Help me grow larkspur, please

Fayetteville, WV(Zone 6a)

I have a terrible time growing larkspur from seed. I try to plant early because I know it likes cooler weather. I get very few plants from several packs of seed. I've been mixing the seed with fine sand and broadcasting it over the loose soil and then covering it with about an 1/8" to 1/4" of fine vermiculite. The few plants i get grow very slowly and never become quite as tall as I'm expecting. I plant in very rich beautiful soil. This year I cold-stratified half the seed to see if it would help (I mixed with non-stratified seed so I don't know which seeds germinated best) I sowed the seed about 5 weeks ago and my plants are only about 2-1/2" tall now on May 26th. Would someone please give me some tips. I'm in West Virginia, zone 6B. Thanks for any help.

This message was edited May 27, 2010 6:59 PM

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

This won't be much help, I'm afraid, but I just let the existing plants go to seed where they please and I have them every year. It does mean careful spring weeding and no scratching the soil during cleaning but soon enough the little plants develop and I just work around them when weeding.

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Fayetteville, WV(Zone 6a)

What you're telling me is similar to what other people have told me. Everybody seems to have larkspur from volunteer plants. Maybe I'm trying to hard.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

That does happen. It's happened to me with other plants.

I do think they like the same culture as Lavender plants - high and dry. The rose garden very seldom gets a drenching.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Sunny, I have the same problem. I always get some starts each year from my brother who is an hour south of me. They re-seed and show up in his grass a lot.
I have planted seed out for the last three years and have had almost no germination. I understand the seed needs to be planted in the fall for the next spring. I did this one year, but didn't get anything. The next year, I planted in the spring and didn't get much. I DO think the best time to plant your seed is in the fall even though I was not successful. One needs to buy the seed in the spring of one year to plant that fall. A lot of times seeds that are to be planted in the fall just aren't available to purchase. At least, that has been my experience.
This year, I WS my Larkspur. My gosh, I had a LOT of Larkspur sprout. I still have a bunch in a 2 L. soda bottle that I should plant out. I planted some of the WS sprouted larkspur in early March, some in April and some the first of May. The ones I planted in March remained very small until the weather warmed up. Meanwhile, the larkspur that was left in their pots until April and May did just as well, if not better. I did divide the Larkspur plants into separate containers and planted them out throughout the Spring. For me, it is easier to divide the plants in plant cells then, plant them out when I am ready.
My larkspur this year that I winter sowed and planted out in the spring is growing but not blooming.
I think part of my problem planting seeds outdoors in the past has been the soil was too covered with mulch. The seeds didn't really reach the soil.

Fayetteville, WV(Zone 6a)

I've heard several times that larkspur does not like to be transplanted. A few years ago, I did start it in small pots and when I transplanted it, I found that it had unusually long tap roots. I thought possibly that it was very sensitive about having it's tap roots broken or damaged in the process of transplanting it. I'm thinking that early next spring, I may start it in fairly large pots and try again to transplant it. I'm hoping that by using larger pots and transplanting it quickly before the tap root goes down very far, that I can maybe be successful. Incidentally, I had fairly good success last year by just sowing it on loose soil, but I can't seem to be lucky two years in a row.

This message was edited May 27, 2010 7:02 PM

This message was edited May 27, 2010 7:10 PM

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

Sunnyside_One. I collect seeds off the one plant color that I want and cut the others back before they reseed. I then toss just a few seeds (widely) in the fall. I do not cover them at all. I think that they are so fine that just the disturbance of rain or toads give them enough cover. The plants that got too close together bloomed with one set on a 12" plant. The blue one that I really like had more room. It was about 4 foot tall with multiple branches. Benevolent neglect works for me.

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Hereford, TX(Zone 7a)

I have only planted them once. I get massive reseed every year. I have to thin them out they are so thick. I have given some of my discards to my neighbor and she has had great luck with them. They were real small tho. about 4in tall when I pulled them.
This pic is from last year. This year is starting off pretty good so far. Good luck!


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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Darin, very pretty! Larkspur are really beautiful and add height to the garden. I think they are like poppies. Once you get them to actually grow in your garden, they grow like gangbusters. It's getting them to grow that one time. I have had good luck transplanting the larkspur my brother has given me from his garden. I also WS them and had good success. However, I don't think they are going to get quite as tall as they are suppose to be. I am hoping that even though they are shorter, they will re-seed, and I will be able to finally get them started in my garden. WS was my strategy this year. I also intend to plant some this fall. I hope I can still find seed.
Marcia: Thanks for the tip on how you sowed your Larkspur. I will try the broadcast method this fall. I still think part of my problem in the past has been too much mulch for the seed to settle into the soil.
Long tap root, broadcast seed, re-seed easily once established, sounds a great deal like poppies.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I tried with poppies in March and they are all doing well. Not so with poppy seed spread in April so timing really is critical.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

birder17, I think you are right, mulch would keep the seed from getting to dirt and even if it did, awfully tender plants to push up.
Good luck.

