Many annual and perennial flower seeds can be sown in the fall. Sowing seeds in fall has a lot of advantages and follows the way that they are sown in Nature, where plants drop their seeds to germinate the following spring. The cool, wet weather of winter settles the seeds into the soil, allowing them to germinate as soon as conditions are right. This results in less work for the gardener and plants that bloom sooner.
Some perennial seeds need to be stratified (cold temperatures combined with moisture) before they will break dormancy and germinate. Sowing these seeds in the fall allows Mother Nature to overcome this dormancy naturally.
Perennials can take several years to reach their mature size. By sowing seeds in the fall, plants will be more mature the following year than if sown in the spring, and often they will bloom in their first growing season.
Winter rains provide the consistent moisture needed for germination. Cooler weather also reduces the need to water as frequently when rain is not adequate.
Cool weather also slows weed germination giving the seedlings a fighting chance. By the time warm weather arrives, seedlings are large enough to survive the competition from weeds.
Perennials that don’t need stratification are sown 8-10 weeks before the average frost date (there is a 40% chance of frost by November 6). This allows the time for the seed to germinate and establish a good root system to survive the winter.
Perennials that need stratification are sown after the first hard frost. The seed will undergo the stratification process and sprout the following spring. Perennials and biennial varieties include Feverfew, Flax, Forget-Me-Not, Honesty, Hyssop, Lavender, Lupine, Milkweed, Penstemon, Poppy, and Yarrow.
Not all annuals can be sown in the fall, but those that can will emerge when the conditions are favorable and will germinate and bloom earlier than those sown in spring.
Direct sowing results in more robust plants as plants adapt to native soil and temperature fluctuations, and transplant shock is avoided.
For winter blooms, sow seeds in late September. For spring bloom, sow seeds in December. It may be necessary to provide supplemental water for seed sown in fall, but rainfall in early winter should be sufficient.
Annuals that can be sown in the fall and early winter include Bachelor Buttons, Bluebells, Bluebonnet, Columbine, Larkspur, Love-in-a-mist, Lupine and Poppies.
The cool weather of fall makes working in the garden rewarding. Get a jump on spring by sowing some seeds!