Easy Summer Annuals to Grow from Seed

Cornflower, Cosmos, Forget-me-not, French Marigold, Larkspur, Love-in-a-Mist, Moss Rose, Nasturium, Stocks, Sunflower, Sweet Alyssum, Sweet Pea & Zinnia

So Easy to Sow, So Easy to Grow

A variety of flowers grown from seed bloom in our front flowerbed.
A variety of flowers grown from seed bloom in our front flowerbed. | Source

Easy-to-Grow Annuals for Your Garden

Want to grow the same annuals year after year? Buy heirloom seed the first time. Seed collected from heirloom plants grows "true," producing plants identical to parent plants.

Annual flowers like forget-me-not, French marigold, portulaca, stock, sweet alyssum, sweet pea, and zinnia are so easy to grow from seed that there's no need to start them indoors.

That means no little pots, no seed-starting mix, no grow lights or windowsill clutter, and no messy indoor watering. (Yeah!)

Forget-Me-Not

Forget-me-nots begin blooming in spring.
Forget-me-nots begin blooming in spring. | Source
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Summer Magic

In some cases, annual flowers are so easy to grow that practically no soil preparation is needed.

In spring, simply loosen the soil a bit and, if necessary, add a little organic matter, such as compost or barnyard manure.

Then sow the seeds, keep them moist until they germinate and wait for the summer magic: beautiful annual flowers for minimal effort!


Cosmos

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Cosmos is not only easy to start from seed (just prep the soil, sprinkle the seeds and keep moist), it's also a vigorous self-seeder. In fact, the super tall (over six feet!) Cosmos bipinnatus that we sowed last year, reseeded itself beautifully throughout our garden this year.

Cosmos blooms nonstop until the first hard frost.

To keep it looking good (and blooming consistently), trim stems with lots of spent blooms by about a third and then fertilize. (We like fish fertilizer best.)

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Cornflower

Cornflower (also known as bachelor's buttons) grows best in hot, dry areas, producing sturdy summer flowers that are ideal for arrangements, both live and dried.

Sow cornflower seed in the spring shallowly, about 1/8 inch deep.

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Cornflower, Blue Boy, Heirloom
Cornflower, Blue Boy, Heirloom

Bachelor's button is another common name for cornflower.

 

First, scratch up the soil with your fingers or a garden claw, and then scatter the seed. Within 1-3 weeks, it will germinate.

Cornflowers grow as perennials in some zones, with varieties like C. hypoleuca 'John Coutts' forming clumps.

Forget-me-not

Myosotis spp.

Forget-me-nots are wildflowers, members of the Borage family, and they can be aggressive self-sowers. In fact, in some areas of the world they're considered invasive weeds.

To start forget-me-nots, sow them directly in your garden in spring or fall and cover them lightly. (They need shade in order to germinate.)

Depending upon the hardiness zone in which they grow, forget-me-not plants can be annuals, perennials or biennials. However they grow where you live, you probably won't know the difference, as forget-me-nots self-seed aggressively. In other words, if you plant them once, you'll most likely have them in your garden year after year without ever planting them again.

Forget-me-not plants will grow just about anywhere. They aren't picky about soil quality or water, and they'll begin to bloom in the spring.

Here in Zone 7, our forget-me-not plants reseed themselves throughout the growing season, blooming from spring into fall, when the flowers become much less prolific.

Myosotis sylvatica compacta, a nice mounding variety of forget-me-not, is available in pink as well as blue.

French Marigold

Directly sown outdoors in April, French marigold seedlings look green & healthy by May.
Directly sown outdoors in April, French marigold seedlings look green & healthy by May. | Source

Grower's Tip

Sprinkle dry, unflavored gelatin (like Knox brand gelatin) on seeds after sowing to feed them as they sprout.

French Marigolds

French marigolds have a pungent aroma which deters some insects and other pests, and that makes them popular companion plants, especially for vegetables.

Sowing Marigolds in Spring

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French marigolds are often grown among vegetables throughout the garden or closely in rows so that they form small hedges around vegetable patches. They grow best in full sun and rich soil.

