Starting Perennials From Seed

Potted seedling. image by SP Veres/


Unlike annual plants, perennials return each year to grace your garden with their foliage and blooms. While they cost more in initial outlay, they save you money in the long run as there is no need to purchase new seedlings each year. One way to save money on perennial plants is to grow them from seed yourself. Exact planting times and starting instructions vary by plant variety, so always check the seed envelope for advice on starting perennial seeds.

Step 1

Prepare the seed for planting; this varies by perennial variety. Soak hard-hulled seeds, such as morning glory, overnight in a glass of water, or nick the seed coating with a sharp knife. Place cold dormancy seeds in a plastic bag filled with moistened peat moss and refrigerate for four weeks before planting.

Step 2

Fill starter pots or trays with a sterile potting soil mix. Make your own potting mix by combining equal parts of compost, vermiculite and peat moss.

Step 3

Plant one to two seeds per pot or space seeds 3 inches apart in starting trays. Sow seeds to a depth that is twice their diameter and cover with vermiculite or soil.

Step 4

Water until the soil is moist but not soaking. Water from the bottom of the container or mist with a spray bottle from the top to avoid disturbing the seeds.

Step 5

Cover the pots or trays with plastic wrap. Place in a warm room to germinate. Place in darkness or under grow-lights, depending what the germination instructions are for the particular plant.

Step 6

Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds germinate and sprouts appear. Germination times vary by variety and may take as little as seven days to as much as three months.

Step 7

Place the seedlings in a warm, sunny window or under grow-lights. Keep the soil moist at all times and fertilize with a half-strength liquid fertilizer four weeks after the seedlings emerge.

Step 8

Transplant outside once the seedlings have two sets of permanent leaves, not the initial set of leaves the seedling uses to push through the soil. Prepare for transplanting by moving the seedlings outdoors for three hours a day, gradually increasing the time outdoors until they are outside for a full day at two week.

Tips and Warnings

  • Overwatering before germination causes the seeds to rot in the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Plastic bag
  • Peat moss
  • Pots
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Grow lights
  • Fertilizer


  • University of Illinois Extension
  • University of Georgia Extension
Keywords: growing perennials, perennial seedlings, starting seeds

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

Photo by: SP Veres/