Saturday, September 26, 2015

Successful Seeds (and Hopeless Failures)

I've been thinking about seeds-- particularly which ones "worked" for me this year and which ones didn't.

In the hope of learning from mistakes (and successes), here's a summary of this years' experiences with seeds.

Successful Annuals:

They are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed, for me.  This year, I've been having a problem with some of the grown plants breaking/falling open, for some reason (weather-related?)-- but the seeds certainly weren't at fault, and the flopped plants keep blooming and growing, just with an unsightly bare spot in the middle of the plant.

Bees on Marigolds

Bees on Marigolds

Spanish Flag.
I've been very pleased with these.  Through most of the summer, the fancy-cut leaves looked healthy and lush.  About the time that they started blooming, the foliage started going downhill, but it is the end of summer, and they've earned their keep and then some.

Spanish Flag

This is my first year growing mina lobata, so I'm not sure how easy it will be to collect seed, but if possible, I'll save some, even though I have some left over from the original packet.  I believe I've located the seed pods.  They're still green, so I'll have to wait to check.  If I'm right, there should be plenty of them.

Spanish Flag Seed Pods?

Spanish Flag Seed Pods?

This year, the cleome in the yard were mostly a flop, but in past years, they've been beautiful, so I still think they're worth trying.  I've gathered seed from the ones that did bloom this season, so we'll see how they do next year.

Morning Glory.
I'll count these as a success, though I think I waited too long to plant out the seedlings from their little starter pots.  Still, I ended up with several healthy vines.  Mine seem to do better if they are in the ground.  They can be okay planted in larger pots on the ground, too (though the potted ones do need a lot of watering).  Hanging baskets don't seem to work well for me; they stayed puny and barely flowered at all.  Also, the rabbits were a pest, earlier this year, so if I remember I'll protect young plants with chicken wire or similar.  I don't know if it was just a fluke or what, but most of the plants that survived to bloom were the purple ('Grandpa Ott's').  We had just one 'Heavenly Blue' that lasted to the end of the summer.

Moonflower Vine.
I'm classing these as annuals, though it's possible that they'll come back next year.  They're a borderline perennial in our zone, from what I can find online.  One of them looks dead, now, and has stopped flowering; the others are still hanging on, but definitely in decline.  This is an interesting plant, though I don't like that they seem to attract wasps.  Also, I rarely am outside when they're blooming (avoiding mosquitoes by staying inside after dark).  I'd still say they're a success.  There are quite a few promising-looking seed pods that I'll try to harvest when they've dried enough.

Moonflower Vine Seed Pods

Black-Eyed Susan Vine.
Only one of the few seeds I planted was successful, and even that has been a somewhat limited success.  Part of the blame falls on myself, though.  For future planting, I wouldn't try hanging baskets.  (From now on, the only thing I'll plant in a hanging basket is a proven drought-tolerant non-vine.  Airplane plants, mostly.)  Also, they need plenty of sun and plenty of room to grow.  This one didn't have a great location, because there wasn't much for it to climb, but it's done pretty well, all things considered.  I've gathered a few seeds to try for next year. These seed pods are a bit tricky, though.  I mostly seem to find them when they're still too green to pick, but if you wait too long, the pods will "explode" and scatter the seed where you'll never find it.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Successful Perennials:

Not every seed produces a seedling; not every seedling survives to maturity-- but I've been surprised at how easy they are to grow from seed.  Of course, I don't believe I've yet seen a single of my seed-grown daylilies bloom.  Usually, you can't expect to enjoy flowers until at least the third year (which would be next summer for the first batch and the summer after that for this year's seedlings).  These seeds take patience!

Achillea ('Summer Pastels').
Mixed results.  Some finally bloomed, but they took their sweet time about it.  I've read that fancy-color achillea (yarrow) will often revert to its "wild" white form.  That's ok, I guess... I'd rather have the pastels, but it can still be a nice filler plant in white.

Blue Bedder Sage.
They're marked as perennials, but I read that they're often grown as an annual.  Maybe they'll come back for us, next spring, if we're lucky.  This is one of the few perennial seeds I tried that seemed to "work" with our weather.  They've bloomed and a few of them have gotten to a decent size, but it took them a long time to get established.  I don't think I'll be planting these from seed again.  If they come back on their own, there won't be a need to do so-- and if they don't return, I don't think they're worth the effort (and long wait) for an annual.  Not when there are so many other, showier annuals that are faster to grow.

Blanket Flower.
These took a while to get going, but once they did, they performed very well.  I see them described online (not on the seed packed, incidentally; hm, I wonder why...) as "short-lived perennials", which sounds discouraging-- but other sources say that once you have them, you'll always have them, because they're so good at reseeding themselves.  I'm happy about that.  I can see these filling in a number of blank spots.  I already have more of these seeds that I didn't get around to planting (accidental duplicates), so I'll definitely be planting them, next season.

Indian Blanket and Blue Bedder Sage

The photo above has seed-grown blue bedder sage and the latest Indian blanket/blanket flower to mature enough to bloom.


It looked like was going to do well (against my prediction)-- and then the heat really kicked in, and these little seedlings were not having any of it. 

Cupid's Dart.
I had a few that held on (in tiny, pathetic form) until the middle of summer-- but they finally succumbed.  I think they need a more arid climate.  They're pretty, but I don't think this one's worth trying again.

Butterfly Flower / Butterfly Milkweed.
(Asclepias tuberosa) I'm not sure what happened with these.  By all accounts, they should do well here, but I don't think a single one survived to maturity.  Disappointing.  I might try this one again, sometime, as I'm convinced it should grow here.  (I was probably too slow to plant them out...)  I like the idea of growing milkweed because it attracts monarch butterflies and feeds their young.

I think that in this area, we may be better off starting them in late summer than in spring.  I meant to try a few more in August/early September, but then I never got around to it.  Maybe some other year...  This spring, I had good luck getting them to sprout, but they never bulked up, and by the middle of summer, they were goners.

- - - - - - -

I'm probably forgetting something, but at least this covers most of the flower seeds I've tried this year.

It's always a bit of a gamble, starting seeds.  Even the ones that germinate well have to contend with rabbits and insects and damping off and drying out and late frost.  It's a scary world out there, for a seed.