Updated: Oct 9, 2021
If you are anything like me, early spring blooms bring you all the joy after a dreary winter.
To ensure I have lots of early flowers each spring, I fall sow a lot of flower seeds. Snapdragons are especially cold hardy, and despite being slow to start and grow, are vigorous once started. In zones 7 and higher, Snapdragons can be direct sown or started indoors in the fall, and survive outside over winter.
In September in zone 7b, I can start Snapdragon seeds indoors or direct sow in the garden. Last year I just tossed a bunch of seeds in an up-cycled plastic container and kept them under lights until ready to plant outside.
This year I used a seed starting tray to start my Snapdragon seedlings. Snapdragons are slow to germinate and prefer cool temperatures to grow. (This means don't put the seed tray on a heat mat) Seeds can take a couple weeks to germinate so be patient. Lightly press the seeds into the top of the soil and spray with water. Snapdragon seeds need light to grow so do not cover them with soil.
Seedlings are kept under lights until time to plant out. I keep the lights on 16 hours and off 8 hours per day. Once the seedlings get their first set of true leaves (the second set of leaves they grow are the true leaves and look different from the first leaves that germinate), I fertilize with a liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer. I will let them grow until they are 2-3 inches tall and then harden them off before planting them out.
Once the seedlings are hardened off and ready to be planted out, I space them relatively close together, (6-12 inches is recommended but I usually do 4-6 inches because of space constraints) and I will pinch them when they reach 3-4 inches tall which encourages branching.
A layer of straw, shredded leaves or pinestraw can help tuck them in for the winter.
On super cold days and nights, I cover the Snapdragons with frost cloth after watering them for added protection.
Last year I planted out my Snapdragons in January since I didn't know about fall sowing until most of the way through winter. These Snapdragons bloomed in early April.
I'm hoping for earlier blooms next year since I'm getting a jump start on them compared to last year. I plan on having them planted out by the end of October this year.
If you live in zone 7 or higher and want early spring blooms, you can also try planting Calendula, Pansies, Strawflowers, Sweet Peas, Poppies and more in the fall and let them spend the winter outside with minimal protection. It's work now, but our winter selves will thank us.
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