Fall Planting for flower seeds

Asked October 8, 2020, 4:53 PM EDT

Hi there! I've been reading about planting seeds in the fall, for early spring growth. In particular, I am looking to plant Larkspur, bells of ireland, and poppies. I also have hollyhock and sweet william seeds. All the packet information for these flowers seems to say "plant in early spring" but I was reading that particularly poppies and larkspur like cold stratification. Do you have any guidance for how to best plant these flowers? Would appreciate any information about cold stratification or soaking as well as best times to sow the seeds. Thank you!! Sarah

Durham County North Carolina

1 Response

Hi Sarah,

I will admit that I often find that when I direct sow seeds in the fall I tend to forget exactly where I put them and can't baby the young plants the coming year. While sowing seed now is always an option, you can also place the seeds on damp soil in pots and keep them on a deck or patio over the winter. That is a very natural way of cold stratifying that should help germination, while allowing you to keep track of everything and transplant young plants in the spring. This is the technique I would recommend.
Many seeds can also be placed on damp paper towels in plastic bags for 2-4 weeks before planting outside, which should also accomplish stratification (although some species take longer or shorter, so be sure to look into each species).
One additional this to be aware of is that a number of the species you mentioned can struggle in our summer heat. Hollyhock is very prone to hollyhock rust, and larkspur also prefers milder summers. The trial with many of these plants is getting them through their first year for better blooms as they mature in subsequent years. Good luck!