No Time for a Cold Treatment? No problem.

If you are thinking about ordering native plants for your garden (and if you are like me), the price tag for a plant may seem a bit high. Especially when you compare it to The Seed Packet. So much potential held within a $2.50 packet of seeds!  So the choice is: 50 to 100 or more plants for $2.50, or 1 plant for $4?  You see the situation.  Why would anyone choose the plant? But most people do. I am not sure why, but something about growing plants from seed stops people in their tracks.  Looking at it, I see two hurdles that may make even an otherwise avid gardener (I’m looking at you, Stan) turn away.

1 The seed often needs something called a “cold treatment”

2 Figuring out the lighting to grow the plants indoors before they go outside

There are a few ways to do a cold treatment for seeds, and a future post will discuss very thoroughly how to do a cold treatment, but just nuts and bolts here:  for a cold treatment you get a little bag, label it, put some damp sand or vermiculite in the bag, mix your seeds with the sand, and then refrigerate it for typically 1 to 3 months.  Then you get it out and plant your seeds.

The cold treatment mimics winter, seeds absorb moisture, chemicals in the seed coat break down, and being cold for a certain number of days breaks the dormancy of the seed so they are ready to germinate.  Different species have different requirements.  But enough about cold treatments and who needs what!  

Today we are talking about those beautiful, unfussy seeds that do not need a cold treatment!  Seeds for procrastinators, or perhaps just normal people who did not realize some seeds get started in January.  So, there are a number of seeds that you can still order now, Late April/early May, start them when they arrive, and there you go!  Plants!  

10 Good garden plants that don’t need a cold treatment:

Purple coneflower,
Echinacea purpurea

Purple coneflowers

Bee balm, Monarda fistulosa

Bee balm and annual fleabane

Northern bedstraw, Galium boreale

Northern bedstraw
Courtesy Eric Beckers, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum

Virginia mountain mint
Courtesy Dr. John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Great coneflower,
Rudbeckia maxima (often blooms the first year!)

Great coneflower

Sky blue aster,
Symphyotrichum oolentangiensis (make sure to seed out in early spring, likes to germinate in cool temperatures)

Sky blue aster
Courtesy Dr. John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Aromatic aster,
Symphyotrichum oblongifolius

Aromatic aster
The only thing blooming in November

Upland white goldenrod, Oligoneuron album

Upland white goldenrod

Blue sage, Salvia azurea

Blue sage
Courtesy Carolyn Fannon, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Purple-headed sneezeweed, Helenium flexuosum

Purple-headed sneezeweed
Courtesy Dr. john Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale


When the seeds arrive, my sincere advice would be to start them in flats or old planters, with some potting mix.  I would not seed them directly into the garden. The reason is because once you start watering a clear spot in the garden, a lot of weed seeds will also start to grow.  It can be really difficult to tell a weed seedling from a flower seedling, and so then you let everything grow, and most of these flowers don’t flower the first year, so the whole year who can tell the weeds from the plants?!  Next year the same! Gah!  Especially if you haven’t grown them before.  And then, you’re In A Mess.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me, in my optimistic, just seed things out, rake them in days -before weeds had Beaten Me Down.  These days, I definitely recommend weed free potting soil in flats or old planters for starting them out.  It will let you see your true seedlings, you can learn to recognize them for next year, and then you can just plant them out in the garden, right where you want them.  

If you have any no cold treatment garden favorites that were left off the list (or ones you know that can kind of sneak by with no cold treatment), please let me know!


Illinois Wildflowers

Prairie Moon Nursery, and their wonderful, searchable seed database

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