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14 Best Flowers to Grow From Seed

Erin Huffstetler is a writer with experience writing about easy ways to save money at home.

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The Spruce / Erin Huffstetler

Do you want to enjoy a beautiful flower garden without spending a ton of money? You can save money on flowers for your garden by buying more seeds and fewer plants. Perennial flowers grown from seed might not bloom during their first growing season, so it’s important to have a little patience with them. On the other hand, annual flowers should bloom as they go through their lifecycle over a growing season, and some annuals might even self-seed to grow new plants the next year. Here are 14 flowers that are among the easiest to grow from seed.

Growing flowers from seed allows you to choose from a wider variety than what’s at your local garden center. Peruse a seed catalogue to find numerous options to grow in your area.

Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus)

These blue flowers look like miniature carnations and tend to attract butterflies. Sow the seeds directly in your garden bed after the final frost of spring. Or you can start them roughly six to eight weeks before your projected last frost date, and then transplant the seedlings into your garden once the weather warms. They will flower from mid-summer until the first frost of fall and require very little care from you besides watering during prolonged dry spells. Collect the brown seed pods at the end of the season to plant in your garden the next year.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Blue
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

These blooms are typically a bright yellow to deep orange color, and they make a nice container plant or an edging plant in the garden. Directly sow the seeds in your garden after the last frost, or start them indoors six to eight weeks prior to the last frost date. They will self-seed from season to season. If you live in a hot climate, give your plants some afternoon sun protection, and keep the soil moderately moist. Also, remove spent flowers to encourage further blooming.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Yellow to orange
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Columbine (Aquilegia)

The showy flowers of these spring- and early summer-blooming perennials come in many colors. Allow them to self-seed, and they’ll come back year after year with minimal maintenance from you. Columbine can tolerate a variety of growing conditions, but make sure your plant isn’t sitting in poorly drained soil. Also, if you remove the stems after they’re finished flowering, you can prolong the plant’s blooming period.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
  • Color Varieties: Blue, purple, red, pink, yellow, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Cosmos (Cosmos)

Cosmos make good cut flowers for bouquets, and they bloom all summer long. They’re annuals but typically will self-seed. They’ll even tolerate poor soil, so they’re truly low-fuss flowers. Sow them after the final frost in the spring, or start them indoors six to eight weeks prior to your last frost. Aim to plant them in a location that’s sheltered from strong, damaging winds, and remove the spent blooms for prolonged flowering. However, make sure you leave some of the flower heads if you want the plant to self-seed.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Red, pink, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa)

These flowers grow as perennials in warm climates but can work as annuals elsewhere. Make sure the threat of frost is behind you before directly sowing them in your garden, or start them indoors. The flowers open in the afternoon, hence their name, and they have a lovely fragrance. They bloom from mid-summer to fall and are fairly low-maintenance beyond preferring consistently moist soil. So be sure to water your flowers during dry stretches.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
  • Color Varieties: Pink, red, yellow, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, moist, well-draining

Marigolds (Tagetes)

You’ll have to plant marigold seeds each year because they’re annuals. But they’ll bloom all summer if you keep them deadheaded (remove the spent blooms). Save some of the seeds at the end of the season, and use them to replant the next year. Flowering might diminish during the hottest part of the summer, but it should pick up again toward the fall. If you live in a hot climate, give your plants some afternoon shade, and keep the soil evenly moist.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, gold, red, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Morning Glories (Ipomoea purpurea)

This vine is often grown on trellises or arbors. It is an annual, and when started from seed it can take until the end of summer to bloom. However, if you start the seeds indoors about six weeks before your projected last frost date, they’ll start blooming earlier in the growing season than if you directly sow them in your garden. Once the plant is established in your garden, it will self-seed and come back on its own year after year. Water your plant around once a week to ensure even moisture, and use a low-nitrogen fertilizer monthly or as needed during the growing season.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Blue, purple, pink, red, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, moist, well-draining

Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)

These flowers make a good ground cover for a spot that gets a lot of sun. They are highly tolerant of drought and require little maintenance. They’re even deer-resistant and typically don’t have pest or disease problems as long as their soil has good drainage. Sow your seeds directly in the garden after your last frost, or start them indoors. Expect blooms starting in the summer and lasting until frost arrives in the fall. You can deadhead the flowers to encourage further blooming, or leave some of the spent blooms to promote self-seeding.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Red, pink, yellow, orange, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Poor to average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum)

You can be nasty to nasturtiums, and these hardy flowers will tolerate your neglect. The leaves and flowers are edible and often added to salads. But they’re perhaps more popular as a cut flower because of their lovely fragrance and beautiful colors. Nasturtiums can tolerate poor and dry soil, though you should water them during extended dry spells. And protect them from the afternoon sun in hot climates. Plus, skip the fertilizer, as too much richness in the soil can actually inhibit blooming.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, cream
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-draining

Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum)

These are perennials in some climates with a long blooming period from around July to September. They’re good for flower borders, as well as for use as cut flowers. Plus, they’re efficient at spreading, so you don’t have to plant many seeds to establish a large garden bed. Make sure you have good soil drainage, as soggy soil can be fatal. And remove the spent flower heads to encourage further blooming. Plus, after flowering is complete for the season, cut back the stems to their lowest leaves to conserve the plant’s energy over the winter.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: White with a yellow center
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflowers don’t start blooming until late in the season, usually from around July to August. But when those giant blooms finally emerge, it’s well worth the wait. Plant the seeds directly in your garden after your final frost, ideally in a location that’s protected from strong winds. Seeds started indoors will typically flower at roughly the same time as seeds directly sown in the garden, so there’s really no benefit to starting them early. Sunflowers are annuals, so you’ll need to save some of the seeds to replant the next year. Cover a few of the seed heads with netting, so they can dry out without the birds feasting on them.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, red, brown
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, moist, well-draining

