seeking perennials likely to do well grown from seed, started indoors

Asked February 14, 2019, 8:28 AM EST

I was given an indoor seed starting setup with grow lights etc and now want to start perennials/annuals indoors. I also have a list of new Perennials of the year from this year and years past as high priority considerations. I will use appropriate potting media etc but the final garden is full sun, clay soils.

Washington County Minnesota

3 Responses

Thank you for the question. It sounds like you are asking for flowering plant suggestions that grow in clay soil, full sun, and can be started indoors. For a good list of perennial plants that grow well in clay, check out our publication "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites", page 10:

Starting perennials indoors from seed is quite a different process than starting annuals. Perennials will be slow to germinate and grow and many need a period of "cold stratification" or "scarification", terms used to describe seeds that need to be moistened, soaked, chilled, broken or nicked a bit, in order to germinate once planted. This is often true of our native perennials. Our winters accomplish this task just fine, but a refrigerator can substitute (cold stratification can take 1-3 months in the refrigerator, depending on species). You may be out of time for this lengthy process this year. The seed packet will tell you if this is necessary.

Most annual seeds don't need special treatment to germinate, just follow packet directions. Annuals have relatively little root structure so you could amend the growing bed with compost to lighten the soil. Here's good, general information on starting plants from seed:

Perennial Plants of the year are probably patent protected, at least for a period of years. This means that the only way to legally obtain the plant is to buy it. Seeds produced from these plants often do not grow true to the original plant due to hybridization. You could consult the Perennial Plant Association, the group that chooses the Perennial Plant of the year, to see if seed is available for the chosen plants. Here is their website with contact information:

Here are a few suggestions for perennials to try to start from seed indoors. Be sure to allow for any seed preparation needs listed on the packet:

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
Aquilegia (Columbine)
Dianthus (Pinks)
Achillea (Yarrow)
Echinacea (Cone Flower)
Asclepsia (Butterfly Weed)
Liatris (Blazing Star)

Thank you for contacting Extension.

thank you for the information! Is Cleome hard to start from seed?

Cleome can be started indoors but information varies on whether you need to stratify the seeds or not. Research is consistent in stating that the seeds need temperature variation and light for best germination (70's during the day, 60's at night, and do not cover seeds with potting soil. Just press them in).
Probably the best advice is to follow the seed packet information for the variety you choose to plant. If stratification is needed, the packet will note this.

This Clemson University publication discusses which varieties need stratification and how to do it: