Interesting Perennials I'm Growing from Seed (Part 2)

In Part One, I spoke about 11 different perennials that I'm growing from seed.  While the species and/or variety may have been new to me, all were plants that I had grown in the past successfully.

In this post, I'll be talking about a few plants that I've never grown from seed before.  I'm always up for experimenting so am super excited to try them out.  I don't, however, have any misconceptions that it will be smooth sailing.  Perennials are general a bit trickier to grow than annuals so I'm not expecting 100% success - but no matter what happens, I'll have learned something, right?

Lobelia speciosa 'Starship Blue'
I'm growing perennial Lobelia from seed after
getting this one into my garden last year and LOVING it!

All of the perennials listed here were winter sown, which I consider the 'lazy' way of starting perennials.  It's also, in my experience, a bit more of a gamble than starting plants indoors under more controlled conditions.  My thought was that I would first try winter sowing for these new-to-me plants and, if that didn't work, then I would try conventional indoor stratifying/sowing next year (I held back some seed for all of these varieties for that very reason - the proverbial 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' type of thing).

Note:  While a whole lot of my seeds this year came from Botanically Inclined, this is not a sponsored post.  In fact, the folks at Botanically Inclined don't know me from Adam and I purchased all of my seed online, just like anybody else.  Every year I pick at least one seed house, above and beyond my 'regulars' such as Baker Creek and William Dam, to grab varieties that I can't get elsewhere.  Then I will go through their entire catalogue to see if there are other varieties that I want to grab while I'm at it (last year, I went a bit crazy at Swallowtail Seeds).  This year, it was Botanically Inclined's turn, prompted by a search for the elusive 'true' Viola labradorica.

Primula cortusoides 

After reading glowing descriptions of Primula in one of Christopher Lloyd's books, I knew that I had to find a way to get some into the garden.  So when I saw this one at Baker Creek with those gorgeous purple-pink flowers, I snapped up a packet of seeds.

Photo Credit:  Baker Creek Seeds

P. cortusoides is a clumper whose long, slender stems get to be 8-10" tall.  I have a feeling this may not be the easiest perennial to grow from seed, but I'm always up for an experiment.  It prefers a shade to part-shade spot and is hardy from zone 3-8.

Clematis integrifolia

Clematis from seed?  I hadn't ever thought of that.  Just like the Primula, I have a feeling this one will be a challenge....but maybe not.  While it may not be commonly grown from seed, that doesn't mean that it's difficult to grow.

Photo Credit:  Botanically Inclined

C. integrifolia is not a climber but a bush type, so no trellises to worry about.  I actually added a white bush clematis to the garden last year and am now anxiously waiting for it to peak out of the soil.  C. integrifolia prefers full sun to part shade, grows 18-30" tall & is hardy from zone 3-7.

Veronicastrum virginicum

I have both the species as well as a named variety of Veronicastrum in my garden ('Lavender Towers') & I love them both.  As with most plants on this list, I hadn't ever considered growing it from seed so when I saw this listed on the Botanically Inclined website, I thought I would give it a try.

Photo Credit:  Botanically Inclined

Veronicastrum virginicum grows 4-7' tall (in my garden it settles in at around 5') and has a 2-4' spread.  It needs full sun, blooms in mid to late summer and is hardy in zones 3-8.

Delphinium exaltatum (aka Tall Larkspur)

I only have one Delphinium ('Guardian Blue') in my garden & it was actually a "mistake".  When I purchased it, it was basically a small pot of leaves & it was amongst pots of hardy geraniums.  Having no experience with either hardy geraniums or delphiniums at the time, and with their leaves being rather similar, I thought it was the former, only discovering my error after the fact.  Well, it was a fortuitous mistake as it brought me so much joy when it bloomed.

Delphinium 'Guardian Blue'

Delphiniums do readily self-seed (or so I've heard - we'll see if I get seedlings) so I'm hoping that growing this one from seed will be "easy".

