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What CAN'T be WS'ed?

Southeast, NE(Zone 5a)

So I've been reading up and lurking on this forum. I've read darn near everything on the wintersown.org site. I've started saving containers, although no milk jugs because we get our milk in glass bottles, believe it or not. And I still have a question.

What can't be wintersown? I've got the list of words to look for on seed packs. Then I read a thread where someone said not to worry about what the seed pack says.

I understand perennials and natives in my zone will be fine, as well as annuals that reseed here. Is there anything that really won't work, or that from your experience almost never works?

Thank you! I guess this means I'm no longer a mere lurker.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Partly that depends on if you stretch the wintersowing season into spring sowing... if so, you can also "wintersow" more tender plants. But some annuals take a long time to flower from seed, so if you want budding/blooming plants to set out in spring, you'll have to start them inside.

Southeast, NE(Zone 5a)

How do I know which ones those are?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I'm afraid some of it is just trial and error. Read the catalog descriptions and the backs of the seed packets. Torenia (wishbone flower) and impatiens are two that I like to start inside, at least10 weeks ahead. I start petunias inside also for earlier bloom, and I start lobelia inside so I can have blooming plants to set out before it gets too hot for them.

Southeast, NE(Zone 5a)

Darn! I was hoping for a specific list rather than trial and error. LOL! I like to take the easier way. You tell me what doesn't work, and I won't try it. Ha ha!

My luck at starting seeds inside really stinks. I was hoping those types of seeds I killed inside last spring would do well being wintersowed. Guess I'll just try it and report on the trial and error method! Thanks, Jill! I'm really anxious to try this.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

McGlory, have you seen these lists?:



Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

I found one that should not be winter sown. Cosmos. An early frost (like the one we had Ester weekend in late April) could easily kill the tender seedlings. It's best to plant these seeds in early spring after the threat of a late frost.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Of the 54 or so seeds that I tried, only three did not germinate at all:
Sea Holly, Four O'Clock 'Marvel of Peru' and Carex comans (Frosted Curls ornamental grass).

The Four O'Clocks might be too tender for Zone 3 to winter sow; I'm going to try them again this year, a little later. Not sure why the others didn't work. No biggy though, had MANY other successful seedlings.


Lansing, KS(Zone 5b)

McGlory~ As was stated earlier W/S ing is experimental..but since your zone is close to mine, the Cosmos sulphureus and bipinnatus did very well with wintersowing and my milk jugs stayed out in the cold. I started mine in Feb.and they first bloomed in June, this morning they were still blooming their hearts out. As Cordele notes cosmos easily bites the dust with frost. Last Winter was my first year to W/S and I am very happy with the results. The encouragement you'll receive here is BAR NONE!

Jo ~Sea Holly did not germinate for me either.

Critter is right about the lobelia, I W/S'ed them and their blooms were gorgeous for less than a month when they fizzled out quickly in early July.

Southeast, NE(Zone 5a)

Thanks, everyone! I figured out by lurking that as soon as I showed myself by posting there would be oodles of encouragement.

I saw the lists on the WS site, but it looked to me like for my zone, a lot of things had not been tried yet. I guess it's up to garden 6 to try them. ;-)

Lansing, KS(Zone 5b)

McGlory~ you can try them as well and we'll just compare notes. As you may have noted on the W/S site, there are variations of when seeds are sown out with the same excellent results, then there are the variations that some seeds fare better when sown at more specific times than others. So jump in and have fun, make notes to whatever degree suits you and then you will be encouraging others as well.... with beautiful gardens to boost. ;0)

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I found one that should not be winter sown. Cosmos.

Mine did very well. and i do remember that frost ... though I thought it was early April.

but with you [Cordeledawg] being zone 8, you obviously get plants out way earlier than i can.

I do recall it very will, 1) I'm very good with dates and 2) it was my first WS year, so i remember it well.

I planted out early for my zone, since our last frost date is May 15th, and I know I had my tomatoes out along with a few others the first week of May. I had planned to cover them if it got cold again.

when we had that cold snap, back into the 20's for about a week, i still had my WS containers out on my front porch [covered and eastern exp] but at night I covered them with old blankets... the only seedlings i brought in were MG's because I lost a few to the cold.

but my Cosmos flourished.
as for 4-O'Clocks I find they do best just by self sowing, or sowing directly in the ground. For me, they do not transplant well. Though I did do 2 in peat pots just because it was a new color for me and i wanted to make sure i knew where they were.

Grow-Jo, if you need more 4-O'Clock seeds, i have a lot of magenta ones.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

tcs1366 - that'd be great!

