31 Best Flowers for Winter Sowing

The best time to sow many of our favorite flowers is in the winter. Sound crazy? Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she goes through 31 flowers to sow in the winter to get you a headstart on a lovely spring and an abundant summer garden.

Clusters of fragrant lavender flowers bloom gracefully alongside tall pink hollyhock flowers. The lush green foliage provides a vibrant backdrop, showcasing the delicate petals and adding depth to the garden bed's colors and textures.


I used to think of all flowers as tender and delicate until I dove into the world of growing them. It’s incredible how hardy some are! There are hardy annuals, semi-hardy annuals, tender annuals, and perennials.

Some require a period of cold stratification for proper germination and growth. Leave the flowers intolerant of low temperatures and frosts to be sown indoors in spring for best results. 

Growers everywhere who have tried winter sowing find that spring can be less stressful, they spend less money to invest in seed-starting supplies, and overall, plants are more resistant and productive. Plus, it’s fun to have something gardening-related to do when there’s snow on the ground

First, I’ll explain cold stratification and why it’s important for some flowers.  


Tall Blend Bachelor's Button Seeds

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Tall Blend Bachelor’s Button Seeds


Swiss Giants Blend Pansy Seeds

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Swiss Giants Blend Pansy Seeds


Sensation Blend Cosmos Seeds

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Sensation Blend Cosmos Seeds


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Purple Coneflower Echinacea Seeds


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Galilee Blend Larkspur Seeds


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Tall Maximum Blend Snapdragon Seeds


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Pacific Beauty Blend Calendula (Pot Marigold) Seeds


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Black Knight Scabiosa Pincushion Flower Seeds


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German Chamomile Seeds

What’s Cold Stratification? 

Three repurposed plastic milk jug bottoms serve as containers for seedlings. Filled with nutrient-rich, dark soil, these bottoms await the germination of tiny seeds nestled within. The top halves bear labeled identification for the sown seeds.
Cold stratification is essential for certain seeds to overcome dormancy and germinate in spring.

Have you ever noticed on some seed packets, you’re instructed to chill the seeds for some time before sowing them? That’s because, in nature, they will have gone through a cold period over the winter. Without it, some seeds will remain in dormancy and fail to germinate. 

Many flowers require a cold stratification period to germinate and properly grow. Nature provides seeds with cold stratification, a period of cold experienced that signifies winter and promotes dormancy.

During this time, the seed is protected by its strong outer shell. When temperatures warm up and the soil softens, this signals to the plant that “Spring is here!” At this time, the outer shell softens, and the seed gets ready to germinate. 

Every spring, I’m in awe of nature. How does it know what to do? Now, let’s talk about how winter sowing can be done. 

Three Ways to Winter Sow

Winter sowing includes outdoors directly in your garden’s soil and indoors in containers. 

Direct Sow in the Ground

A close-up of a hand, holding tiny seeds, scatters them carefully over the rich, brown soil, ensuring an even distribution. Fingers delicately release the seeds, each finding its place in the prepared ground, promising new growth and life.
Certain seeds require a cold period before sprouting, typically in late fall or winter.

Some seeds need a period of cold before germination can take place. This can be done in late fall or winter, depending on your zone. Follow the instructions on your seed packet for seed sowing depth required, covering, watering, etc. Mulch if necessary. 

Sow in Containers in a Cool, Protected Space

A scattering of flower seeds rests on damp, dark soil, promising vibrant blooms. The fertile ground is nestled within a cheery yellow container, ready to nurture and support the seeds' growth into a beautiful garden ensemble.
Create a consistent environment in protected spaces to cultivate semi-hardy annuals that require extra warmth.

Whether in your home, garage, or greenhouse, any protected space will do as long as temperatures are consistently cool and your flowers are out of harm’s way. This method can be used with semi-hardy annuals that need some extra warmth. 

Sow in Containers and Store Outdoors

Rows of white milk jugs neatly arranged on an outdoor staircase, showcasing a creative approach to milk jug gardening. Each jug is adorned with duct tape and decorative patterns around the middle, and the top part features a labeled description.
Milk jug gardening involves repurposing milk jugs into mini greenhouses to start seeds outdoors.

Also called “milk jug gardening,” this method has gained popularity among gardeners who live in cold growing zones (2-5), but it can be done anywhere! Some gardeners prefer to get a jumpstart on spring gardens or simply can’t stand to take the winter “off” from gardening. This method is often utilized when gardeners want to establish more perennials and mimics the experience the seeds would have if they were out in nature. 

Milk jug gardening repurposes cleaned-out milk jugs and turns them into mini greenhouses. Seeds can be started before a deep freeze, watered lightly occasionally, and left alone. Mother Nature takes care of the rest.

Exposure to cold temperatures may reduce the risk of transplant shock and increase stability and future production. The seed shell also naturally softens and breaks open when seeds are left to rely on nature, sometimes improving germination rates and timing. 

How to create a wintertime milk jug garden:

  • Collect plastic milk jugs and clean them out.
  • Cut them in half.
  • Fill the bottom portion with seed-starting mix.
  • Sow seeds according to the depth recommendation on the seed packet.
  • Add drainage holes to the bottom.
  • Label your container with a popsicle stick or plastic marker and a Sharpie.
  • Tape the top half back onto the bottom half.
  • Water seeds so the soil is moist.
  • Place these outside against a building, out of direct sunlight and harsh wind.
  • On warm and sunny days sans wind, crack the lids a bit for ventilation.

We gardeners tend to baby our crops, especially when starting seeds indoors, but oftentimes, we should step back and let nature do the work. It knows what it’s doing.

Now we’re ready to go through the 31 best flowers to sow this winter and your options for sowing them.  

1. Cornflower

A close-up of a blue cornflower, its delicate petals reaching out against verdant leaves under the sun's warm rays. The intricate center, a deep, rich purple, contrasts beautifully with the azure petals.
These flourish as colorful border plants, ideal for pollinator mixes and wild bouquets.
common-name common name Bachelor’s Button
botanical-name botanical name Centaurea cyanus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Bachelor’s buttons are low-maintenance, make a lovely garden border, and are often found in pollinator mixes. They look great in wild bouquets paired with bright disc-shaped flowers and ornamental grasses and are available in shades ranging from light pink and violet to dark burgundy.

Pro tip: When it’s time to harvest, grab cornflowers when you recognize their color. This will give you the best vase life. 

Sow seeds directly in fall, indoors over the winter, or directly in-ground in late winter or early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. They transplant well but don’t mind being directly sown, even when temperatures are near freezing. 

2. Scabiosa

A close-up reveals a cluster of petite scabiosa flowers on one stem. Each bloom displays deep pink petals adorned with delicate white anthers, creating a vibrant and contrasting center within the blossoms.
The Pincushion flower offers vibrant blooms and effortlessly self-seeds.
common-name common name Pincushion flowers
botanical-name botanical name Scabiosa atropurpurea, Scabiosa spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-11

Scabiosa comes in annual and perennial varieties, with the annuals having slightly smaller blooms and lighter colors. These abundant and funky flowers add visual interest to any garden or cut flower bouquet. They’re prolific self-seeders, so once a patch is established, you will see more and more new germination each spring. 

Perennial Scabiosa can be easily expanded by splitting clumps of established plants and replanting. Try spreading seeds along a rock wall or creating a border with other pollinator-friendly flowers. I have mine growing along a rock retainer wall, and they were the last thing in bloom, even when the first snow fell.

Scabiosa loves cool weather, so seeds can be sown in fall in containers and kept in a high tunnel or basement. Alternatively, winter-sow seeds in February for transplanting in late spring when temperatures are still cool. 

3. Foxglove

Lovely foxglove flowers in shades of purple drape downwards, showcasing their distinct trumpet-like shape. The vivid blooms contrast beautifully with the lush green stem, while a blurred background offers glimpses of the same exquisite flowers in their natural setting.
This can be successfully winter-sown without covering the seeds for light-dependent germination.
common-name common name Foxglove, fairy gloves or witches’ fingers
botanical-name botanical name Digitalis purpurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 to 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

The unique runaway of foxglove attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, making it a beloved and beautiful addition to a pollinator or cottage garden or along borders. 