In spring, sprinkle marigold seed over a raked flowerbed and sprinkle it lightly with dirt, covering it by about an 1/8 inch. By summer, the seed will develop into bushy plants with orange, red and/or yellow flowers, depending upon the variety.

Larkspur

Larkspur grows as a wildflower in many parts of the Continental USA.
Larkspur grows as a wildflower in many parts of the Continental USA. | Source

Interested in starting a cutting garden?

If you sow cornflower, larkspur, stock and zinnia in the spring, you'll be able to harvest fresh flowers for arrangements throughout the summer and into the fall.

Larkspur

Consolida spp.

Some varieties of larkspur grow to heights of four feet, with giant larkspur like Pacific Giant and Giant Imperial growing up to eight feet tall.

Larkspur produces long spikes of flowers, usually in white or shades of blue, purple and pink, into late summer.

Shades of Blue Larkspur Seeds - .75 grams - Consolida
Shades of Blue Larkspur Seeds - .75 grams - Consolida

This variety is quintessentially larkspur--about 4 feet tall in 'Shades of Blue.'

 

Sow larkspur in either late winter or early spring, sprinkling seed onto full-sun to partial-shade flowerbeds and covering it with about 1/8 of soil. In three to four weeks, the seed with germinate.

Larkspur grows quickly and is a good flower for a cutting garden.

Package of 300 Seeds, Love In A Mist "Persian Jewels" (Nigella jewels) Non-GMO Seeds By Seed Needs
Package of 300 Seeds, Love In A Mist "Persian Jewels" (Nigella jewels) Non-GMO Seeds By Seed Needs

Love-in-the-mist isn't particularly aggressive and will easily share space with other plants in your cottage garden.

 

Love-in-a-Mist

Nigella damascena

Love-in-a-mist is a pretty annual, with frilly leaves and feathery flowers. It blooms in summer, producing white, blue or pink flowers, depending upon the variety.

In the fall, love-in-a-mist reseeds itself, developing unusual looking horned seedpods that eventually split open.

Luckily for gardeners, love-in-a-mist is one of those happy plants that grow best when directly sown outdoors, as its seedlings are so fragile they're difficult to transplant successfully.

Beginning in spring, plant love-in-a-mist seeds in a sunny location with well-draining soil. Sow seed every three weeks or so for continuous blooms throughout summer and into fall.


Moss Rose

The portulaca in our mailbox garden blooms alongside rosemary and lantana.
The portulaca in our mailbox garden blooms alongside rosemary and lantana. | Source
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Grower's Tip

Bothered by deer? Spray portulaca with a mixture of rotten eggs and garlic, or they may eat your plants to the ground.

Package of 1,000 Seeds, Portulaca "Double Mix" (Moss Rose) Open Pollinated Seeds by Seed Needs
Package of 1,000 Seeds, Portulaca "Double Mix" (Moss Rose) Open Pollinated Seeds by Seed Needs

Portulaca is a bright, cheerful bloomer for rock gardens, walls and poor-soil areas.

 

Moss Rose

Portulaca spp.

When I was a child, just about every old lady in town with a rock garden grew portulaca.

Today, portulaca is more often called moss rose, rose moss or moss-rose purslane, and it's a popular annual ground cover that self seeds.

A succulent, moss rose is ideal for hot, dry, poor soil areas of the garden where few other plants will grow.

To start moss rose, sow it in the spring, scratching up the soil a bit in order to plant the seeds shallowly, about 1/8 inch deep. Within two to three weeks, they should begin to sprout, developing into flowering, low-growing plants no more than eight inches tall by summer.

Moss rose blooms in a variety of colors, from vibrant reds and yellows to pastel shades, depending upon the cultivar. In early morning, the blossoms are closed; however, they open as the day passes, putting on a beautiful, bright display in the afternoon.


Nasturtium

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Alaska Variegated Nasturtium Heirloom Seeds 25 Seeds
Alaska Variegated Nasturtium Heirloom Seeds 25 Seeds

Nasturtium isn't just pretty in the garden, it's also tasty in salad! That's right, nasturtium is edible--all of it!

 

Soaking & Nicking Seeds

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is one of the easiest annuals to direct sow.

There's no need to amend the soil beforehand, and after nasturtium seed germinates and grows, there's no need to fertilize.

