Flower garden and landscape

Tricks of sowing begonias, eustomas, petunias and other small-seeded crops


Many ornamental plants have tiny, often literally dusty seeds. The florist has to adapt to sow such plants as efficiently as possible. Begonia, petunia, eustoma, lobelia, alissum, bacopa, snapdragon and many others are annuals with tiny seeds that I sow almost every year. In addition to summers, small seeds are tied up with many perennial crops, such as a bell. In this article I will share the tricks that I use when sowing my favorite flowers that have small seeds.

Tricks of sowing begonias, eustomas, petunias and other small-seeded crops

What should be taken into account when sowing small-seeded crops?

With such a rich assortment of finished soils today, few of the growers make up a mixture for sowing seeds on their own. In my opinion, for small-seeded crops, purchased peat-based soils are indeed the best option. First of all, they never form a crust, which can be observed using, say, loam from the garden for sowing.

But the finished soil is different. Choosing soils for small-seeded flowers, it is better to avoid those that contain pieces of perlite. For tiny seedlings, they can become “heavy boulders” that will prevent them from growing. Anyway, the topsoil before sowing is better to sift.

When filling containers with soil, make sure that soil level was at least 1 centimeter below the edge of the container. Otherwise, when covered with a film to preserve moisture, small seeds may stick to it.

In the process of sowing crops with small seeds, it is important to observe indent from the edge of the container at least one centimeter. A gap is often formed between the lump of earth and the walls of the container, and small seeds, even with the most careful irrigation, will very easily rush there with a stream of water. Sometimes it happens that when watering or spraying, it blows even tender seedlings with an underdeveloped root system.

Diving tiny shoots is very difficult, and this process takes a lot of time. You need to be extremely cautious so as not to damage the fragile roots and stems. Therefore, it is extremely important maintain distance between seeds already during sowing.

In order to evenly distribute tiny seeds on the surface of the substrate, some tricks are used. For instance:

  • sowing on a layer of snow,
  • mixing seeds with fine sand,
  • the use of special manual mini-seeders.

But for me the use of a toothpick seemed the most optimal (read more about this below). This method can be used both for seeds not coated with a special coating and for dragee seeds.

Tiny sprouts of begonias ever-flowering on the left, eustomas (in the middle) and slightly larger - on the viola on the right.

The subtleties of sowing pelleted seeds

Once, at the dawn of my passion for flowers, I was faced with the need to plant an evergreen begonia. I was extremely surprised that the seeds of this flower are literally dust. Fortunately, at present, most seed producers use the pelleting method when packing small seed crops.

Each seed is covered with a layer of special glaze. As a result, tiny seeds "increase in size" several times, which makes them more convenient when sowing. In addition, the coating protects the seed during transportation from mechanical damage and other negative external factors.

Unlike untreated seeds, pelleted seeds tend to show higher germination. Seed producers usually do not indicate the composition of the glaze for processing planting material, but sometimes it may also include fungicides, long-lasting fertilizers and growth stimulants.

Such seeds are much more convenient to spread evenly over the surface of the soil. They have a light color (white, beige, light green, yellow, etc.). That is, they are better visible on the surface of the soil, in contrast to the "bare" seeds, usually with a dark shell.

Read also About growing petunia seedlings in detail.

Why florist floss?

To make the process of sowing granular seeds as quick and convenient as possible, we come to the aid of the "best friend of the grower" - a toothpick. I also highly appreciate this simple tool during the sowing campaign of non-granulated small-seeded annual flowers.

Using it is very simple. Gently pour granules from a cone or sachet into the left palm folded by the boat. With your right hand, dip a toothpick in water. Then we touch the dragee, which is instantly securely attached to the tip of a wet toothpick. Further manipulations are also extremely simple: place the dragee in the right place on the surface of the substrate.

At the same time, around the seed, slightly recessing it into the ground, with the same toothpick I usually make a small depression about 1 millimeter deep and 2 millimeters in diameter. This is necessary so that the seeds remain in their places, and not move around the tank during watering or spraying. In another case, the interval set during sowing may be violated.

In addition, I also clear the way for future shoots. Sometimes in soil mixtures based on peat larger fibers are found. They are not so massive that they can be easily noticed, but for a tiny spine a small seed can become an insurmountable obstacle. If a toothpick stumbles onto a solid fiber or a piece of bark during compaction of the granule into the soil, it must be shifted to the side.

Sowing granular seeds is important in very moist soil, as I call it “in the swamp”. To do this, I very abundantly water the soil in the container and start sowing when there is still water on the surface of the substrate (about 1 millimeter). In this case, many granules dissolve literally before our eyes, which means that they will not interfere with the rapid germination of a seed.

Sometimes dragees come across harder, and then immediately after sowing, I carefully destroy the granule with a toothpick. But sometimes this also does not help, since some manufacturers use a very dense composition for processing granules, and it takes several days to soak the shell. In such situations, airing containers with seedlings, I drip a few drops of water from a pipette daily on insoluble granules and also try to carefully destroy the shell with a toothpick.

In my experience, if individual granules did not dissolve, despite all the manipulations, then you should not expect seedlings from them, and sometimes seedlings in a “cap” appear, which still fail to remove their dense “helmet” from the glaze, and they die.

The grower's best friend is a toothpick.

What are multigranules?

