SOME TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL
GERMINATION AND SEEDLING GROWING
The seed packet will give you some basic germination information. However, I hope to give you some other information which may be helpful. If you are seasoned in germinating perennial seed and growing seedling plants, then this information may not be useful to you.
I do not recommend sowing perennial seed direct to a garden or flower bed location. You may be very disappointed, with little success unless you start with freshly harvested seeds which naturally self sow. Some annuals also are not candidates for direct sowing.
First, if you do not have plant grow lights, or a greenhouse, do not start your seed too early. Most of my seed packet start times, if indicated, are if indoor lights are available. (If you are starting your seeds in the summer, you will be able to move them outdoors once germination begins.) Your plants will not grow properly indoors in a windowsill or near a window (although some herbs will). (You could make your own plant grow light stand if you choose. That information is currently on my website.) Therefore, if you do not have plant grow lights, or a greenhouse, once germination begins, you will very soon need to place your plants outdoors in a sheltered location where constant sunlight and the wind will not shrivel your seedling plants. Perennial plants are best grown in containers until they are rooted enough to withstand the harsher conditions in the ground and with full sun. Most seedling plants, even when planted in the ground, need watered regularly until they are established.
I have found it best to purchase a good seed starting mix such as Jiffy or Sunshine Grow mix which can be purchased at Walmart or a local nursery. Regular soil or bagged potting soil does not work very well and you will decrease seed germination and increase the risk of loss of your seedling plants.
Most seed starting mixes are fairly dry. I start most of my seeds in small styrofoam cups that are used by restaurants for to-go salad dressing. That way I don't have to use a lot of seed starting mix at first. (I do not use this method if the plant resents handling and transplant.) I wet a small bucket of mix just slightly so that it is not powdery dry. I stir it around with an old wooden fork (or whatever). I then fill my styrofoam cups with the mix and I then sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the mix and gently press the seeds into the mix. Many seeds do best if surface sown and not covered at all. If they do need covered, I sprinkle over them seed starting mix to whatever amount required and gently press down a bit more. I then water very gently from the top (which many would say is incorrect - - but I have good success) until moist but not soggy. If you happen to get too much water, punch holes in bottom of your container if it doesn't already have holes and let drain very well. I then place my container in a sandwich baggie. (If you use a large container, you would probably have to use a gallon size freezer bag - - or cover container with plastic wrap and use a rubber band to hold on the plastic wrap.) This keeps the mix moist so that you do not have to water. If you feel like you will remember to keep your seeds moist, you would not need to use this method. If you will be watering to keep your mix moist, then I suggest misting with a spray bottle if seeds are very small.
I use small containers to begin with for my seed germination because several times when I began starting seeds I sowed them one or two seeds in 2-1/2" to 3-1/2" containers and had very little germination, so I had quite a waste of seed starting mix and space. Therefore, I prefer to start many seeds in one small container and as soon as they are large enough to handle, then transplant them to larger individual containers or cell-packs.]
Once you see that the seeds have begun germination, immediately remove the baggie if you are using that method. You may keep your plants very near (they may get too hot if placed on the windowsill) a window for a week, but not much more than that. When a plant becomes spindly or leggy from a lack of required light, they do not grow on well. You will need to keep rotating your seedling plants while they are indoors as they will grow/lean toward the sun.
Once the plants are large enough to handle, usually at least two true leaves, then you can pot them up to individual containers. Grow on outside in a sheltered location in their individual containers until they are rooted enough to plant in the ground.
Many of the larger seeds, I start with the paper towel method. (This method works well for seeds such as asclepias, hollyhock, amsonia, cephalaria, daylilies, iris, hibiscus and others.) I take one heavy sheet of paper towel and fold it at least twice, usually three times. I try to fold it where I can easily open it after it is wet so that I can view the seeds. I then wet the paper towel to moist, but not soggy. I place the seed in between the layers of paper towel. I start checking the seed at the approximate begin germination date. It is best to label the date you start your seeds. Styrofoam cups and baggies are fairly easy to write on with a Sharpie marker or such. Once I see a seed forming a root, I remove it from the paper towel / baggie. Because I start so many seeds, I use the 3-pack cell containers for my seedlings at first and then move them up to a 3-1/2" container for sales or later planting. (I have planted some perennial seedlings after well rooted, direct from the 3-pack cell containers to the ground with good success. For annuals, if seed is not direct sown, I always pot up to 3-pack cell containers and nothing larger.) You can usually find flats for sale at your local nursery that have the 3-pack cell containers in them if you choose to use them. I fill the containers with good seed starting mix and wet them down good and let any excess water drain. I then use a knife to slice a hole in the potting mix the approximate size of the seed to the depth of its root so that the seed will be covered slightly. (If the seeds are more rounded, you could use a twig or something like that to make the hole.) I then insert the seed and use my fingers to push the hole closed around the seed. If you don't have plant grow lights, the seedlings can be left indoors near a sunny window for a short while. It is best to move your seedlings outdoors to a sheltered location or into a cold frame (or a greenhouse if you have one). If you don't have a cold frame or greenhouse, you don't want to have to move your seedlings outdoors when the weather is still real cold. [Cold frames can be easily made with 2"x10" or 2"x12" boards covered with plastic and placed in a location with filtered sunlight.] IF YOU ARE STARTING YOUR PERENNIAL SEED IN SUMMER, it is best to have a cold frame to winter your seedling plants their first year. Otherwise it is best to mulch completely your young seedling plants with a very light airy material such as oat or wheat straw or pine needles, or cover them with remay.
Remember that some seed requires a cold period before germination. Others require fluctuating temperatures for germination, therefore for those, outdoor conditions are required. Some seed requires light for germination, which is usually (but not always) indicated by surface sowing the seed. Others may require total darkness for germination.
WINTER SOWING:Great success can be had from winter sowing. My idea of *winter sowing* is to sow your seeds in a large container and place the container in an outdoor sheltered location (that receives natural rainfall), in late winter. For some less hardy seeds, fall or early winter would be too soon as the seeds may actually freeze out during winter if you are in a colder growing zone.
I hope this information has either given you help or your own ideas. Best wishes for your seed germination and growing success!
If you have any questions: