Our annual end-of-summer contest is here, come on down to the Dave's Garden County Fair!

What are some of your seed failures?

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

I decided to clean out my flower seed box of all the seed envelopes I kept of tried seeds and thought how foolish to continue to keep them so in the trash they have gone. I think of how many failures. Mine are: Morello cherry lupin, Marine heliotrope, "Thai silk fire" California poppies, Mourning Bride scabiosa, Salvia superba "Rose Queen", Aselepias tuberosa "Butterfly weed", Campanula persicifolia "Peach-leaf bellflower", campanula glomerate" clustered bellflower" and I'm sure there were others. Some germinated but when planted out croaked in a few days..maybe I set them out too soon, maybe the soil wasn't good in that location, some I didn't give enough time to grow before I got disappointed because they weren't growing like the picture showed..Wintersowing has taught me many things..have patience for one thing..not all perennials flower the same year they are planted. Some I just didn't like after I planted them. Some I'd like to try again.

Have you ever thought about all the seeds that you planted that didn't make it? Have you tried to grow that flower again? Some have survived but the jury is still out on them..

I still have seeds that I bought but never got around to planting so I will have some Fall planting to do.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Seeds I'll usually let myself try multiple times--there are so many things that can go wrong that I always figure I could have better luck the next time. With things that I purchase as plants though I have a "three strikes" rule...once I've killed something 3 times I'm not allowed to buy it again. You can accidentally kill something once or twice, but if it dies a third time that means either it's too finicky or my climate is just not suitable for it.

Rather than throwing out your seeds though, I'd be tempted to scatter them in the garden and see what happens--some of them could surprise you and come up and do well.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

This will take me a while to remember,I have so many fails the last couple of years I could not possibly name them all.
Failed with Delphinum,cardinal flower,bunches of them ,only these I have a few of except the delphinium.Some agastache,penstemon. the list goes on and on as never ending as the attempts.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I tried Larkspur a million times to no avail. So I exceeded the ecrane3 rule by 999,997 attempts.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Hey ya happy; I tried some larkspur years ago and you know what.? Some the annual kind came up this year as a complete surprise after how many years? They must like the weather this year.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Supposedly they want to be planted in the fall, or on newly fallen snow. Neither worked for me.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I can't even remember when I had planted them little lone how? Big help I am there huh? Maybe I will name them Rubik's
for beginning gardeners,As they sure made a cube ,square out of me!!!

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

I was told by some gardeners on the garden websites that larkspurs don't like to be transplanted so they suggested I start them in the late Fall in peat pots..It worked! This year they were so beautiful until the 100 plus degrees days/weeks done them in despite watering and no rain except the 2 in. we had on 6/29, the night the storm flatten them and one group of my coneflowers..Then began the high temps and they don't like extreme hot temps..I've been taking and saving the larkspur seeds for next year, even throwing the seed pods down on the ground to see if they will sprout. An experiment of mine. If you catch them right after they germinate and move them, I think you have a better chance of them surviving transplanting. I had the Giant Imperial larkspurs in mixed colors. I am searching for dwarf varieties and have found several resources.

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

This year I have not been able to get petunias up. I have one plant from seed. I do not know what is wrong this year. Others: delphinium, pentstemon, poppies, astillbe, begonias, etc. Next time I will stick with known germinators, like marigolds. Luciee {;^)

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Pippi -- I direct sowed them into the garden -- I was told that would give the best chance of success. I guess I can next try your approach, though my sense is that larkspur and me are not to be.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

happy--as long as you tried your larkspur from seed a million times you didn't break my rule :) That rule is only for purchased plants. Seeds there are too many things that can go wrong, I have to give myself more chances at them!

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Lavatera was a dud for me. Last year I got 1 plant, this year zip. And that one plant didn't self seed either, even though I was careful in my weeding and left lots just in case. White liatris, larkspur, nigella (sown in place, maybe the heat got it?), some dianthus but not others... Aquilegia-fall, WS and spring sown, several types, but not the old fashioned purple, that was great, cobea scandens, and for some strange reason, this year morning glories and sweet peas sulked as well.

But I have been successful with some tricky things- lupines. Penstemons, platycodon, thalictrum, various other dianthus, among others. As you say, methods and conditions vary endlessly, so I guess I have to keep on trying.

Any hints for what works for white liatris, anyone?


Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

Lupines and larkspur seeds need a cold treatment before they'll germinate. I also soak lupine seeds overnight before planting in the fall. I simply sprinkle them on the soil where I want them to grow. Try refrigerating larkspur seeds with a little water for 2 or 3 weeks or longer in a zip-loc bag. I sprinkle refrigerated larkspur seeds on the ground in early spring. The larkspur bloom that same year in early- to mid-summer. The lupines sprout in the spring, bloom the following spring, and if dead-headed, rebloom later in the summer (smaller spike). Transplanting either one has been a losing venture for me, whereas starting from seed (even old, refrigerated seeds) has worked.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

This question is for 1alh1..I want to try lupines again. Do you put anything in the water that you soak them in? I assume you prepare the soil in the area you want to grow them, and sprinkle them on the soil..do you coverly lightly with fine soil or vermitculite or just press the seed into the soil a little to make contact? I watched a video on YouTube recently where a gardener put water in a cheap plastic ice tray, when the ice was almost frozen, she drop a few seeds and let them kind of freeze in the water and then when almost frozen, she poured a little more water over the frozen seed and it stayed like that until the specific time was up, then she would put the ice cube with seeds on top of the potting mix and proceed from there. I wished I'd written the name of that video down. I thought it was interesting. I thought wintersowing outdoors in the cold winter took care of all of that process.

Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

I haven't soaked them in anything except plain water. But I think I'm going to add a little hydrogen peroxide to the water this year. I put a damp, folded paper towel in a zip-lock bag and add the seeds. The next day (or two) I can see where the seeds have begun to sprout. When I plant them, I water the soil, rough it up a bit, and drop the sprouted seeds. I don't cover them at all. If it doesn't rain within the week, I water those areas again. Otherwise, rain and snow moves them deeper in the ground. If they sprout where they shouldn't the following spring, I pluck the strays out. The ice cube method sounds interesting! Our Ohio winters must take the place of the ice cube trick. I have had no problems in growing gorgeous lupines and collecting the seeds to plant the following year.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

1alh1: I might try your soaking method -- though I would have thought sprinkling the seed on snow would have achieved the same effect.... Do you think the problem is that it isn't cold enough for long enough at a time here?

Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

I don't know. We had a very mild winter and an early spring this year, and my lupines were the best they've ever been! It's been hot and dry for the past 6 weeks, but the lupines are still going strong. Many are sending up their secondary spikes. I water them occasionally, cut off the raggy leaves and old stems, and give them a little acid fertilizer. Some don't make it through the hot weather, but most do. The best ones are in full sun. Those that are shaded by shrubs or taller plants don't produce as many spikes. I think that refrigerating the seeds and soaking them before planting is the key.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

What worked for me was soaking 24 hours in 10:1 water:peroxide, then putting them in a damp paper towel in the frig for a few days until they sprouted. They bloomed this year.

Thumbnail by Pfg Thumbnail by Pfg
Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

Pfg, your lupines are beautiful!

Winterville, GA(Zone 7b)

Canna seeds....planted a couple of different kinds I received from trades. So either they weren't viable or maybe I planted them too deep. I did the scarification and soaking thing, too. Cannas are usually so easy to come up so I'm perplexed.

Also, I never had luck with the Himalayan Blue Poppy seeds. Never germs for me.

Louisville, KY

I winter sowed larkspurs 4 or 5 years ago and then transplanted the seedlings into 2 inch pots then on to the garden, I now have larkspurs everywhere in the spring. They do self seed. I recently read on longwood gardens site that they fly in their blue poppies from Alaska. If they can't start them from seed ...well what do you think?

I have been able to grow clematis from seeds only once....I'm still trying.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

I have larkspur seeds from a DG lady from Indiana, wintersown them lots of the seeds came up but when the heat came ,they disapeard, only few bloomed. I still have some seeds, thinking about sowing it soon so the new plants will drop some seeds for next year. Or I should just wintersow the rest of the seeds and start again in Spring. Etelka

Louisville, KY

Etelka they do not last the summer here. I just pull them up and replace with other annuals.

Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

Larkspur don't last in Ohio's hot summers either. I let some go to seed and yank the rest. My larkspur have been done for about 2 weeks, but they dropped seeds, and I have lots of little 1-inch tall seedlings coming up in the scorched earth.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I had those(the larkspur) that came up some yellow solid and some blue with white centers That one was pretty for such a small flower. As July came, they left, as did some annual poppies they sprouted up next to.I may try some in the future only for now if any return I will let them grow,only I am not going to grow them on purpose.
The dwarf hollyhock I have does that ,some years it is there ,some not.It bloomed this year and the last time I saw it was three or four years ago. It is suppose to be a ever returning perennial,only it didn't work out that way.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

My hollyhocks are covered with rust, they look disgusting. We had so much rain at one point- hard to remember now, it's been so hot- they got it then and never recovered. I won't plant them again.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

1alh1; Thank you for the towel and fridge method, I just planted some hibiscus that sprouted that way.

Planted some Penstemon seeds outside about the same time,the penst's are up and growing,the hibiscus have not appeared from the ground yet.Back in a couple of days as to that.

Sidney, OH(Zone 6a)

Perennial hibiscus has been slow to emerge from the ground for me, too. Even well established plants are among the last to show signs of life in the spring. When I cut them back in the fall, I always leave about 4" of stubble so I won't accidentally plant over them in the spring. Just keep the seeds moist and within 2 weeks or so, yours should send up young shoots. Good luck!