Give it a sunny spot, and nasturtium performs as well (or even better) in very poor soil as it does in rich loam, producing trumpet-life flowers in shades of orange, red and yellow.

When selecting nasturtium seed, you'll have lots of choices: single, semi-double and double flowering plants that trail or climb or clump.

Nasturtium seeds have a fairly tough coat. To increase germination rates, soak them overnight before sowing them about ½ inch deep in loosened soil. Using a fingernail file or sharp knife to file or nick the seed coat before planting will also increase the likelihood of germination. The seeds that do sprout will do so quickly, in about one week.

Stock

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Full Sun

All-day sun, or at least 6-8 hrs. of direct sunlight per day

Partial Shade

Four to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day


Stock

Matthiola spp.

Stock is an aromantic cutting flower that's easy to grow from seed.

Stock grows best in rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Because it stops flowering in hot weather, sow it in partial shade if your area has hot summers for a longer bloom time.

Stock, Ten Week Perfume
Stock, Ten Week Perfume

Like sweet alyssum & sweet pea, stock has a wonderfully heady fragrance.

 

Stock flowers are available in a wide range of colors—pink, yellow, purple, blue, white. They develop on tall spires, and stock plants usually grow from one to three feet tall, depending upon the variety.

Sow stock seed directly outside in early spring a few weeks before the last predicted frost in your region. Be sure to amend the soil first, working in lots of organic matter.

Sunflower

Sunflowers have big flower heads in shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and even pink!
Sunflowers have big flower heads in shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and even pink! | Source
Teddy Bear Sunflower - 20 Seeds, 750 mg
Teddy Bear Sunflower - 20 Seeds, 750 mg

Short and compact with big, fuzzy flowers.

 
Mammoth Russian Sunflower Seeds - 4 grams - Organic
Mammoth Russian Sunflower Seeds - 4 grams - Organic

'Russian Giant' reaches heights of 12 feet or more!

 

Sunflower

Helianthus spp.

Depending upon the variety, sunflowers can grow from one feet to 15 feet tall, with large seed heads containing as many as 8,000 seeds. Their flat, broad seed heads make good feeding stations for birds (and for squirrels). Alternatively, you could collect the seeds yourself for saving and replanting or for roasting and eating.

Their height and large flowers make sunflowers cheerful additions to the garden as well as effective providers of both shade and privacy when planted en masse.

Sow sunflower seed in a full-sun location that's out of the wind. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of about two inches and add organic matterl, such as compost or manure. Sunflowers like rich soil best.

Then sow the seeds about one inch deep and water. Once sown, sunflower seeds will usually sprout in about one week.

Once their heavy flowerheads develop, sunflower plants are likely to topple over, so you'll probably have to provide them with a bit of support, such as stakes or high lines of twine for them to lean upon.

Sunflowers are available in many varieties, from 3-foot cuties like 'Teddy Bear' to tall beauties like 'Russian Giant.'
Sunflowers are available in many varieties, from 3-foot cuties like 'Teddy Bear' to tall beauties like 'Russian Giant.' | Source

Easy-to-Sow & Grow Flowers

Name
Special Sowing Directions
Cornflower, Bachelor's Button, Hurtsickles (Centaurea cyanus)
Needs full sun; dislikes wet feet. Sow in spring & summer for summer & fall blooms.
Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.)
Sow shallowly in any type soil in full sun or partial shade. Cover lightly with soil after sowing.
French Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
Sow in full sun in rich, lightly cultivated soil in spring. Cover with about 1/8 soil.
Larkspur, Annual Delphinium (Consolida spp.)
Sow shallowly in late winter in full sun or partial shade. Cover with about 1/8 inch soil.
Love-in-a-Mist, Bluebeard, Devil-in-a-Bush (Nigella damascena)
Likes almost any type well-drained soil & full sun. Sow every 3 wks. beginning in spring.
Moss Rose, Moss-Rose Purslane, Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora)
Sow shallowly in any type lightly cultivated soil.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Grows best in poor soil, full sun. Soak seeds overnight, or file or nick them before sowing in spring.
Stocks (Matthiola incana)
Sow outside in early spring a few weeks before last predicted frost. Prefers rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
Sunflower (Helianthus )
Sow 1-inch deep in spring in lightly cultivated, enriched soil & full sun.
Sweet Allysum (Lobularia maritima)
Sow shallowly in full sun, any type soil.
Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
Soak seed in water overnight before sowing. Plant in spring in full sun; moist, rich soil.
Zinnia
Sow in full sun, rich soil in spring.

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is another pretty annual that grows easily from seed. It will self-seed, too, doing a great job of planting itself so that you won't have to!
Sweet alyssum is another pretty annual that grows easily from seed. It will self-seed, too, doing a great job of planting itself so that you won't have to! | Source

Sweet Alyssum

Lobularia maritima

Sweet alyssum is a drought-tolerant ground cover, front-of-the border or container plant that produces dainty, white sweet-smelling flowers from spring into fall.

Like nasturtium, it will grow well in poor soil. In early spring, sow it in a full or partial sun location by raking the flowerbed with your fingertips or a garden claw, and then sprinkling the seed. Cover it lightly with more soil and mist. Nasturtium seed will germinate in about two weeks.

Sweet alyssum is a fairly reliable self seeder, so you may only have to plant it once to establish it in your garden.

Sweet Pea

Sweet pea adds fragrance and beauty to bouquets. Pictured: sweet pea and baby's breath  (Gypsophila elegans).
Sweet pea adds fragrance and beauty to bouquets. Pictured: sweet pea and baby's breath (Gypsophila elegans). | Source

Sweet Pea

With little effort, anyone can grow sweet pea from seed. In fact, if you soak sweet pea seeds overnight before planting, they will practically sprout as soon as they hit the soil!

Even if they were difficult to grow, gardeners would make the attempt. Sweet pea has a luscious, heavy perfume that's intoxicating, and its clusters of shell-like blossoms come in a variety of colors, including white, black and various shades of red, pink, purple and blue.

Select a sunny spot in the garden that has rich, moisture-retentive soil. Sweet peas like moisture.

Or, sow sweet pea seed in regular potting mix in containers and place them near an entrance to your home so that you can enjoy their intoxicating scent throughout the summer.

You may want to give your sweet peas a bit of support, too, as most varieties are climbers. A wigwam, a trellis or simply crossed sticks stuck in the ground work well. And be sure to pick sweet peas often! It makes them bloom longer.

Zinnia

Zinnias are among the easiest flowers to grow from seed.
Zinnias are among the easiest flowers to grow from seed. | Source
Zinnia flower bud are almost as pretty as the flowers!
Zinnia flower bud are almost as pretty as the flowers! | Source

Zinnia

Zinnia is a big family of easy-to-grow annuals that produce cheerful, daisy-like flowers in loads of bright colors.

Zinnia are excellent cutting flowers, lasting up to two weeks in arrangements.

Zinnia California Giant Heirloom Seeds
Zinnia California Giant Heirloom Seeds

These big, bold beauties are gorgeous in arrangements. Will reseed themselves (somewhat), & grow true from collected seed.

 

To grow zinnia from seed outdoors, sow them about 1/8 inch deep in the spring, selecting a full-sun location with rich soil.

Zinnia seeds will ordinarily sprout within a week, producing showy flowers from the middle of summer until the first hard frost of fall.



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About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

© 2013 Jill

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Comments 27 comments

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 2 years ago from United States Author

Hi Dolores! Thanks for sharing this hub. We have the same problem that you have, only with squirrels and deer. This year the squirrels have been real pests, shinnying up our beautiful sunflowers and breaking them down and also stripping our tomato plants of fruit. I just hate to share nature's bounty with them!! Hope your container idea slows down the rabbits! All the best, Jill


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

Oh, Jill, this is so beautiful! I am so mad at myself for neglecting annuals in favor of perennials. I have a lot of trouble with rabbits eating up the young shoots. The seeds that I do try to plant just disappear! I think that next year I might plant them in containers, then transplant them into the garden. Maybe up in a container, the durn bunnies won't get to them (shared and tweeted)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

@ Eco-Lhee -- Thank you! The seeds I planted last month are just now starting to come up--with bare spots where the dog walked through the flower bed! Appreciate your comments. --Jill


Eco-Lhee profile image

Eco-Lhee 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I love this hub, and the pictures are great. Nicely done.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Patricia! People swear by using a salt shaker to sow the little ones. I just scatter & like you am sometimes surprised at where they show up, but ... it's all good. (We have a survival of the fittest policy here anyway, as the dog walks through or rolls on everything I plant anyway.) Thanks for stopping by! Take care, Jill


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi Jill

This is a great hub. I love to grow flowers and am always looking for new suggestions. Growing from seed is not my strong suit unless the seeds are large. I just haven't perfected sowing the tiny ones. They get lost in the wind or the birds eat them or something.

