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The Easiest Annual Flowers to Grow From Seed by Direct Sowing

It’s no secret that shopping for plants after a long winter is a home gardener’s favorite thing to do, but have you ever considered growing your flowers from seed, simply by direct sowing them in your garden? It can be incredibly gratifying to grow a plant from a mere seed and watch it grow into beautiful flowers. To find out the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed by direct sowing in your garden bed, along with tips on how and when to plant them, plus the pros and cons of planting flower seeds directly in the ground, keep reading.

Colorful flower garden with annual grasses and flowers.

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When is the Best Time to Direct Sow Flower Seeds

When planting annual flower seeds (or vegetable seeds) you will want to sow them after the danger of frost has passed in the spring for your area. Although some cold hardy seeds will do fine if planted before then. My best advice is to read the seed packet. It contains a wealth of information.

Read on and you will learn how to find your gardening zone and your last expected frost date.

Yellow calendula and purple alyssum in a flower garden.
Calendula and Alyssum

Preparing Garden Soil for Direct Sowing

Many of these tips apply to both planting vegetable seeds or flower seeds. The success of your garden starts with good soil. 

If you want to grow beautiful flowers, you don’t want poor soil.  First, adding a layer of organic matter fertilizer (a/k/a compost)  is a great way to get rich soil.  To learn more about how to create healthy soil, here is a great article for you to read.

One of the greatest challenges with direct sowing can be the weed seeds competing for space.  As soon as you disturb the soil, you will find that the weed seeds will also start to germinate.  Therefore, you will want to plant right away to give your flower seeds a level playing field. For a more in-depth look at how to deal with weeds in your garden, check this article out when you’ve finished up here.

You’ll also want to consider the sun requirements of your plants. Whether they need full sun or partial shade when choosing the location and what else will be growing around them.  For instance, your perennial flowers that love their sunny spot, may not be too happy if shaded by a bunch of tall sunflowers.

When planting your seeds, you’ll need to pay attention to what that particular seed needs.  Consult the seed packets for specifics on how deep to plant or if it simply goes on top of the soil.

Tip: Sow up to 4-times more seed than you want to actually grow.  Anytime you direct sow, you will risk loss, so it’s always best to plant more than you need and thin them out once they are about 1-3 inches tall (check your seed packet for specifics).

Tip: Label what you have planted because you will forget.  I recommend using paint markers or wax garden markers, because they don’t fade in the sun or wet weather.

purple and pink asters
Annual Asters

Caring for Your New Seedlings

It’s not a good idea to cover your seeds with mulch.  You can, however, lay mulch between your rows to help prevent weeds, but you don’t want to smother your freshly planted seeds. Once your seedlings are up 4-5 inches, go ahead and mulch around them. At this point, you can also begin to give your seedlings some fertilizer. You don’t want to burn your baby flowers, so go light at first.

You’ll also want to consider your water source. Seeds will germinate best in moist soil. Once you plant your seeds, they will need a good drink of water daily, at least for the first couple weeks.  Use either a watering can that has a gentle spray or a watering wand that can be dialed down that you can attach to your hose.  

It’s always best to hand water seeds and newly sprouted seedlings.  If the spray is too rough it will wash them out and all your hard work will be wasted.

Pink and white dianthus flowers.
Dianthus (a/k/a pinks)

What are the Easiest Annual Flowers to Grow From Seed by Direct Sowing

In order to answer this question, you first need to determine your growing zone.  Your favorite flowers may do best in your zone, but they also may have a very short growing season depending on where you live, which hardly makes it worth your effort to plant. In this case, you may want to consider purchasing starter plants.

Click here to find your zone. To find your approximate last frost date, go here

Once you know your zone, you can figure out what will be the easiest seeds for you to direct sow. Although our list of easy annual flowers to grow from seed is made with colder climates in mind, they will also do well in warm climates. If you’re lucky enough to learn in a warmer gardening zone, do a little research and I believe this list will be much longer for you.

The following are the easiest flowers that can be sown in spring after the danger of frost.  If you sow seed too early, the seeds will take a long time to germinate and will most likely get eaten by a hungry critter, or decay.

  • Marigolds
  • Gomphrena
  • Ageratum
  • Cleome
  • Calendula
  • Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Morning Glory
  • Hyacinth Bean
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Nasturtium
  • Celosia 
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflowers

It’s important to note that the specific varieties of these annual flowers that will thrive in your garden will depend on your local climate and growing conditions. It’s always a good idea to research the specific needs of the plants you’re interested in and choose varieties that are well-suited to your gardening zone.

