Thursday, June 05, 2008

Perennial Garden from Seed

The perennials I am growing from seed are doing beautifully. I lost one salvia and one verbana since transplanting into the garden, but I blame the neighbor cat who decided to use this new garden as his bathroom. Blasted cats ...

It still looks kind of strange to have a large plot of dirt with some teeny little plants poking up, but they are growing a lot faster than I had expected.

new perennial garden

The verbana is already blooming!

lavender verbana

I also noticed an evening primrose in bloom last night. I just can't believe how fast these plants are progressing.

Here is a list of the perennials I sowed in February for this bed:
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Verbana
  • Coreopsis
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Ruber
  • Evening Primrose
I purchased the seed packets from the Jesse Israel Garden Center. The verbana, coreopsis and evening primrose have been the most vigorous, although the verbana were painfully slow to germinate and the evening primrose had a shaky start in the garden. The salvia had a high germination rate, but also a high damping off rate (while still indoors), which was disappointing. The coneflower and shasta daisy have performed satisfactorily both in germination and in the garden. The ruber has been the hardest to grow. The germination rate was low, the damping off rate was high, and they have been very fickle in the garden.

If I had to recommend just one perennial to grow from seed from my experience, it would be coreopsis. The seeds germinate and grow quickly, and they are very drought tolerant. Also, they are easy to find at any garden center.

Growing perennials from seed is intimidating to many people, but honestly, it is not that difficult. You can sow them in individual peat pots or in a tray of potting soil. Just be sure to keep the soil moist but not water logged (it is best to water from the bottom), and keep them in a warm location out of direct sunlight until four true leaves form. Some people place their seed trays on top of the refrigerator to absorb the heat emitted from it. I place mine in front of a window with the shades drawn. I also use a clear plastic cover on top of the tray to create a mini greenhouse. This helps preserve moisture and keeps it warm inside the germinating tray.

Before transplanting your seedlings into the garden, be sure to harden them off over a week or so by placing them in filtered shade for a couple hours each day and eventually moving them to direct sunlight for the entire day. You want to slowly acclimate the tender plants to the harsh conditions of the sun so they are not fried up by sudden exposure.

It's fun! Give it a try. Seed packs are pretty inexpensive, and it's so rewarding when you see that first little seedling emerge from the soil! Just give them lots of TLC, but don't suffocate them with worry :)

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