This is the ideal month to sow seeds of winter bedding plants to produce vigorous, young plants that are raring to establish in autumn so they perform to their best throughout late winter and early spring. The benefits of growing them from seed are cheapness, particularly if you need a number of plants, and the opportunity to specifically choose tones for colour themes with spring bulbs, such as tulips or hyacinths.
Winter pansies, wallflowers, forget-me-nots and sweet Williams have all become staples of the latewinter to spring garden. Although used as annual bedding, in reality they're either biennials, flowering in their second year, or short-lived perennials, but as their performance often diminishes with age they're normally discarded after flowering.
Most varieties are adaptable, growing in a wide range of soils in sun or part shade, although wallflowers prefer drier, freedraining soils in full sun, sulking with wet roots and a shady position. Sow seed in trays of compost, then prick out into modules, which makes them easier to grow on and plant out, rather than using lots of little pots.
Most seeds need light to germinate so lightly cover with compost or Vermiculite and place in a well-lit position in a wellventilated greenhouse, cold frame or sheltered position outdoors, but shade from hot sun. Keep seeds moist at all times to aid germination and establishment. Prick out when seedlings are large enough to handle using a general purpose, peat-free compost and water in.
Grow on and provide plants with a liquid feed. Pinch out growing tips of pansies and wallflowers if they become leggy to stimulate bushy growth. Plant out in late summer or early autumn, positioning plantlets between bulbs before they're planted so you get evenness of coverage and bulbs aren’t swamped.
Be a winter pansy winner!
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Be a winter pansy winner!
Sow seed in trays in bright light, keeping compost moist.
Prick out into modules and grow on, feeding seedlings monthly.
Plant out in their final positions in late summer or early autumn.
Sweet William - Biennial or shortlived erect perennial. Dense heads of blooms in red, pink and white. Available from: www.mrfothergills.co.uk Tel: 0333 777 3936
Winter pansies - Sort-lived perennial with colourful blooms. Use varieties for winter displays. Available from www.kingsseeds.com Tel: 01376 570 000
Forget-me-not - Annual or short-lived spreading perennial in blue tones, as well as pink and white. Available from www.chilternseeds.co.uk Tel: 01491 824675
Wallflowers - Short-lived, upright, shrubby perennial in rustic red, bronze, orange and yellow tones. Available from www.suttons.co.uk Tel: 0344 326 2200