Sometimes on the seed packaging you can see the mark "multigranules". Often, the latter look like regular rounded dragees. Sometimes they have an irregular shape of lumps - multidrage consist of several seeds, combined into a common granule.

Most often, seeds of those crops that can be grown in clusters (cereals, annuals with thin stems, for example, lobelia, alissum, etc.) are pelleted into multigranules. The seedling bundle emerging from the multigranule can not be separated. But if you need more plants, then they can be peaked when the first true leaves appear or neatly divided into several parts when planting in the ground (cereals).

Read also our article on 5 bright summers to be sown in early February.

From sowing to seedlings - conditions and care

After the sowing is completed, I cover the containers with a plastic bag and put it in the warmest place (under the battery) for a couple of days so that the seeds receive a charge of heat in humid conditions. Then I transfer crops under a phytolamp. As you know, most small-seeded crops grow best in the light. This is quite logical, because in nature tiny seeds usually do not go deep into the soil, remain on the surface of the soil, and their germination processes begin under the influence of sunlight.

Therefore, for those crops that are sown very early in January-February (begonia, eustoma, bacopa, etc.), I always use a phytolamp at a minimum distance from the containers. But for later sowing, for example, petunias may be enough natural sunlight. In this case, the crops covered with a transparent film are placed on the windowsill without exposure.

From tiny seeds, no less tiny cotyledons unfold and therefore microscopic shoots can be difficult to see. When growing seedlings of small seeded crops, it is very important to know exactly the dates at which seedlings appear, and during this period to be especially careful during the daily airing of crops.

By the way, since I sow my seedlings in small containers, I find it very convenient to cover them with a plastic bag, and during ventilation I just turn it inside out and then drops of condensate remain on the surface. But gardeners also have other options for constructing mini-greenhouses for seedlings.

In any case, during ventilation it is important to carefully examine the surface of the substrate for emergence. By the way, I have good eyesight, but it took a magnifying glass to see my first seedlings of begonias. Keep this in mind when sowing small seeds for the first time.

It is very important to notice the emergence of seedlings in time, since, in my experience, it is better to remove the film immediately. Although many sources advise keeping seedlings of small-seeded crops in the greenhouse until the formation of true leaves, I would not advise doing this. In this case, the risk of developing a black leg increases at times, mold often appears, and large drops of condensate drip on weak shoots.

Of course, seedlings that are left without a protective film are very vulnerable. And the main danger for them is the drying out of the substrate. But it all depends on you. During this period, it is very important to monitor the soil moisture level, not flooding, but also not allowing the earth to completely dry out. Tiny shoots are more convenient to pour from a pipette, syringe or immerse the container with crops for a while in a pan with water.

6 varieties of petunias easily fit in one plastic container.

"Family sowing" of small seeds

Small-seeded crops are convenient in that many of them occupy very little space on the windowsill, since they develop very slowly at the beginning of their life paths. In particular, begonias and eustomas, sown in a small container at a distance of 2-3 centimeters between the granules, I sometimes do not dive at all. I divide the grown seedlings when planting in a permanent place.

Their fastest growth begins precisely at the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Before that, they feel good in a small box, without interfering with each other. This feature of small-seeded crops allows me to use the "family sowing" technique.

To save space on the windowsill when sowing several varieties of the same crop, I use the total capacity for them, divided into several sectors. My favorite containers for sowing annuals are plastic containers made from soft cheese, yoghurts, curds, seaweed salads, etc.

Filling the container with soil, leveling it and moistening well, I mark the surface. To do this, I use small narrow strips that can be cut from the same containers or plastic packaging from children's toys. Deepening such strips into the ground, I get several "apartments" in one container, each of which is intended for a separate grade.

Depending on the configuration of the container, they can be located parallel to each other (in rectangular containers) or radially from the center like clock hands (if the container is round). The size of the compartments is determined by the number of seeds to be sown, as well as the distance of sowing.

As for the latter, I usually proceed from the assumption that one centimeter between the granules will be sufficient for the development of seedlings before the picking, which will subsequently be pricked. And begonias, eustomas, and other slowly growing summers (which can be grown without diving) need to set a distance of 2-3 centimeters.

In this case, the granules in the compartment I usually have a "snake" or in a checkerboard pattern. In each sector, I must insert a separate tag indicating the variety. I try not to combine several different cultures within the same container, because they may require different times for seedlings to appear, and they can also differ in different growth rates.

I also try to group ampelous varieties of petunias with ampelous varieties, and bush varieties with shrub varieties, low-growing varieties of begonias with low and high with high. Thus, I get from 2 to 10 varieties of petunias in one container (depending on the size and number of seeds). In other "houses" - 2-5 varieties of begonias, a separate "house" for several varieties of eustomas, etc.

Of course, it also happens that some varieties germinate a little faster or grow more intensively than others. In order not to delay the pick, in such cases, I just gently cut out the sector with the seedlings that have grown with a knife and dive into individual pots. After that, I fill the empty cell with soil, and the lagging ones quietly remain to grow up in the “family” container.

Dear readers! Of course, sowing tiny seeds for seedlings will require more skills and attention than when growing crops with larger seeds. Nevertheless, knowing the basic subtleties of the process, even beginner growers can afford it. In addition, in my opinion, it is much more difficult to pick out large thickened crops than to pick small ones that initially grow at a given interval. Therefore, do not let the small flower seeds scare you, but inspire you!