We’ve made no secret that we intend to start more of our annual flowers indoors, under lights, to set in our landscapes once temperatures cooperate. And as we were putting together a list for an impending order, we realized that we should also consider the flower seed we’ll order to sow directly in the ground.
Direct seeding works well in places like borders or other patches where a number of plants are desired. And the best flowers for these borders are ones that germinate and mature quickly like cosmos, zinnias or marigolds.
Here, in Montana, where winter runs late into spring and summer jumps up suddenly, it might be well into August before any flowers we direct sow will show blossoms. That’s why we’ve previously bought a lot of annual starts in years past and will be raising most of our own indoors this year. Why raise our own? We want to make sure that both the plants and the soil they come in meet our rigorous organic standards. Most nursery plants don’t.
At Planet Natural we offer a wide selection of heirloom flower seeds that are sure to brighten any landscape. From amazing asters to unusual zinnias, we’ve got the one-of-a kind flowers you’re looking for. Best of all, we ship them FREE! Need advice? Visit our flower guides for tips and information on growing specific varieties.
The idea is to get a jump with flowers we’ve started indoors or maybe get going in the greenhouse and then have a rush of color when our direct sown flowers start to take over just when we need them.
But which ones?
The one disadvantage that we see with direct-sown flowers is that they have to be thinned. Spacing is very important, not only in encouraging plant growth but also in encouraging blossoms.
If you live in warmer valleys, in the midwest or almost any region other than Montana, there are many flowers you can sow directly into beds with great results (in fact, many will do well in various parts of Montana). In addition to the popular ones we named above, we’ve known folks to have success with spider flowers and baby’s breath, California poppy (especially) and nasturtiums. We grow lots of sweet peas here in Bozeman — even have a summer festival named for them — as well as sunflowers, another annual that does well not only in Montana (most years) but everywhere.
Both nasturtiums and sweet peas do better when their seed are scarified, or given a nick. Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, also germinate better when scarified. Only 20% of bluebonnet seed germinates when it isn’t scarred.
Some seeds take to fall planting, giving you a head start when temperatures start to rise in the spring. Bachelor buttons and delphinium or larkspur seed can go into the ground during the fall in many areas beginning in zone five and six. They’ll germinate and show some growth before cold weather sets in. Mulch them well and they’ll be ready to go in March. If it hadn’t been for that early cold snap, I think you could have gotten away with fall sowing of some members of the Centaurea family here in Bozeman.
Some seed, like zinnia who need sunlight, get special treatment when planted. You won’t want to cover them with soil. But then, it’s too early, at least here in Montana, to start thinking about that. For those who do want some background, here’s good advice on annuals to sow directly in the ground, thanks to Iowa State University extension.