A happy Mother’s Day to you. We celebrated Mother’s Day pandemic-style, with our offspring and their partners via a zoom brunch. It was a jolly online gathering.

Let’s move on to seed starting. With one exception, germination has gone well and the seedlings are healthy. We are growing Zinnias (3 varieties), Marigolds (2 varieties), Mexican Sunflower (species and 1 variety), ‘Italian White’ Sunflowers, plus several herbs: dill, cilantro, parsley, and basil (Thai and Genoese).


Now it’s time to start thinking about the timing of moving these plants outside. We’ve already moved the cilantro, dill, and parsley outside, where we also sowed seeds of each of these herbs.

Unhealthy Tithonia seedlings

So far this year there’s been one significant problem. Ironically, it’s been the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). We began with seed starting entirely because we lost our source for Mexican Sunflower plants.

Anyway, the seedling leaves were dying, first along the edges, then moving inwards from there. I was advised to raise the grow lights, but that didn’t seem to help. Ultimately I pulled all the seedlings and replanted. However, all the other plants seem totally healthy.


The Caladium bulbs arrived and were planted in pots. The  bulbs are vastly cheaper than plants at a nursery. Now they sit on a heat mat on the back porch. Caladiums need warm weather to go outside so I hope I’ll be able to move them by the first weekend in June. Meantime Judy tolerates the mess I am making here.

Marigold ‘Tangerine Gem’. Photo from Johnny’s Select Seeds

Pretty much all the pots for the Front Garden this year will be filled with plants grown from seed. I did buy a couple of annual Salvia (Salvia farinacea) so there will be some blue to break up all the orange, red, and yellow.

Hummingbird with Zinnia ‘Yellow Flame’

Otherwise it will just be Zinnias and Marigolds, with some Sweet Alyssum for filler. Pretty basic, I admit. But Zinnias and Marigolds are awesome plants, it’s a mistake to turn one’s nose up at them because they are common.

file-30 (4)
Black Swallowtail on ‘Yellow Flame’ Zinnia

For one thing, they are very popular with  pollinators, including hummingbirds and butterflies.

2014-07-04 16.28.05 Tithonia, Mexican sunflower
Mexican Sunflower.

I’m thinking we will move the Marigolds outside next weekend, then wait until the end of the month for the Zinnias and Sunflower. The Mexican Sunflower will go last, probably in early June.

Are you starting seeds indoors this year? Has your seed starting gone according to plan?

47 Comments on “Seed Starting Developments”

  1. I sow seeds for most of my vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and that has gone according to plan, but I’m none too sure about planting out at the usual times this year because the weather doesn’t seem at all “usual.” Didn’t you and Judy just have a snow where you are? And where I live (Appalachian Virginia), the freezes are usually over before the end of April, but we’ve have a slew of them lately. I no longer trust weather forecasts. I read at 6 a.m. that my temperature is currently 39 degrees, but that doesn’t fit with the sturdy veneer of ice on top of my animals’ water bowl when I step outside. So my cool-weather crops and hardy herbs are doing very well in the earth gardens, but I have a feeling my warm-weather seedlings may need to be potted-up to larger digs before they go in the ground.

    This year, nothing at all seems to be the usual.

  2. The weather has been unpredictable (mostly in a bad way) so I’m hold off on planting anything for at least a week. This year, I’ve scaled way back as I need to do a lot of work on the “bones” of the garden – and finally realized that I couldn’t do it all! For ornamentals, I’m mainly growing zinnias and Mexican sunflowers plus a few coleus that I got through the winter – but just barely. They need to get outside asap.

  3. Hi Jason. It‘s always tricky knowing when to put things outside and I do get impatient as space gets scarce, but we have frosts forecast for tonight and the next few nights so I am currently gathering all the bits of garden fleece I can find to cover things up! My seedlings are in a cold frame and mini greenhouse on the patio… sheltered but still down to 0°C if it‘s frosty! I have zinnias, sunflowers and tithonia too. My tithonia seedlings all looked a little sickly until we had some really warm but overcast weather a couple of days ago and they are perking up. I always have to sow them myself as I have never seen them as plants, or indeed in any other gardens here. Mine germinate quickly but then take ages to get going. Hope your new batch does better for you. Maybe it is just warmth they need. And talk to them nicely! 😉

  4. The seedlings look great! I’m sure the Tithonia will work out, sometimes I start a few pots of zinnias and such and just put the pots outside to sprout and they do just fine, blooming just a little later than the others. It’s actually a little insulting after all the work I put into the earlier stuff.
    Did you order the caladiums online or pick them up locally? If online, where? -asking for a friend…

  5. Oh, if only our seedlings could talk to us, huh? Based on Cathy’s comment, perhaps some time on the heat mat?? At this point you might as well experiment with them. Hope round two goes better! My seed starting has been touch and go. I’m learning how to use my little 6×6′ unheated greenhouse to best advantage with my seedlings. The first thing I learned was that I should have gotten a 6×8′! The 2nd thing I learned was that, if you’re gonna have a mild freeze, you can heat the GH with 8 votive candles. Get up at 4a.m., go out and light candles (GH at 38°inside). At 8a.m. GH temp is 50°, outside is 30°. I was amazed!

  6. I am 100% with you on choice of plants. They must be beautiful but they must work for their space too and attract life and movement to the garden. Whether they are common or not does not bother me. I have tried T. rotundifolia but they do not work here, I think my soil is too dry. I picked up some seeds of a T. diversifolia in Spain but I have only managed to get two seedlings to germinate. This might be a tougher plant, I’ll see. I love those “Tangerine gem” Marigolds. Amelia

  7. I am so glad you posted you were having some challenges with the Mexican sunflower seeds. Most of mine are okay, but I have a few that had black spots so I’ve been picking those leaves off and the three plants that were the worst I’ve dunked in baking soda water to see if I can stop it. Mine have been on the windowsill for a while now, but I’m not sure they’ll make it. Fingers crossed. Maybe I can’t be too greedy since my two pots of tulips survived and bloomed. 🙂

  8. I am running out of space for the seeds I have started, which includes many zinnias, salvias, nicotianas along with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I am looking forward to when I can start transitioning these outdoors so I can free up some space. I haven’t started my caladiums yet- love the heat mat idea for them.

  9. My seed got a late start this year. I really only developed the garden because I got so much time off of work. Anyway, as always, there were too many seedlings. Just today, I found someone who will take the surplus. I always feel obligated to plant it somewhere.

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