How to Plant Flower Seeds:
Planting Flower Seeds for Healthy Growth & Full Blooms

Compared with other planting methods, learning how to plant flower seeds will both save you money and open up a wide variety of flowers not available as bulbs or pre-grown plants. On the down side, planting flower seeds is somewhat trickier than transplanting and requires a little more diligence in the beginning.

This page will help ensure that your flower seeds grow, thrive and produce full, beautiful blooms…

When to Plant Flower Seeds

The timing of indoor planting is really up to you… as long as the seedlings are mature enough before you move them, you harden off your seedlings before moving them and you don’t transplant into your garden before the last frost, you should be okay.

Perennial bulbs have some special planting requirements. See our How, Where and When to Plant Flower Bulbs page (coming soon) for more information.

Learning how to plant flower seeds outdoors is a different story, and its timing depends on whether your flower is an annual or perennial variety…

Perennial Flowers: When to Plant Perennial Flower Seeds Outdoors

Perennial flowers should be planted from seed at one of two times: early spring or late fall. Planting in early spring will ensure that your plants’ roots have time to grow big and strong enough to survive the winter.

But late fall? Won’t that kill my plants before they have a chance to grow? The seed coating provides all of the protection the plants need, and the seeds will remain dormant until spring rolls around.

Planting in late fall serves another purpose as well: many perennial seeds need a moist cold spell in order to germinate (a process called “Stratification”). Accomplishing this for spring-sown perennials requires more involvement on your part.

Although learning how to plant flower seeds in the spring is more difficult, it can be done. You’ll need to first mix your seeds with vermiculite and evenly moisten the mix to the point that it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Put the mixture in a sealable container or bag and place in the refrigerator for 2 ½ to 3 months. Obviously you’ll need to time this with your planned planting date.

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Annual Flowers: When to Plant Annual Flower Seeds Outdoors

Annual flowers should have planting times that coincide with their individual cold tolerance…

  • Hardy flowers can be planted as soon as the soil has thawed enough to be worked and as long as you know your soil temperature won’t drop below 25 degrees F (-4 C).
  • Half-hardy flower seeds should wait until the ground is consistently warmer, although a light frost or two will most likely be okay.
  • Tender flowers shouldn’t be planted until all danger of frost has passed. Anything below 40 degrees F (4 C) and they could be in trouble.

See our Flower Planting Guide for cold-tolerance levels of each flower.

If you want to get your half-hardy or tender annual flowers into the garden sooner, start them indoors (discussed further down the page) and transplant them into the garden when temperatures are more agreeable.

If you want to learn how to plant flower seeds (annual or perennial) outside when the weather’s right, take a look at the next section…

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Outdoor Planting: How to Plant Flower Seeds Outside

Prep Work Before Learning
How to Plant Flower Seeds Outside

Before learning how to plant flower seeds outside, there’s some front-end work that needs to be done to get your garden or flower beds in order. See our Starting a Garden and How to Grow Flowers pages for everything you need to know about getting your growing space where it needs to be to produce the healthiest and best-looking flowers.

Also be sure to give your plants enough room to grow. Pay attention to their mature heights and spreads (included in our individual flower planting guides) and space them accordingly.

Finally, match up your growing space with each flower's sun requirements. Most flowers need either full sun (at least 6 hours per day) or partial shade.

Assuming your growing space is all ready to go, review these steps to learn how to plant flower seeds outside (annual or perennial)…