Delphinium exaltatum
Photo Credit:  Botanically Inclined

D. exaltatum grows 4-6' tall, prefers full sun & is hardy in zones 5-7.  It blooms from July to September.  I also have a couple of other Delphiniums that I started indoors, but they are cultivated 'named' varieties (and they are doing great!).

Vernonia gigantea (aka Giant ironweed)

This native perennial has been on my radar for a few years now and was on my perennial purchase list for this year.  It's a back of the border plant, growing up to 8' tall, with gorgeous purple blooms in August & September that pollinators go gaga over.  When I saw the seed in the catalogue, it was a no-brainer.

Photo Credit:  Botanically Inclined

Vernonia gigantea prefers full sun to part-shade and average to moist soils.  It's hardy from zones 5-8.

Lobelia siphilitica (aka Great Blue Lobelia)

This one is another North American native, that attracts plenty of pollinators and is also deer and rabbit resistant.  Now, while I don't have issues with deer (knock on wood!), the local rabbits do enjoy my garden.  I'll be testing out L. siphilitica in one of the backyard beds as they have a lot more rabbit pressure than those in the front garden.

Photo Credit:  Botanically Inclined

Lobelia siphilitica does best in a full to part-sun location, although it does prefer a bit of protection from the blazing afternoon sun.  While it likes a moist, even soggy spot (it actually tolerates up to to 3" of standing water!), it does fine in average soil conditions as well.   At a height of 2-3', it's perfect for the middle of the border.  L. siphilitica blooms from late summer to fall and is hardy from zone 4-9.

Lespedeza violacea

Another native?  I'm sensing a trend here😉.  I had never heard of Lespedeza before I stumbled across it when browsing the Botanically Inclined seed catalogue.  It's found in dry areas on the edges of woodlands, meadows and prairies.

From the photo, you may be able to tell that it's in the pea family.  It's relatively short, topping out at about 18", prefers part shade to full sun and blooms in early summer.  It attracts bees and butterfly's and is drought tolerant once established.  Since it's a legume, it fixes nitrogen in the soil and, as an added bonus, it develops seeds that are then eaten by a few species of birds.  Since it's closely related to peas, I'm wondering if this one is equally delectable to rabbits.  I'll have to keep that in mind when deciding where to put it - I'll likely end up testing it out in a couple of different spots.

Since it's the end of April, I'm patiently waiting - with bated breath - for my winter sown seedlings to start peaking out of the soil.  Of all the varieties I've spoken about in these two posts, only a few have surfaced so far:  'Alan's Pride' echinacea, Penstemon barbatus and Primula cortusoides.  I'm confident I'll be seeing more green popping up as the weather warms.  My neighbors probably wonder what the heck I'm doing as they see me crouch over my winter sowing bins every morning, intently searching for new signs of life.  Not that they would be surprised - by now they don't think twice about my weird garden antics.

Happy Gardening!


  1. Good for you! I like to experiment with winter sowing, too. As you say, sometimes it works, sometimes not. The Virginia Bluebells I started several years ago were from seed, and now I see the neighbors down the way have a backyard full. And the V. Bluebells have naturalized in the woods between us, so...yay! Happy exploring and growing!

    1. I've my fingers crossed that the Virginia Bluebells I put in the garden last year will do a bit of spreading too!

  2. That's a great challenge to undertake, Margaret. They're all beautiful plants and I hope that at least some of them come through for you. I grow various annuals from seed but I've yet to try growing perennials that way. Coincidentally, in a discussion of the rapidly rising price of plants, I'd commented that I should probably give it a try ;)

    1. Oy, you aren't kidding about the price of plants! Just yesterday I was at a nursery and purchased a couple of pots of wild ginger. To get the best bang for my buck, I searched through the entire display so that I could get the pots with the most ready-to-go divisions. Purchased 2 pots but was able to get 7 plants out of it. They'll take an extra year to bulk up, but I'm good with that :) P.S. I think you may be surprised if you try out some easier to grow perennials such as salvia or nepeta - they're just as easy as annuals!

  3. I love that you are growing these from seed. I never took the time, but wish I had. I love a challenge. Good luck!


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