The Q&A Archives: Perennial seeds didn't come up

Question: I bought 3 perennial seed packets- Dianthus-Spring beauty-mixed colors, Dianthus Ipswich Pinks, & Dianthus Rainbow Loveliness. None of the seeds came up.I planted them outdoors at the end of May and nothing came up at all. They were packed for 1998. I bought them for my sunny flower bed and looked forward to them coming up for years to come. Can you help?

Answer: What a disappointment! While the dianthus in my garden occasionally self sow, it doesn't happen very often -- in my experience it is better to start dianthus seeds under more controlled conditions. Dianthus germinate fairly quickly at 68 degrees; I usually sow them very lightly and thinly on a clean commercial peat-based soil mix to which I add sand. Dianthus seeds absolutely require good drainage and seem to rot if buried too deeply or kept too moist during germination. After germination, I take care not to overwater them and pot them up into a well drained mix; finally when they are large enough I condition them and set them out into the garden. Once in the garden, most types can be propagated by cuttings and by division.

Perennials can be "touchy" with regard to seed starting, at least in comparison to most annuals, but it is really rewarding so don't be discouraged!

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