Lake in the Hills, IL(Zone 5a)

Plant it in fall. When it peeks through the ground the next year, invite a 3 year old over to dance on it and smash it. Cry. Then be amazed the next spring when a gazillion plants appear in same spot.

Honestly, it worked for me... ymmv!


Fayetteville, WV(Zone 6a)

Well, this is the last time I'm going to follow the directions on a packet of seed! Here are the directions from a packet of Burpee Kaleidoscope Mix Larkspur: "Sow in average soil in full sun after danger of heavy frost. In frost-free areas, sow in fall. Sow seeds about 6" apart and cover with 1/4" of fine soil. Firm lightly and keep evenly moist. Seeds emerge in 21-28 days. Thin to stand 12"-18" apart when seedlings are 1"-2" high."

Well... this fall, I intend to do exactly what several of you have been doing... I'm going to just toss the seed down where I want larkspur growing in the spring of 2011. I live in West Virginia, where we typically get our first freeze sometime between Oct 25th and November 10th. In an average winter, temperatures fall to about 5 to 10 degrees F above zero overnight for a few days with most days in the 15 to 25 F degree range. We'll get somewhere between 30" to 54" of snow.

So... would someone please tell me when in the fall, I should sow the larkspur seed?

I'm going to be buying larkspur seed in the next few days while it's still available and setting it aside until fall.

Thanks for all the help.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

Sounds like a plant about on Halloween. For seed planting I use the rule of 4x the size of the seed for depth. Now if they had said 1/8. :0
The other thing, why plant so close together when you have to thin out. Now with my aches and pains and age..easier to plant scarce than to move the kneeler to pull out the little seedlings and hope that I don't pull out the sturdier one.
If you send me your address, I will treat you to some of the blue ones that I have separated out.

Sharonf1..too dogs do the same thing..with also adding "heavy fertilizer)

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Marcia - I agree with the planting scarce idea much more than thinning out - that's a pain in many ways and such a waste to my way of thinking.

Dayton, OH

This is my first year with Larkspur, they are flowering pretty good right now, and what I'd like to know, are there any bee's out there this time of year to pollinate the flowers? The high here today is only around 52 degree's. Also I've heard that larkspur seeds are poisonus, is this true?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

This USDA article says all parts of the larkspur are poisonous:

Plant Files does not mention the poisonous aspect:

We still have many bees. We only hit 48 degrees today but the bees are very busy with the asters and the pineapple sage.

Dayton, OH

Thanks, I think I might get rid of my larkspur.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Are your pets prone to eating it?

Dayton, OH

No. We have two cats, but they never go outside. But, there are other cats that run around our house.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

We only have one cat on the prowl (not ours) and if the cat wants to eat the larkspur then it will pay the price. If I deleted all poisonous plants from Aconitum to Larkspur I think it would be mighty barren here.

Dayton, OH

I see what you are saying. Thanks

Pittsburgh, PA

I live in Pittsbugh, Pa. I have larkspur reseeding itself everywhere. The seeds drop from the plants when I pull them out in the fall or all through the summer. I have seedlings all over, from the fall until the spring. They remain green all through the winter, and even with the 40" of snow that we got last February, after the thaw they were in my garden, green and growing...

It is funny, they grow some places and won't grow other places???? I would think out climates are pretty similar, although you should be warmer.
I would try to throw some seeds into a flower bed and see what happens????

Good luck!


Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Just want to put my 2 cents in. According to you should sow the seeds now. You can wait until March-May for spring sowing or dormant sow when the soil temp is below 50*. I have found I have better results when I sow in the fall. Last year we got snow 3x's and down to 8* but my wildflowers and poppies were better then ever this past spring.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I planted lots of larkspur this fall. I planted some last of October and much about a week ago, last of November. The ones I planted in October are sprouting. (so cute) I cut the bottom and top off of the gallon milk jugs so there was only about an inch circle-strip left. I nestled it in the ground and planted the seed inside and sometimes on the outside of the circle. This will remind me where the seed is and I will know it's larkspur not a weed next spring. At least, that's my plan. I think I will anchor them down with plant markers.
I had some larkspur return from seed this spring. I hope to have more larkspur next year.
Next, I will plant my poppy seed the last of February.

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