Love the photos

Sending Angels your way :) ps


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Peggy! I bet you grow Texas bluebonnets! I remember seeing them--waves of them--off the side of the highway as I drove to ... Houston one time, I think it was. Thanks for your votes and for reading. --Jill


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Of all of these beautiful flowers that you featured, the only ones that I have grown from seed are the zinnias and marigolds. Wish I had more space to grow more annual flowers. They certainly brighten up a yard and garden. Up, useful and beautiful votes.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Patricia! It's really raining here--and it's cold, but the bulbs are shooting up and the plants are greening up and it smells like spring in the mornings. I'm ready for it, too. Hope all your seeds grow. Happy gardening, Jill


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Great collection of photos. You had me at easy. I love easy when it comes to growing plants. So I am bookmarking this to refer to later. Spring is trying to come ...and I want to be ready.

Thanks for sharing.

Sending Angels your way today :) ps


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hey Glimmer Twin Fan! Tell your daughter she's not alone. No matter how old I get, two things always amaze & delight me: watching someone learn & seeing a seed grow. Thanks for commenting! --Jill


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

My daughter never ceases to be amazed when her marigold seeds come up. Even at 10 years old she can't wait. I love sunflowers the most, but our resident chipmunks like them too. Another gorgeous hub!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

I know, Sheri! I'm ready for it, too. Wanted to plant some seeds this morning, but the ground was frozen. Guess I'll have to wait until mid-March after all. Thanks for commenting!--Jill


Sheri Faye profile image

Sheri Faye 3 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

Great hub! Come on spring!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi jpcmc--You're so right. Location, location, location! All of these annuals do well in full sun. For the ones that love rich soil, established flowerbeds are probably best, but in my experience, nasturtium and moss rose will grow just about anywhere. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Great collection of followers. The quality of soil makes a huge difference. Plus, the location where the right amount of sunlight is important. I love to garden and this is definitely a hub worth keeping.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Deb. Good deal! If your soil is poor, nasturtium is a good choice--and you can eat it! Btw, loved the pictures of hawks in your last Boomer Lake hub. It's fun to watch them ride the wind.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Nothing like beautiful flowers to make your day brighter. Great work, Jill, and I am looking forward to growing a few flowers again this year.


Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

Pavlo Badovskyy 3 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Great hub! wonderful info!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hey Radcliff! Glad I included one of your favorites. I bet you could easily grow all of these in Florida with the exception of stock, which doesn't do well in really hot weather. All the best! --Jill


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

Can I tell you how much I love the moss rose? They grow so well down here. You'll think your plant is dead when winter hits, then in the spring they grow back like gangbusters. Sweet alyssum and zinnia also do well in Florida. Thanks, Jill, for this awesome list--I will try some other varieties you mentioned this spring.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hey Carol! Always nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing this hub! --Jill


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I always enjoy your hubs on gardening..even though we don't do much. Our yard is in dire need and some day I will look up my collection of great information from Dirt farmer.. Love the photos..Voting up and pinning.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, Kathy! I keep working on my photography! Looking forward to getting some good shots this spring. Take it easy, Jill


savingkathy profile image

savingkathy 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

What a beautiful and useful hub! Your sunflower and zinnia photos are stunning!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi purl3agony! Before buying seed, check the date stamped on the package. Some seed remains viable longer than others; however, fresher seed will in almost all cases have a better germination rate than older seed. Good question! Thanks for reading. --Jill


purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA

Great hub! One question - do I need to worry about where I buy my seeds? I've heard that seeds from home improvement stores can be "old". Does it matter? Thanks!!

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