Want some commercial Heavenly Blue morning glory seeds? I have lots. I have a bunch of other MG seeds too if you'd like some of those. Dmail me if you're interested...


Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I didn't have any luck with lisianthus. I also started the begonias indoors.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I agree Anita. I didn't have luck with Lisianthus either. Then I heard from another gardener to sow those seeds in December/January. I think I sowed mine in the Spring. Maybe they need a longer time to germinate.

McGlory: The list of seeds for your growing area are shown in the Wintersown.org website. I would think that the tender tropical flowers probably could be sown in early Summer, but you'll have to experiment and see when the temps warm up in your area. A lot of experimentation goes into wintersowing. It also depends a lot on the viability of the seeds themselves. Don't forget that certain seeds take more than 1 season to germinate. Hold those containers over until the second year. I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Shirley, was it the time needed for germination or the soil temperature?

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I think it was a combination of both soil temperature and time enough to germinate.

Wainwright, AB(Zone 2b)

In our zone, Tropicals ;)

(Judith) Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

Have you all seen this new database being populated as we speak? This is a new project that just got started yesterday. http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/ws/ Seems to me that whether or not a seed can be wintersown depends on a lot of factors including microclimate. This new database should help us get started.

One CAUTION: DON'T COPY ANYTHING FROM ANY OTHER WEBSITE!! It's meant to be for your personal observations only.

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Yes, and now do double check the information you're getting off that database. It seems that the "owner" not only does not want us copying it, she had added deliberate mistakes to the files, so she can better "monitor" in case someone copies "her" files. It makes me question the validity of the entire database..........sigh....I guess it takes all kinds, but what a waste.

Strasburg, VA(Zone 6b)

that seems really strange to put out info to help others yet to be so possessive that you include known mistakes

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

I don't think the purpose is to help anybody but a "chosen" few. sigh........

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

doccat5, thanks for the alert on the deliberate database mistakes. I went to GW and checked out the posts myself. I can't believe anyone would be so irresponsible, but it appears to be true.

I am especially ticked about this as I have taught a couple of winter sowing classes and written an article on winter sowing for our local horticultural society and have included the website link and mentioned the database as the place to go for winter sowing information. Never again.


Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I was following those treads up until a few days ago -- pretty much got sick to my stomach and just do not ever want to go back. ever.

a few comments stuck with me ....

one gal actually said that Dave should have never thought about creating a data base out of "respect for Trudi" and that we [the Dave community] should just send everyone over to theirs. [that almost blew my stack]

regarding purposeful errors/deliberate mistakes -- the question was asked to Trudi if it was "really true that she'd do that" and her comment was something like, "well bananas don't grow in zone3"

so -- while i have not been to her data base since all this began, I'm assuming that if one was reading or looking for info, the "mistakes" would be obvious ... but if the entire thing was copy/pasted, those errors may not be seen, and she'd know what to look for if indeed it's what was done....

BUT -- the thing that gets me is .... who in the world said, Oh Trudi, we wanna copy your data base and use it as a base for our own that we can then add to and call our own.

the way i read it was.... she was asked if she's like to participate, since she is a paying member of this "community".

but -- what do i know.


Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Joanne, I'm really sorry to hear that. Who knows what goes thru some plp's heads? I agree it's self defeating as far as I can see, I may be to broad in my judgment, but I think she's just put her whole database into question, with that bit of questionable behavior. That'll certainly teach everybody a lesson, right? It doesn't seem to be about helping others be better gardeners, it seems to be a control issue, literally. And I really don't think she did all by herself. If I had contributed, I'd be major steamed at that little piece of 'tude. Yet another charter member of the I, ME, MY society, I guess. Too bad, I was a member there also, but I guess that don't count, since I'm a paying member here? go figure??? LOL

(Judith) Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

Hey guys, don't let yourselves get hooked by all that stuff. I posted over at GW and realized I got hooked by the WS thread responding to the silliness Ron and Trudi posted. They're the ones with the problem -- probably control issues -- but we don't need to keep on keeping it going. Even here. :-)

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Let's get back to the original question ..

"What CAN'T be WS'ed?"

