Delphiniums, Lobelia and Snapdragons
In the middle of winter, it’s hard to imagine flowers blooming, but if you sow annuals indoors now, you’ll have more than enough to fill your borders with colour in summer. For easy annuals to grow from seed this winter, you can’t go far wrong these three:
Delphiniums: tall spires of blue, white or pink flowers. A cottage garden classic, loved by bees.
Antirrhinums: better known as snapdragons, they come in a fabulous range of colours, and flower for months.
Lobelia: a gorgeous bedding plant with masses of tiny flowers in rich colours.
Growing delphiniums from seed
Sow delphinium seeds under cover from late January to March, about 3mm deep in trays filled with seed compost. Stand the seed trays in a dish of water until the compost is damp, or use a hand spray to water. Delphinium seeds need darkness to germinate, so cover the trays with kitchen foil to keep in moisture and block out light. They also don’t want to be too warm – a temperature between 15-20°C (59-68°F) is ideal. Check them regularly, and once the first few seedlings have appeared, remove the foil.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle – typically when they have two sets of true leaves – pot them on into separate small pots. In May, harden them off for about two weeks before planting by leaving the pots outside during the day and bringing them back in at night.
Plant your delphiniums in a sunny position in well-drained soil enriched with compost, adding a handful of slow-release fertiliser like fish, blood and bone to the soil when planting. Stake to keep them from blowing over, and cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush.
Growing Antirrhinums from seed
Antirrhinums can also be sown from late January. They need light to germinate, so scatter the seed on the surface of a tray filled with moist seed compost, cover with a clear plastic bag and place the tray on a sunny windowsill. Seeds should germinate within 10-20 days. When they’re big enough, pot on as for delphiniums. Harden off and plant out in May.
Antirrhinums prefer a sunny position and a well-drained soil. Keep picking the flowers to encourage more to appear.
Growing lobelia from seed
Lobelia erinus, the annual lobelia, is a fabulous bedding plant. Producing masses of deep blue or rich pink flowers, it looks equally good trailing over the edge of a pot or in neat mounds along path edges. Sow lobelia in seed trays indoors from January to April, pressing the seeds lightly into the surface of the compost. Water and leave somewhere bright and cool (between 15-20°C/59-68°F). Seeds should germinate in 1-2 weeks. Once they’re large enough, thin them out to 2.5cm (1in) apart and leave them to grow on. Harden off and plant out in May in moist, well-drained soil in a sunny spot