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

I have really good luck with larkspur, now it comes back from volunteers, but to get the area started I did direct sow in the early spring. Not winter, it was definitely around April 1. I was careful to keep the area watered. And because I wanted a long, thick row, I planted 2 or 3 packets of seeds. I also have luck with moving them, but I agree with someone above, you must move them when they are very small. They do look wilted for a day or so, but keep them watered and they will perk back up. This photo is from June of this year. All these are volunteers, I didn't plant any seeds this year. And obviously they didn't come up in a neat row, so I did quite a bit of moving around.

Thumbnail by cindyeo
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)


I just went back to the top of this thread and saw your problems with Salvia Rose Queen. Please try it again! I found that when I purchased it and it fizzled out, but when I grew it from seed - well, I've never lost one. This photo is from is from 2006 - I still have it. According to my records, I germinated it in 2003. I have several of them. I got the seed from Park.

I did start it indoors. It's a surface seeder, which made it easier. It's tough to transplant, so I actually seeded it the other day from my very old seed and we'll see what happens. I refrigerate my seed, so I have 75% germination rates from seed I gathered in 1998!

Whoops, wrong pic! See below!

This message was edited Jul 30, 2012 1:02 PM

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I got the seed from Park, which no longer carries it. But Swallowtail does, and they are great!

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I will throw an endorsement for swallowtail in here,I have some seeds starting from there. Rarely do they fail and when it has happened it was me ,not the seeds. Yarrow, Penstemon, Agastache,Guara ,all currently sprouting.Actually the Guara is next on the planting list.Hoping I will have the time to get to em'.

Hopeful of next summer's blooms I always am.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

And lavatera - wow! I must have tried 20 times. In the ground in cells. Probably a hundred seeds. But let me tell you what was maddening. I was in the hibiscus/mallow phase of gardening: lavatera, hardy hibiscus, mallow, and I wanted to grow malva alcea fastigiata. Tried over and over again. People complain about self seeding with this plant. I'd take my few pathetic flowers and scatter the seed. Nothing. I gave up.

So this year - what six years later - I go back to the house we have under contract to tidy and weed and there they are, lots of them, blooming their brains out, laughing at me!

I think some plants are sadistic. Oh, and most strains of verbena. I have bonariensis everywhere, but I have tried to grow from seed a bunch of different hardy verbenas and I am batting 0.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

DonnaMack; Here's similar? I'm planting Yarrow Nobelissa, got the sprouts and was going to save myself some work planting them in ready pots from three months ago.Okay I planted them in the ready pots that the seeds from three months ago didn't sprout or germinate in,(I know risk of fungus so on so on so forth), well today I have yarrow growing with and along with the seeds that didn't germinate three months ago.Now I will have to determine whether the sprouts today are Agastache orPenstemon.
It is sometimes like the plants are laughing at you (me) expecting you(me) to reply a sigh like Duh< or something while laughing a little. Nature does have a sense of humor!

Warners, NY

Over forty years of trying, I am now getting forgetful and don't even want to remember what didn't show. The delphiniums that were entirely obliterated by slugs, the lupines that never appeared, the foxgloves that didn't show, the Acer seeds I got caught hanging on to a branch ten feet up filching in a public garden (actually after two years they showed but the plumbers dug them up when the new septic tank was dug-----they needed double stratifying!) Most recently five seeds from Saratoga Pinwheel X Ed Murray that refused to germinate----repeated the cross, stratified daylily seeds and they are now seedlings that , I hope, bloom next year--probably uglies----------------Weedy

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, yes and primula japonica. I can buy plants that last a couple of years and I so much wanted to grow them. They need variable temps so I kept sowing them outdoors. Then I tried indoors. Three packets of seed later and - NOPE!

On the other hand, I was given a digitalis grandiflora that I gave to a friend, who killed it. It was only in my yard for two years. Then I look up and - boom! In my yard there are half a dozen beautiful plants, some in sun, some in shade.

There also was a digitalis mertonensis, which I tried in vain to grow for years! I think primroses and strawberry foxgloves know how much I want to grow them, so they say NO! NO! NO! take that!

Spring City, TN

The thought of all the work, sweat, hopes, and hovering over seeds only to watch them fizzle -- or worse, do nothing at all -- has made me think it would be wise to only try half of each seed packet and save the rest as insurance against monumental failure.

Or is that too pessimistic?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hardy geranium - 0 for 10 seeds. I felt really stupid stratifying them with a nail file, and even dummer when it didn't work.

Holly Springs, NC(Zone 7b)

RedClay, when I am not sure about how well something will seed, I split the packet up a bunch of ways to try to hedge my bet! I try nicking, soaking, cold-stratifying, hot-bedding, and even peroxide. I've never been shut out, but I'm also really, really, really, really bad about losing the chart that I write about what I did to each set so I can't even tell you which things worked and when.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

[quote="cindyeo"]I have really good luck with larkspur, now it comes back from volunteers, but to get the area started I did direct sow in the early spring. Not winter, it was definitely around April 1.

Thanks for the info. I will try them in fall and spring and see which works for me, as I would love to have some.

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