  1. Plant at the appropriate time based on the requirements of each flower:
    • Perennial flower seeds are easier to start in the fall for reasons discussed above. If you want to plant in the spring, you’ll need to first mix your seeds with vermiculite and evenly moisten the mix to the point that it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Put the mixture in a sealable container or bag and place in the refrigerator for 2 ½ to 3 months. Do this far enough ahead of time so that their ready when your planned planting date rolls around.
    • Annual flower seeds should be planted with two things in mind:
      • Crop rotation: never plant the same type of flower in the same location each year. Ideally, wait at least three years before planting the same annual flower in the same location. (See Vegetable Crop Rotation for more about the importance of crop rotation).
      • Plant hardiness: as discussed above, check the hardiness level of each flower before planting to ensure that it doesn’t go in the ground too early.
  2. Rake the soil smooth and flat
  3. Make a furrow with the handle of your spade
  4. Place seeds into the furrow, leaving the proper spacing in between as outlined on our individual flower growing guides. An easier route may be to sprinkle the seeds along the furrow without worrying about spacing, then thin the plants out to their specified distances after their two true leaves appear.
  5. Cover with a light layer of vermiculite (or soil if your soil’s extremely nutrient-rich and loamy)
  6. Water lightly
  7. Keep the ground consistently moist, but do NOT over-water. Your soil should maintain the consistency of a wrung out sponge.
  8. Pinch out some of your seedlings as soon as they have emerged and developed their first set of true leaves. Seedlings should be pinched out to the point that each remaining seedling meets the individual spacing requirements outlined in our Flower Planting Guide.

See our How to Grow Flowers page to learn how to care for your flowers after you’ve thinned them out.

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Indoor Planting: How to Plant Flower Seeds Inside

How to Plant Flower Seeds:
Out With the Old

how to plant flower seeds

When growing flowers from seeds in containers, use new organic potting mix every year. The old stuff's nutrients were mostly likely depleted by last year's growth.

Here's how to plant flower seeds indoors for year-round cultivation...

  1. Choose a container based on where you want your plants to end up:
    • If you plan to transplant them into the garden, the easiest option is to use peat pots or organic plant starter cubes.

      Peat pots allow you to transplant the entire container and flower directly into your garden which is easier on you and easier on the plant.

      how to plant flower seeds Peat Pots

      They are completely biodegradable and actually improve the surrounding soil after transplanting.

      Organic plant starter cubes are made with organic material and allow for faster, fuller rooting. They're also fully biodegradable and can be transferred directly into the soil when transplanting.
    • If you plan to keep your flowers inside or grow them in a pot, you’ve got a few options. You can start with peat pots (one plant per peat pot) and transplant them into a larger pot or container later on (be sure that the larger pot has good drainage), or you can just start them off in the larger pot or container.
    (how to plant flower seeds indoors / indoor planting instructions continued below box)

What to look for in a pot or container...

If you decide to go the container route to start your seeds or transplant your seedlings, here are a few features to keep in mind...

  • Material: Plastic, terra cotta, wood or stone (your personal preference)
  • Size: Should fit the task at hand. Determine the mature size of your plant before choosing a pot.
  • Drainage: Your plants will die without proper drainage. At a minimum, there should be a few holes in the bottom.
  • Self-watering features: Saucers placed underneath a pot with holes in the bottom and self-watering pots both serve to water your potted plants from below. Better than watering by hand because the plants determine when they need water and how much they need.

Our favorite pots and containers include...

how to plant flower seeds
  • Green Earthbox Ready-to-Grow System - if you've never heard of this, get ready to be impressed. To sum it up, all you have to do is keep the built-in water reservoir full and place it in the right sunlight based on what you're growing... the Earthbox does the rest:
    • You will almost certainly produce more vegetables per plant than what grows in your garden (even though you don't touch the Earthbox plants after planting other than adding water, pruning and harvesting). If you're learning how to plant flower seeds or transplant for the first time, using the Earthbox is the easiest, most sure-fire container to go with (especially when used in conjuction with peat pots as discussed above).
    • Fertilizer strip system gets your plants the nutrients they need
    • Included cover keeps weeds and pests at bay
    • Extremely simple to set up and maintain
    • Has wheels, which allows you to roll the planter in and out of the sun if necessary
    • The downside? Garden beds are less expensive, if you have the space. While the Earthbox has a very fair price (about $50 each) for what it delivers (more vegetables per plant/fuller plants with very little work), you'll need to shell out the cash to purchase the system up front. You'll also need to purchase a replanting kit (fertilizer, dolomite and two replacement covers) each year for about $12.
    • Note: For your upward-growing plants such as tomatoes and pole beans, the Earthbox garden trellis is sold separately. It works great and looks nice, but it's pricey. If you don't want to spend the money, you can create a home-built trellis for much less.

