tales. If you like the sound of that, head over to her knowledgeable blog, where you’ll find some excellent suggestions for flowers to dry, which include strawflowers, statice, nigella, and more.

Shanna, a dried flower artist from @harebellandbee, also grows statice for drying. She decided to see if her year-old statice seed was viable before planting it into compost. She needn’t have worried. Sown onto wetted paper towels in heated propagators at 100% humidity, it began to germinate within 24 hours, making it a wonderfully reliable option for growing and drying.

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.

Sow early enough, and you can cut stunning flowers in early summer, says Julie of @peoniesandposies. She shares her image of lovely pastel pink early sweet peas, sown in September and planted in her greenhouse in January, ready to be picked for cut-flower arrangements in the spring. Planning really is the key to cutting flowers year-round, folks.

From Achillia to Zinnia, including all your favourite cut flowers in between, here at Suttons, our A-Z of cut flowers lays out your options in an easy-to-read chart with info on when to plant and harvest, plus the main features of each flower option. As a resource, it’s second to none and well worth reading both for its excellent detail and for ideas about what to grow to create the very best home-grown cut flower arrangements.

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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