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

These flowers have a lovely sweet fragrance and bloom from around April to June. You can sow the seeds directly in your garden a few weeks before your final frost date, or start them indoors roughly six weeks before your projected last frost. The plants will decline in the summer heat, during which you can cut them back by about half. This might promote additional blooming in the fall. Or you can sow more seeds in August for fall-blooming plants.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: White
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

These annuals are climbers and make nice cut flowers. They do best in cool soil and will decline in hot, humid summers. Start seeds indoors six to eight weeks prior to your final frost date to maximize the plant’s blooming period before the hot weather takes hold. Keep the soil evenly moist via rainfall and supplemental watering. And add compost or fertilizer during the growing season, especially if you have poor soil.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Blue, red, pink, purple, peach, burgundy, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, humusy, medium moisture, well-draining

Zinnias (Zinnia)

These annual flowers can add a lot of color to the garden. They love hot weather and often don’t really take off until the heat of summer hits. In general, they bloom from around June until frost arrives in the fall. Sow your seeds directly in the garden after your last frost date. And if you want ample blooms, sow more seeds every few weeks through June. You also can start seeds indoors about four to six weeks before your projected last frost to have some blooms earlier in the spring. Space your plants so they have good air circulation to prevent disease, and deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooming.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annual)
  • Color Varieties: Pink, red, yellow, orange, green, purple, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Humusy, evenly moist, well-draining

Here are 14 flowers that are easy to start from seed. Just plant these annuals and perennials wherever you want them to grow in your garden.

How to Grow Any Flower From Seed

Growing plants from seeds is not only easy to do but is also one of the cheapest ways to fill your garden with abundance. Some people may only think of growing vegetables from seeds, but flowers are just as easy to plant. As a bonus, you’ll have a greater choice of variety and color if you’re willing to start your own varietals from seeds rather than just buy what’s already being grown and sold at nurseries at the start of the season.

Perennial flowers may not bloom their first year, but if you have the patience to wait, you can fill your garden for a fraction of the cost of buying mature plants. Annual flowers will bloom right on schedule, and many of them will even seed themselves, so you’ll only have to plant them once to receive years of beautiful blooms. If you’ve been dreaming of nonstop color, pick up some seed packets, and get started with the tips below.

Growing Annual Flowers From Seed

Annual flowers are the backbone of billowy cottage gardens. Many annuals will seed themselves, so all you have to do is leave the flower heads on the plants at the end of the season. They will eventually drop seed, and the seeds will weave themselves throughout the garden with a little help from the wind. You may sometimes end up with too many seedlings in one spot, but they should be easy to pull or transplant.

Keep in mind, annual flowers tend to grow quickly, so even those you direct sow outdoors in the spring will flower at their usual bloom time or very soon afterward. Just about any of the annuals that self-sow are good candidates for starting from seed, either indoors or direct sown.

Growing Perennial Flowers From Seed

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Sonia Hunt/Getty Images

Most perennial plants don’t bloom until their second year, spending their first season growing a strong root system and lots of leaves for photosynthesis. You can sometimes get around this waiting period by starting your perennial seeds in the fall and fooling the plants into thinking the following spring is “year two,” but more often than not you’ll just have to be patient.

After your perennial flowers are established, they will begin blooming and grow larger every year. In a few years’ time, you’ll be able to make even more plants by dividing the ones you have.

How to Speed Up Seed Starting

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Not all seeds know it’s time to sprout just because they’re planted in soil. Some need a signal that it’s time to germinate, either from a change in temperature or moisture levels, or an increase in light. To trick your seeds into germinating sooner than they might typically, you can use one of the below methods:

  • Winter sowing: To sow your seeds in the winter, you’ll want to start them outdoors while the temperatures are still frigid. Not all seeds can survive freezing temperatures, but there are some that need the freezing and thawing action to break dormancy or to crack their hard coverings, including heartier vegetables like broccoli, beets, and carrots.
  • Scarification: Seeds with really tough or thick coverings (think: apples, nasturtium, and false indigo) can take forever to germinate. Scarification (nicking them or rubbing them with sandpaper) can help give them a jump start and speed up the process a bit.
  • Stratification: Stratification is a way to simulate the warming and cooling conditions seeds would be privy to if left in their natural environment through the winter. It’s especially useful for people in zones that don’t have a long enough (or cold enough) winter for their desired plant, as well as any gardener looking to harvest delicate perennials like delphinium and violets, which will germinate more seeds if they’re put through the process.

Starting Seeds Indoors

If you have a short growing season or are just impatient to see those late-blooming flowers, starting seeds indoors can help move things along. To do so properly, you’ll need to know your last frost date, as your seed packets will note which varietals can be successfully started indoors (not all seeds transplant well) and the proper time frame. To start seeds indoors, you’ll need potting mix, something to plant your seeds in, and a way to keep them moist. Your supplies can be anything from paper cups or paper egg cartons and clear plastic bags, to tiny pots, peat pots, or seed-starting trays with a clear lid.

Some seeds may require hardening off (exposing to cool temperatures) before planting outside, but this will be noted on the seed packet if required.

Growing flowers from seed can take some patience, but it's an inexpensive way to fill your garden with color. Use these tips to get started.