In cold climates, many plants have found smart ways to benefit from winter weather. Stratification is a cold, moist period that breaks seed dormancy. In nature, this process occurs in winter, keeping seeds from germinating until conditions are more ideal in the spring. Here are some of the plants who rely on stratification to sow themselves successfully.
Milkweed is vital for the survival of Monarch butterflies, so every nature lover should tuck some milkweed into their gardens. Most Milkweed varieties need 30 days of cold exposure to break their dormancy cycle and this can easily be done in your own home. In nature, this keeps Milkweed plants from germinating at times when conditions are not favorable for growth. We have beautiful Common or Showy Milkweeds, as well as Butterfly Flower, ‘Hello Yellow’ Butterfly Flower, and an Iresistable Blend – all forms of Asclepias.
This wonderful alpine plant — a type of legume actually — takes beautifully to colder climates. A native of the Northwest U.S., this plant has naturalized very well in the Northeast. Showy, elongate clusters of pea-like flowers top its 1-2 ft. stems. Flowers have a big range of colors. The plant was once thought to deplete or “wolf” the mineral content of the soil; hence the genus name derived from the Latin lupus (wolf). However, the plant actually enhances soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form. Direct sow in the garden in late fall or early winter for blooms the following spring. For a special local treat, drive through Durham, NH, in late spring or early summer to see how they have sowed Lupine along the roads to and from their town center. A great use of Lupine seed!
What’s not to love about their easy nature? And those dreamy clusters of blue flowers? These wonderful plants are usually biennial, which means they flower and die in the second year. This is when they set seed too, which they wantonly release everywhere. Once you have Forget-Me-Nots in your garden, it is rarely necessary to plant seed again. If you want to start some plants for the first time, seeding them is easy. The best time to plant is in spring to August if you want to have blooms the following season. Early spring seeded plants may produce flowers by fall. If you are willing to wait a season for blooms, sow the seeds in fall. The plants will produce flowers a year from the next spring.
Poppies form informal patches of bright reds and warm oranges in your late spring garden. Poppies are best when they are grown from seed that is planted in fall or winter, even in very cold climates – think of the Icelandic Poppy! The seeds need to go through the natural freeze and thaw cycles to germinate and that is accomplished by fall sowing. To sow directly into the garden, prepare the area where you want your seeds to grow by raking the area smooth and removing any rocks. In fall, after the soil has cooled down, sprinkle the seeds on the ground. Cover lightly and mark the area. When the snow melts and the ground is warmed by a spring sun, the seeds germinate and start to grow. Enjoy these wonderful, carefree beauties.
These pretty perennial bloomers flower the first year when grown from seed, so you’ll enjoy some color right away in your garden. Yarrow cross pollinates easily, which means that seed may yield the same plant as the parent—or not, especially if any wild common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) grows nearby.
Shop Seeds in Our Garden Store
Come on by to see the Botanical Interests and Baker Creek Heirloom seeds we have, and have fun growing a wide selection of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Enjoy!