There are lots of annual and perennial flowers to start from seed indoors ahead of the outdoor growing season. By sowing instead of buying plants, we have more options (so many varieties to choose from!) and save money. If you have a bright windowsill or fluorescent lights, you’re all set.
If you are new to seed sowing, Seed Starting For Beginners walks through the entire process.
Start Flower Seeds Indoors
There are many good reasons to start seeds indoors in late winter and spring. The most practical reason is, by sowing indoors, we get a jump start on the growing season. All those months waiting for last frost can be used to get all sorts of plants established. This is essential for us cold climate gardeners.
Once the soil warms and the risk of frost has passed, our plants are ready for transplanting.
We can always purchase some plants from a nursery—and we all do—but sowing at home comes with the added bonus of options and lots of them.
There are countless types of flower seeds you can start indoors. I’ve provided list of top annuals and perennials below to get you started.
If you are new to seed starting (indoors or outdoors), and want something easy and reliable, consider sowing marigolds to decorate a border.
More challenging seeds include delphiniums and milkweed. These both have a reputation for being difficult but once you know the tips, you’re on your way. For these two, the secret is cold stratification—which is likely mentioned right on the seed packets.
It’s not just satisfying to raise trays (and trays!) of happy seedlings but the savings can be quite substantial. My own seed starting was the secret to transforming a big bare lawn to a flower haven within years.
For seed starting how-tos, my ebook, Seed Starting For Beginners shares everything I do.
To start flower seeds indoors you need either fluorescent lights, LED or other grow lights, or a bright windowsill. For best results, follow the sowing directions on the seed packet including any preparations like scarification, cold stratification, or presoaking seeds.
Whatever you choose to grow, be sure to check that your choices are not invasive in your area. A good standard is to confirm that anything you grow will benefit local wildlife from insects to mammals. If it plays a positive role in the local eco-system, it’s likely an excellent choice.
I organize my indoor seed starting into three basic groups based on how long they need to get established.
Always check your seed packets to confirm the best timing for the varieties you have selected.
- 30 Flower Seeds To Start Indoors
30 Flower Seeds To Start Indoors
Invasive Species Alert
Always check that any perennial plant you want to add to your garden is suited to your plant hardiness zone and growing conditions, supports local wildlife, and is not considered an invasive species in your area.
10-12 Weeks (70-84 Days) Before Last Frost
Perennials are plants that live on for several years. They can flower or fruit year after year.
- Bee Balm / Bergamot (Monarda spp.) | zones 2-9
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.) | zones 3-10
- Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) | zones 3-9
- Clematis (Clematis spp.) | zones 4-9
- Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) | zones 2-9
- Coneflower (Echinacea spp.) | zones 3-9
- Lobelia | (Lobelia spp.) | zones 4-8 (there are both perennial and annual species)
- Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) | zones 3-9
- Penstemon (Penstemon spp.) | zones 3-8
- Primrose (Primula spp.) hybrid | zones 5-7
- Verbena (Verbena spp.) | zones 4-8
Annuals are plants that flower or fruit in the first year, including many flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Sunflowers are a good example of annuals. Annuals generally last for just one
growing season (spring and summer) unless they are long-living and protected from cold conditions.
- Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis)
- Heliotropes (Heliotropium spp.)
This is also time to start woody herbs from seed including oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage although growing from cuttings is much faster.
See Annuals Versus Perennials: What’s The Difference? for a detailed explanation of the different between the two groups.
8-10 Weeks (56-70 Days) Before Last Frost
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) | zones 3-9
- Blazing Star (Liatris spp.) | zones 4-8
- Delphinium (Delphinium spp.) | zones 3-8
- Geranium (Geranium spp.) | zones 4-9
- Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) | zones 4-9
- Iceland Poppy (Papaver spp.) – hardy short-lived perennial
- Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
- Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) – biennial zones 8-11
- Titan Sunflowers (annual) | Any really slow-growing sunflowers may need to be started indoors. The rest do best with direct sowing outdoors.
4-8 Weeks (28-56 Days) Before Last Frost
- Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro) | zones 3-9
- Lavender, English | zones 5-9 | Propagation by cuttings is best
- Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thungergia spp.)
- Calendula (Calendula spp.)
- Honeywort / Cerinthe (Cerinthe major purpuranscens)
- Nasturtium (Nasturtium spp.)
- Sweet Pea (Lathyrus genus)
- Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)
Bonus: You can start dahlia tubers indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost.
Find Your Frost Dates & Hardiness Zone
Average Frost Dates | Use this calculator at Almanac.com. Enter your city and state or province to find your first and last frost dates and number of frost-free days.
Ecoregion | Learn about the native plant and animal species and environmental conditions specific to your region to better understand why your garden choices matter.
Learn More: Understanding Frosts & Freezing For Gardeners
Seed Starting for Beginners
Sow Inside Grow Outside
by Melissa J. Will
NEW EDITION | Everything you need to get started with indoor seed starting for indoor and outdoor plants. Grow what you want—any time of year!
This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.
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LED Grow Lights
Recommended LED Lights
Seedlings | Barrina Super Bright White LED Lights | Amazon
These lights work nicely for indoor seed starting and growing young plants until it’s time for outdoor transplanting.
Indoor Flowering & Fruiting | Barrina Full-Spectrum LED Lights | Amazon
If you need lights for long-term growing including plants that can flower and fruit indoors, choose full-spectrum bulbs.
Seed Sowing Plans
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