best woodland plants to grow from seed

lisa2004(NY Z5/6)January 1, 2006

I have a large shade/woodland garden and I need a lot of plants to fill it up. I'm wondering (in the interest of saving money AND to give myself something to do over the winter) what are the easiest woodland plants to grow from seed? I don't want to grow anything that doesn't bloom the first year. I already have tons of hosta and ferns. Also, while I'm at it, what is a good shrub or bush to grow along the back of this garden? Something about 4 or 5 feet tall. I'm thinking maybe Oakleaf Hydrangia but I'm afraid it may be too shady an area. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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Vickie56(7 Texas)

I have the same problem as you do, only I'm in Texas and need plants for this area. I hope we get some advice soon
Happy New Year

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 9:55AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Lisa, check out the New England Wildflower Society at:

Vickie, check out the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center at:

Prairie Moon Nursery at:, has individual species seed packets, seed mixes and wonderful cultivation advice.

So does Prairie Nursery at:

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 12:47PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

Seeds of many of the spring-flowering wildflowers are ephemeral, so seed you got now may not be viable. Bloodroot, Twinleaf, Mayapple, Virginia bluebells, wild ginger, False solomon seal all come easy from seed. I have oak-leaf hydrangea in a fairly shade area. They are not shrubs, but Goatsbeard and Snakeroot might be good choices.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 4:35PM
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Lisa, You probably won't be able to have a lot of bloom the first year; especially if you want high value woodland wildflowers. The thing to do would be to buy however many you can afford of wildflowers that do reseed easily and let them seed about. Then you can begin to move them around. Bloodroot is easy, as is celandine poppy (Styloforum diphyllum)and phlox give great color as well as reseeding. Don't be in a hurry. Creating a great wildflower garden is a lifelong hobby. Use lots of leaf mulch and, if no one has already mentioned it...stay away from Preen. Weed inhibitors like Preen work by keeping weed seeds from germinating and the product can't distinguish between a weed and a wildflower.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 5:54PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Walplummer, the plants are ephemeral. In my experience, some seeds, if stored properly, can last a long time. Some seeds, like jack in the pulpit and soloman's seal, should be sown immediately. Some of these seeds also require double dormancy. April.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 6:34PM
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lisa2004(NY Z5/6)

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. Last summer while I was out running (my other hobby) I noticed Jack in the pulpet and trillium growing near the road, at the end of someone's very long driveway. I'm sure they didn't even know they were there...they were kind of along the road. Anyway, I kept meaning to sneak...I mean go back there with a shovel but I never made it. I hope I can find them again this spring.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 11:16PM
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columbine is the most prolific from seed for me. does best with bright shade or some filtered sunlight.
i also like lunaria for something a little taller in the woodland garden. it is biennial so no flowers the first year but you will have them for years to come after that from reseeding. comes in purple or white flowered forms and even variegated foliage.
i have a variegated hydrangea macrophylla in the woods and the foliage really brightens up the area. the flowers are secondary to the foliage in this case.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 9:25AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)


Please don't dig plants unless you ask for permission first. Otherwise, it's stealing, IMO. If the people don't know these plants are there, they will give you permission to take them. April

    Bookmark   January 5, 2006 at 12:06AM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Here, here ahughes.

Collecting seed is one thing...


    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 1:35AM
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nativescaping(z5a IL)

All desirable woodland flowers are perennial and most take a year or two (or more for a few) to become large enough to flower. Patience is key. If you do get seed, I would plant the seeds in pots sunk in the ground and labeled - keep well watered and protect from squirels. Some plants such as Solomon's Seal are quite easy, but take two seasons to push up one narrow leaf. "Propagating Wildflowers" by Bill Cullina is very good.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 1:55PM
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jimcnj(z6 NJ)

You can also try ION Exchange on the web. If you live near NJ go to Well Sweep Herb Farm. They have some nice plants like Solomon's Seal, Galax, Trillium and other woodland plants. Good prices and very healthy plants.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 8:54PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Hi there...I take a bit of a different approach to fill larger spaces. I do this with shrubs as well as perennials and spring ephemerals. I buy one or more young plants/shrubs from a nursery and plant them at visually pleasing locations and then I take seeds or seedlings and plant them all around the mature plant/shrub of the same species. Eventually the seeds/seedlings will fill in to make a "patch" or "thicket" and in the meantime I actually have a large specimen of each to enjoy while the little ones are growing up.

Have you been to the WinterSowing forum? I just started Winter Sowing for the first time and I'm trying mostly native shrubs and flowers but also some non-native flowers for spring plant swaps and shrubs from my front yard. If you haven't already checked it out... go here:

southern Ontario, CANADA zone 6a

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 3:31PM
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