Starting Flowers from Seeds, Bulbs or Plants
Gardening has few hard and fast rules. This guarantees things never get boring, but it also means it’s nearly impossible to get a simple answer to any question. There are usually several ways to get to the same result. And this is especially true for plant propagation.
Let’s say you want to grow dahlias. Should you buy seeds, tubers or plants? Well, it depends. Most gardeners plant dahlias as tubers. These are available as clumps of tubers that were formed last summer (how we sell them), or as individual tubers divided from a larger clump (how most flower farmers sell them).
You can also start dahlias from cuttings that are taken from a large clump of tubers. Flower farmers often use this technique to increase their stock and they may also offer these rooted cuttings to gardeners and other farmers. Growing dahlias from tubers or cuttings ensures this year’s plants will be genetically identical to last year’s.
Growing dahlias from seed is another approach. But rather than getting a specific variety, seed-grown dahlias bloom in a seemingly endless array of different flower styles and colors. This variability is due to cross pollination by bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Yet another option is to purchase your dahlias as potted plants from a nursery or garden center. Be sure to ask how the plants were started so you know what to expect.
Each Type of Flower is Propagated a Little Differently
If you want to add some peonies to your garden, you will need to purchase them as potted plants or as root divisions. Though it’s possible to grow peonies from seed, it can take 5 years to get the first flower. And, as with seed-grown dahlias, there’s no way to know what the flowers will look like until the first buds open.
How about sweet peas? These fragrant annuals resent being transplanted, so nurseries and garden centers rarely offer them. The best way to grow sweet peas is from seeds, planted in very early spring, directly into the garden.
Coleus are easy to grow from seed. But the seeds are small and relatively slow-growing, so it’s best to start them in a greenhouse or indoors under lights. If you want to plant named varieties, such as ‘Fishnet Stockings’ or ‘Sedona’, you’ll need to purchase them as potted plants because they can only be grown from cuttings.
The point is, there’s simply no easy way to know if it’s best to plant seeds, bulbs, tubers, corms, young seedlings, rooted cuttings or a bare root division. It takes a combination of experience and research to figure out what works best.
To help, we have compiled a list of annuals, perennials and bulbs, and the most common ways to plant them. You’ll find that list, and the rest of this article, on our website HERE.