The Q&A Archives: When Do Perennials From Seed Go Outdoors

Question: I live in central Alabama. This is a brand new house and I have never gardened in this soil before. I am starting rudbeckia, delphinium and oriental poppy from seed. How will I know when they are ready to go outside? Do you have any suggestions for perennials that will give me the greatest success with the least risk?

Answer: In general, seedlings should be set out after the last frost date for your area, I like to give it a week after. The last frost date for Birmingham, AL is approximately 4/23. You would probably be fine setting them out anytime after that. Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) is, in my opinion one of the easiest perennials to grow. It was one of the first perennials I started from seed and it continues to put on a glorious show. Poppy is pretty easy to, they are pretty low maintenance. I think Coreopsis, Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Chrysanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy) and Monarda (Bee Balm) are also perennials that give you more than you give them. Most delphinium are a classic challenge for gardeners. Delphinium are to be honest, a lot easier to grow in their native UK than they are in the good 'ole USA. They probably won't like the heat and humidity of Alabama much, but you can give it a shot. One more thing, since you are in a new home, it is probably a good idea to obtain a soil test. This will let you know if you have any soil problems that need correcting, which can save a lot of heartbreak in the future. Contact your local county extension office for details. Regardless of soil test results, it is a good idea to enrich the planting area you want to put the perennials in with a good helping of organic matter such as compost, leaf mould, or composted cow manure. This will get them off to a great start and improve your soil's composition.

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