Perennials include some of our best-loved plants and are great value, flowering every year with minimal care.
But buying enough to fill a border can be expensive so it’s worth growing some from seed.
Most can be sown throughout spring and summer but, for a chance of flowers in the first year, they must be sown in early spring.
They’re ideal if you don’t have a heated greenhouse because most don’t need extra warmth to grow once seeds have germinated.
When buying seeds look out for those listed as flowering in the first year because a few don’t bloom until plants have experienced a cold winter.
These include most foxgloves and sweet Williams and aquilegias. Among the easiest to grow for flowers the first year are agastache, achilleas, hollyhocks, delphiniums, dianthus, lavender, monarda, Iceland poppies, penstemon, platycodon, verbena and verbascum.
Most don’t need high heat to germinate and 15C (60F) is usually sufficient.
Use clean, multi-purpose compost for seed sowing and clean trays and pots to prevent fungal diseases.
Once they’ve been transplanted they should be kept free from frost but can withstand cooler temperatures than most bedding plants.
They can then be planted out in spring, before tender bedding plants.
Step by step
- Fill trays or pots with good quality multi-purpose compost, level and firm by watering the compost thoroughly.
- Sow seeds thinly over compost. Sow in several pots or cells to prevent seedlings being affected by damping off.
- Cover seeds lightly with compost or Perlite if they like light to germinate. Label pots, including the sowing dates.
- Place trays in a propagator or cover with a plastic lid to maintain moisture. Keep the compost evenly moist.