I'd like to extend that to what you may not want to w/s. I've had success at w/s'ing impatiens, but they usually don't bloom until the end of July/August. I'm sure there are others with similar experiences. As for what I haven't had success with....intermittently some seed didn't not germinate. That could be due to sterility or just luck of the draw. I'm of the thinking, if at first you don't succeed... Try it again the next year and see. For two years in a row my Kingsize Larkspur didn't w/s. I probably won't try it again. I also have not had luck with a good cucumber crop on w/s seed. I will try starting it indoors next year. I didn't have luck with crepe myrtle and lupine 'Texas Bonnet' and won't try them again.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I found i had no success with petunias.
i think i found more seeds -- they are sooo tiny, right? that I may give it one more GO this year, and if nothing again, I'll give up on them -- though i do love wave petunias.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I didn't have luck w/petunias either. I have another packet for this year and I am going to try some w/s and some indoors.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

oh...I also have never had luck with marigolds and get green with envy when everyone else does!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I have never tried to WS marigolds, though i may this year.
I usually just direct sow them, but last year i had literally thousands of seeds, and i was lucky if 2% germinated.
I personally think a lot of the seeds rotted .... though i did get enough to bloom.
but i do plan to do them differently next season -- my neighbor also had troubles with them [i think all my seeds came from her] as 2 yrs ago, i had none.

Strasburg, VA(Zone 6b)

i didn't have any luck with petunias either although i had some self-sow over the course of summer and they were about the last flowers i had blooming

one big problem i think i had was i didn't have enough potting soil which i guess made the seeds really work extra hard trying to sprout through bricks.....

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I want to try petunias, but doesn't look good for my zone if you guys didn't have any luck. Think I'll still try anyway...

I had great success with marigolds (all commercial seed). I collected some seed from them so it will be interesting to see how that does this winter sowing season.


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

My rule of thumb for what can be and can not be wintersown is pretty genera:

I think in our zone the usual 'summer annuals' (zinnia, petunia, etc.) are better for spring sowing--they can be very touchy about late cold and frost and I have better luck putting out the seeds in April or so--

Zinnias, marigolds, and so on would fall into this category... of course, it will be late in the summer before you will see blooms on these.

I use wintersowing (putting out seeds in Jan and Feb in the covered containers) for seeds that require cold/scarification to germinate...these are mostly perennials... (and then it will be two years generally before you will see blooms).

I recommend, too, that you read the seed packet or catalog descriptions and look for the key words 'after last frost' and so on--that will tell you it's probably best to sow in April...

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I sowed Zinnias, Marigolds, annual Rudbeckia, annual Hollyhocks and Four O'Clocks on March 5th this year. Had great success with all of them except Four O'Clocks - not a single one germinated. I'm going to start Four O'Clocks later this year (thanks to tcs1366 for her generous donation of seeds!). Having said that, we had a pretty mild winter last year, and I may just have been lucky not to lose a bunch of seedlings; I will probably start all my less hardy annuals a bit later this year as it is forecast to be a very cold winter here and that cold weather could easily carry into the spring.

Thumbnail by Grow_Jo
northeast, IL(Zone 5a)

I haven't technically winter sown four o'clocks, but, I have a huge bed of them in one corner of my yard that just keep reseeding. My son and I planted the original seeds there back in the mid 80's when he was 2 or 3, they've basically been left on their own, and every year they reappear. (I know they're annuals, so I guess they reseed) So I would think winter sowing would work great for them. We've had mild winters the last few years, but I know there have been some pretty brutal (for this area) winters since the first four o'clocks were planted. Though the only color we've had for the past 10 - 12 years has been white, I don't know if that is a dominant color in four o'clocks, or for some reason they are a bit hardier than the other colors.


Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)


you have white 4-O'Clocks?? I have a few yellows and a lot of magenta.
in all honesty, i thought the yellows would be prettier than they were, and very slow bloomers.

I too planted the once, and every year after, i'm yanking them out by the dozens.
I get hundreds of seeds per plant.

I only WS'ed them this year, 2 yellows actually, so i knew what color they were and what they were when i planted them out.

Jo_ -- hope you have good luck with them... but if you just toss some seeds on the ground in the spring, they should germinate fine ... personally, i'd do it both ways ... all you need is 1 to bloom, and you will have seeds forever.

*in Itasca

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Just a quick note, four o'clocks act as a great "catch crop" to keep those accursed Japanese beetles away from some of your other plants. I use them as a border to keep the neighbor's beetles off my roses. We had it pretty much under control until one our local "expert" gardeners decided to use the traps....and was wondering where are the beetles cam from..........sheesh.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

me too doc ... since i've had them, the JB's havent touched my roses.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I sowed my marigolds in March too, but none germinated. I sowed 4 o'clocks in 2/2006 and they germinated 4/2006. We also had a mild winter that year. I didn't do any in 2007, but I plan on doing them again this year. The seed is from that first year's crop, but I am hoping it will still be viable.

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