The Q&A Archives: Dusty Miller, NE Wild Flower & Rudbeckia Seeds

Question: What is the earliest I can sow seeds for subject plants? Packages say:

Northeastern Wildflowers: "after danger of frost". Seems odd since these would in "nature" sow much earlier. Please explain.

Dusty Miller: "after danger of frost". Does this mean all frost or just heavy frost?

Rudbeckia: to "start indoors". Can't I sow them outdoors? I have seen these growing in meadows near my house. How frost intolerant are they?

Answer: To be honest, without knowing what is in your wildflower mix it is hard to make a guess as to the best time for sowing. Most annuals as you know would have seeded down the previous summer and the seeds would have wintered outdoors to germinate when the time (and soil temperature) is right the following spring. Perennials that require cold stratification will do the same, those that do not will germinate soon after falling from the plant and overwinter as small plants. If the package says after frost, then I would suggest planting the seeds right around your last average frost date and be prepared to cover any emergent seedlings should a hard freeze threaten. Germination could stretch over a long period of time as the soil warms.

Dusty Miller is usually started in greenhouses quite early because it grows quite slowly from seed and needs a warm soil temperature to germinate (it germinates in 7 to 14 days at a soil temperature of 74 degrees); in all likelihood you will need to wait until after all danger of any frost in order to get the soil temperature that warm.

Rudbeckia can certainly be started outdoors. They are often started indoors in an attempt to get them to bloom earlier in the season or in the case of perennials, to bloom the first season at all. There are different types of rudbeckia, also, some with a more perennial nature than others and some being grown primarily as annuals. In my experience the transplants are relatively cold tolerant once hardened off in a cold frame.

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