Winter Sowing butterfly plants

dr.liz(7 NJ)April 8, 2014

Hello everyone! It's great to be back on the forum after a winter's "vacation." It was a horrible winter here in the Northeast, actually. We had snowstorm after snowstorm-really, it was a banner year for us. We've had big storms before, but never such a succession of storms, as far as I can remember.

Anyway, I am looking forward to butterfly season, and I posted this question on the winter sowing forum, but I thought I would ask you all as well.

First of all, most of my sprouts are up! This is my first year winter sowing and I was thrilled today to go out and see that most of my jugs have little sprouts! I am doing plants for a butterfly garden, mostly native.

I wanted to add some butterfly annuals as well, so last weekend I planted several jugs with Mexican sunflower, zinnia, and Yvonne's Salvia. I live in New Jersey and the temperatures are starting to moderate here, but we could still get frost for another four or five weeks. Right now I have the jugs indoors, where they haven't popped yet since it's only been a few days. I don't really have enough light inside, though, and I would like to get them out into the sun as soon as possible. Is it safe to move them outside yet?

(I was hoping to get them under fluorescent lights since I have a setup in the basement, but I had the basement waterproofed this winter and everything is still at sixes and sevens down there and the lights are not set up yet.:-(. That is why I find myself in difficulties.)

Thank you for any input!

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I would definitely put the jugs outside. If it isn't warm enough, the seeds won't germinate. If they do sprout, they are still protected from a light frost by the containers. If a truly deep freeze threatens, then throw an old blanket or sheet over them for the night. But, they'll do much better outdoors in the sun. I have jugs outside with zinnias sown, and I'm zone 5. I don't have a single sprout yet, in almost 100 jugs. Can you say Zone Envy?


    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:46PM
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Martha - Have you winter-sown zinnias before this year? If so, about when did they start blooming in your garden? Any issues with sprouts getting hit by cold and dying?

I have some seeds that can take to a nearby greenhouse to start for me, but I'd like to save $ and start them myself if they have a reasonable chance of doing well.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 8:22AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Yes, I've sown Zinnias for several years. I don't remember when they started blooming, but certainly early enough to get a very satisfactory season. The jugs warm sooner than the ground, so I do get a considerable head start compared to direct sowing, and it's easier to control the moisture. I've not lost any to cold or frost.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:26AM
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That's really helpful information, thanks! I did one container of zinnias a few days ago but will definitely start some more today.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:12AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Good to hear from you again, Liz!

I've never winter sowed any of the seeds you mentioned, but I do know that Mexican sunflowers/tithonia, need heat to germinate and even more to grow. I once sowed them (outside in containers) too early in the spring, and they made pitiful, spindly plants that wouldn't grow. When I resowed later, they thrived. I've ordered tithonia seeds, should be here today, and I plan to wait until the nights aren't so cool to start them.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:45AM
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In my experience, I would wait on the Zinnia and Mexican Sunflowers....More than once I've had them sprout too early then kill over, still cozy and covered in their containers, on freezing nights. I usually waited until May for tender annuals in Eastern WA. Now this year however, in my new location in the Mountains of Central Idaho, I've got many of my tenders started indoors due to the shorter season (though we are zone 5). We can have 60-70 F days but still be dipping way low until end of May and frost can come as early as beg. of August! Urgh!! From now on it's only hardy annuals out before then :)

Good luck


    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:31AM
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