Feverfew (white daisy type flowers with yellow centers).
Feverfew

Sowing Annual Flower Seeds in the Fall

Did you know that many annual flowers will reseed and come back the following spring, even in colder gardening climates? Along the same lines, you can also direct sow annual flower seeds in the fall and they will come up the following spring, even in cold climates. Here’s a list of what are considered cool season hardy flowers. 

  • Asters
  • Pot Marigolds (a/k/a Calendula)
  • Love-In-A-Mist (a/k/a Nigella)
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • California Poppies
  • Moss Roses
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Poppies
  • Larkspur
  • Strawflower
  • Sweet Peas
  • Morning Glories
  • Stock
  • Sweet William
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Snapdragons
  • Feverfew

Although our article includes mostly information about annual flowers to grow from seed, you can also direct sow perennial flower seeds, or any flower that is winter hardy in your zone, that need a period of cold stratification in the fall.

When planting in early fall, you’ll want to consider doing so in raised beds or mounds.Young plants don’t like to have wet feet and as you know, a spring thaw can make for very soggy flower beds.

Chart showing pros and cons of starting plants from seed vs buying starter plants.

What Are the Disadvantages of Direct Sowing?

To begin with, you will have to keep your seeds watered.  While most transplanted plants also need water, it’s easier to set a sprinkler or irrigation system to do the work for you.  As I mentioned above, seedlings need to be hand watered.

Preparing your beds for direct sowing can also be more effort since seeds need to be nurtured early on in order to get established.

Weeds, weeds, weeds.  It can be hard to differentiate between a weed and a flower sprout.  This is why I suggest planting right after you prep your soil.  Don’t give your weed seeds a head start by waiting a week or two to plant your flower seeds. 

Finally, seeds make a good snack for rodents, birds, and even insects, which is why I suggest over sowing. 

Zinnias, snapdragons and alyssum in a flower garden.

What Are the Advantages of the Direct Seeding Method?

First, the cost of seeds is far cheaper than an already established plant that you can buy from your local garden center. And, there are many more varieties available in seeds versus starter plants.

Second, direct seeding saves on space inside your house if you aren’t starting them under grow lights.  Not to mention, the investment in trays, heat mats and grow lights.

Next, cool season flowers planted in the fall have a much longer growing season giving you excellent cut flowers.  Plus, some annual flowers will self seed giving you more bang for your buck.  

Finally, you will find that plants that are direct sown tend to be healthier.  They are more resistant to pests and disease and their colorful blooms make a great addition to your beautiful flower garden.

Yellow profusion zinnias with bright red centers.
Profusion Zinnias

The takeaway, whichever method you prefer, you will be rewarded with beautiful flowers to adorn your landscape. Try this little experiment: plant seeds and a few starter plants on the same day. I believe you will find that it doesn’t take long for the direct sown seeds to catch up with the starter plants. In fact, I’ll bet you won’t be able to tell the difference in a few months’ time. 

All in all, you can certainly plant flower seeds directly in the ground.  Simply, do some research, make a plan and have fun trying it. If you would rather get a head start on your spring flower gardens, be sure to check out Seed Starting Indoors and Winter Sowing.

I’m so happy that you stopped by Gingham Gardens today! I hope you’ve been inspired to try direct sowing some of these easiest annual flowers to grow from seed. Do you have a favorite annual flower that I didn’t mention? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to hang out in the gardens a while longer. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and come back soon!

Happy gardening,
Julie

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2 Comments

  1. My 6yo daughter and I love growing flowers from seed. This Spring (we are in Australia) we have planted Alyssum, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Cosmos, Dianthus, Impatiens, Aster, Strawflower, Dahlia, Zinnia, Giant Russian Sunflowers and a dwarf Sunflower, chamomile, a bunch of herbs (sage, parsley, coriander and mint) and our Lavender is waking up after a mild Winter. We homeschool and I find gardening (particularly from seed) is a great way to get a bunch of science in without sitting at a desk doing workbooks 🙂
    We are both really enjoying your website! Thank you for all the work you put it to it and the information you so generously share.

    1. Hi Katie – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens and sharing your gardening experience. You’re right, gardening is a great way for children to learn some practical science lessons. Happy gardening, Joanna

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