Think twice before growing these plants from seed

March 3rd, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Leucanthemum 'Goldfinch'

I’ve grown so many plants from seed, over the years. Often, in the peak years, I grew well over a hundred and fifty different flowers from seed each year. And you learn a few things about what to grow – and what not to.

There are two main reasons to think twice about growing some flowers from seed – and I say this writing for a seed company blog! We want you to have the very best, that’s why I’m discussing this.

So, firstly, when varieties propagated by division are so SO much better that the extra cost is more than justified perhaps growing from seed is not such a good idea. And, secondly, when most seeds are stored in a modern and efficient temperature and humidity controlled store, as they are at Mr F, they germinate very well and fairly quickly with the usual treatments.

But some seeds are have special requirements, they’re more particular… They need to be sown fresh and however carefully they’re stored after harvest when they arrive in the post they’re sometimes just not fresh enough – and then they may take months, or even years, to come up. And there are other reasons…

Aconitum
All parts of aconitum plants are poisonous – you wear gloves, it’s that simple. But it’s easy to think that handling the seeds is safe, they’re so small. But some people react badly just to handling the seeds. So think twice.

Coreopsis
Some coreopsis, such as ‘Presto’ and ‘Sundrops’ are superb plants to grow from seed: easy, well-behaved, flowering reliably in their first year, prolific over a long season. But a few, such as ‘American Dream’, are colourful and prolific – but they’re alarmingly vigorous and unless you have plenty of space you’ll regret ever sowing the seed.

Hardy Cyclamen
Fresh seed sown straight from the plant germinates well, seed from a packet… not so much. Soak packeted seed of hardy cyclamen overnight in water – if it floats, add the smallest drop of washing up liquid to break that surface tension. After sowing, keep the seed dark and at a temperature of between 15C/59F and 20C/68F and evenly moist. You might think you’ll be better off buying plants and allowing them to self sow.

Hellebores
Again, fresh seed sown immediately that it’s ripe germinates well a few months after sowing. Packeted hellebore seed needs thoughtful treatment, I outlined the best approach back in the winter.

Leucanthemum (Shasta daisies)
If you’re looking for a traditional Shasta daisy then ‘Alaska’ and the semi-double ‘Crazy Daisy’, are great varieties and easy to raise from seed sown in spring. But recent developments have led to better, more self-supporting plants with larger flowers, new flower forms, and new colours – including yellow – and a longer season. But these are only available as plants. I’d grow these every time and ‘Freak!’ (more fluffy than freaky) and the canary yellow fading to primrose ‘Goldfinch’ are excellent.

Michaelmas daisy
I’d never grow these from seed because although they’re great value at £1.45 for 200 seeds, the many many varieties you can buy as plants, such as ‘Purple Dome’, are so much more dependably impressive. It’s that simple.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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