Click here to purchase the Green Earthbox Ready-to-Grow System. You won't be disappointed.

how to plant flower seeds
  • Self-watering planters - contain a built-in reservoir at the bottom of the planter up from which water is drawn by the soil and plant's roots.

    It has an opening in the side for viewing water level and adding water (planter comes in heights of 8 inches, 10 inches or 12 inches (20, 25, 30 cm)).

  • Smart pots - Soft-sided fabric containers that hold their shape when filled but can be collapsed and folded when not in use. how to plant flower seeds

    They will not crack or break when dropped or are exposed to extreme temperatures.

    Fabric provides excellent soil aeration (comes in 7 gallon, 15 gallon and 45 gallon sizes (26, 57 and 170 liters)).

  1. Fill your chosen container with seed-starting mix that you have pre-moistened (should feel like a wrung-out sponge), leaving about 1/4 to one inch (6.4 mm to 2.5 cm) of space between the top of the mix and the top of the container (depending on the size of the container; for peat pots, leave about ¼ inch (6.4 mm)).
  2. Level out and lightly pat down the soil, but do NOT pack it down. You want it to be water- and air-permeable.
  3. Create shallow furrows or holes in your soil (for exact depths, follow the flower-specific guidelines in our Flower Planting Guide or in your seed packet instructions).
  4. Drop your flower seeds into the holes or furrows. Do your best to spread the seeds out evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect. You can always thin out the plants later if they begin to sprout too closely together.
  5. Cover your seeds based on their individual planting requirements. Some require a light layer of vermiculite while others (such as most very small seeds) shouldn’t be covered at all.
  6. Spray a fine mist of water over your seeds.
  7. Cover the container with glass or a clear plastic bag (use plastic bags for peat pots).
  8. Place the container in place that receives indirect sunlight and has a temperature of around 70 degrees F (21 C).
  9. After the seeds germinate (sprout), remove the plastic bag or glass and move the plant into direct sunlight (still under controlled temperature ranging from 60 to 75 degrees F (15.5 to 24 C) – review our Flower Planting Guide for plant-specific temperature requirements, if any). Germination could take place very quickly, so keep a close eye on them after planting.
  10. Keep your seedlings well-watered, but don’t overdo it. As a general rule, allow the growing mix to dry out slightly between waterings. Even better, place and constantly run a humidifier next to your young plants.
  11. If your flowers will end up (or remain) in a pot or container...
    1. Transplant your seedlings into individual pots after they have developed their first set of true leaves, using potting soil instead of garden soil to get the seedlings the nutrients they need during this fragile stage. As you dig up each plant, there’s a good chance that multiple seedlings will be clumped together. Separate and transplant each seedling separately - one per peat pot or two inches (5 cm) apart in a larger container. To properly transplant each seedling into its new location, use your finger to push a hole into the potting soil that is just deep enough to allow the seedling to grow at the same soil level that it was before.
    2. Gently pat the soil around each seedling, then lightly water.
    3. Harden off your flowers (get them used to the harsher conditions of their new environment) before permanently leaving them outside or planting them into your outdoor beds
      • Day 1 – Leave them outside for 4 hours in sun levels that fit each plant’s guidelines (i.e. full sun, partial-shade, full shade)
      • Day 2 – Leave them outside for 6 hours
      • Day 3 – Leave them outside for 8 hours
      • Day 4 – Transplant into your garden or flower bed.
    4. See our How to Grow Flowers page for ongoing flower care instructions.
  12. If you want to transplant into an outdoor garden or bed, follow these instructions for transplanting flowers into your garden.
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How to Plant Flower Seeds: Where to Purchase Seeds

Now that you know when and how to plant flower seeds indoors and outdoors, it's time to pick up some seeds. To choose the flowers that you'd like to grow, see our Flower Planting Guide.

Whether growing flowers from seeds, bulbs, cuttings or transplants, always purchase from a trusted source to ensure that:

  • You know exactly which flower variety you’re planting
  • The flower or seeds come from a healthy source (i.e. they’ve been nurtured appropriately)

There are several places to buy your seeds both online and off…

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