There's nothing like sprouting your own flowers from seeds. Though they take a little longer to spring into action than bedding plants, you'll have the pleasure of nurturing them from seedling to full splendor. And even if you're an impatient gardener you'll find these fast growing beauties well worth the effort.
Cosmos is a half-hardy annual with daisy-like flowers that grow 2-8 feet tall in maturity. Colors come in shades of pink, red, yellow, orange, scarlet, lavender, white and striped varieties. Cosmos enjoys average garden soil and a sunny location. Seeds can be started indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost or outdoors in early spring. Seeds will germinate in as little as 10 days, and flowers should appear within 6-8 weeks. As plants grow, they can either be staked or pinched back to encourage more blooms. Cosmos is drought resistant and will self-sow, freely, if given ample room to expand. Seeds can also be planted in early summer for a late-season bloom.
This fast sprouting annual, is a trouble-free, robust flower that grows easily from seed. Marigold colors include yellow, orange, gold, red and cream. "French' and African' varieties are common, and plants will bloom from early summer to frost, if spent flowers are removed continuously. Marigolds prefer full sun and fertile soil. Though seeds can be sowed indoors, they will do well when set directly into the ground in springtime. Seeds germinate in as little as 3 days, and flowers will bloom about 50 days from planting.
Nasturtiums are prized by gardeners because they grow quickly and require very little attention. What's more, the edible flowers and leaves can be added to salads or used as attractive garnishes. Dwarf varieties are popular in flower beds and come in shades of red, orange, maroon, yellow, gold and creamy white. Nasturtiums prefer full sun and sandy soil, but will produce over-sized leaves with too much fertilizing. Sow seeds in early spring when the ground is still cool. Sprouting will be visible within 7 days, and flowers should appear in about 2 months. Nasturtiums are hardy into the fall and will continue blooming until the first frost.
The bold, resilient sunflower will rise up to greet the summer sun like no other plant in your garden. The plants can grow up to 12 feet tall and produce large flower heads in shades of yellow, orange or red brown. Sunflowers come in annual and perennial varieties and bloom from mid-summer through early fall. They prefer full sun and average garden soil. Seeds should be sown directly into the ground in springtime. Sprouting will start within a week, and flowers will start blooming in 7-8 weeks. After the flowers begin to dry and turn brown, the delicious seeds can be harvested for eating or saved for planting next year.
Once the weather heats up, zinnias make their grand debut - adding fresh, bold color to any flower garden. Common strains grow from 8 inches to 3 feet and come in shades of orange, white, pink, salmon, rose, red and yellow. Seedlings do not like to be transplanted, so it is best to sow them directly into the ground in April or May. Zinnias germinate very fast, and you can expect to see sprouting within 6 days after planting. Flowers will start to appear in 6-8 weeks and will continue blooming through the hottest part of summer. Zinnias are susceptible to mildew, so water generously but avoid overhead sprinkling.
If you start seedlings indoors, set the containers outside for a few days before transplanting into the garden. This will give them time to acclimate to the weather. When you plan to sow seeds directly into the ground, make certain to space them according to the directions on the packet. Though it is tempting to set them close together, improper spacing will crowd mature plants and inhibit flower production.