If you’ve directly sown foxglove in a perennial patch with no success, try winter-sowing them as early as February. Just don’t cover them. They need light to germinate. 

Typically, foxgloves do not bloom in the first year and will bloom every other year, but sometimes they’ll surprise you. Winter-sow seeds two years in a row to have alternating patches and a constant supply. 

4. Echinacea

Purple coneflowers with orange centers bloom against a backdrop of lush green leaves. The petals form daisy-like shapes around the central cone, creating a striking contrast of purple and fiery orange hues in the garden.
These immunity-boosting flowers are often used in teas and tablets.
common-name common name Common purple coneflower, purple coneflower, and eastern purple coneflower
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea purpurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Named for the Greek word echinos, meaning “hedgehog,” this unique-looking flower is often used as a powerful immunity booster. 

Winter sowing is a great option for Echinacea. Echinacea can be transplanted when it’s quite large, and it takes a long time to establish and mature, so starting seeds in the winter is a great option. 

Pro tip: Gather seedheads in the fall when they’re mature. Break open to reveal the seeds and cold-moist stratify them for several months before sowing to improve germination rates. This process assists in breaking apart the hard outer layer the seed possesses. This can also be done to seeds ordered from seed companies. 

5. Larkspur

A tall stem adorned with blue larkspur flowers stands gracefully in the sunlight, its delicate petals capturing the warmth. The blurred background reveals a lush foliage backdrop, enhancing the natural beauty of the blossoms.
Sow larkspur seeds in prepared beds in the fall or use the winter sowing method.
common-name common name Larkspur, giant Larkspur
botanical-name botanical name Delphinium 
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 3 to 4 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Larkspur surprised me a few years ago when it survived a New Hampshire winter and sprouted in early spring. Since then, I have sown more seeds each winter to expand my “tender perennial” patch. 

Staking is recommended if you live where summer winds and storms are possible. Larkspur will thrive in areas where summers are mild or cool and self-seeds easily. This unique flower is perfect for a border or cottage garden

This annual can be tricky when sown in the spring because they prefer cooler temperatures for germination. Plus, the seeds are tiny and can be finicky to work with. Scatter some directly in prepared garden beds in fall or winter sow using the milk jug method any time in winter. You may get blooms six months after sowing in the winter. 

6. Calendula 

Yellow calendula flowers, vibrant against green foliage, held aloft by delicate stems. The sunny blossoms add a cheerful pop to the garden, their petals overlapping in a radiant display of color and texture.
This flower has been used traditionally for herbal remedies.
common-name common name Pot marigold, common marigold, and Scotch marigold
botanical-name botanical name Calendula officinalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

If you’re looking for an easy way to add something bright and cheerful to your garden, give calendula a shot! It stays low to the ground and can easily work into any garden theme. 

Calendula isn’t picky about its soil and performs quite well without much attention. They have a sticky feel to them due to their medicinal properties. The petals dry beautifully for use in salves and olive oil blends. 

Calendula tolerates the cold and self-seeds fairly easily. If you already have a patch, let some go to seed in the fall, and they’ll germinate on their own the following spring. Winter-sow them and transplant them as soon as the soil can be worked. Light mulching can save them from any impending frost risk. Don’t wait until temperatures warm up too much because they may not survive the transplant. 

7. Violas

A wooden box filled with orange, purple, and yellow pansies nestled among lush green foliage. Another box with pink blooms appears blurred in the background, adding to the colorful garden display.
Pansies can be easily sown outdoors or in a cool, unheated space from January onward.
common-name common name Pansy, violet, viola, Johnny jump-up, European field pansy, heart’s ease, hybrid violet
botanical-name botanical name Viola × wittrockiana, Viola cornuta, Viola tricolor, Viola sorolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6 to 14 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Pansies germinate easily outside, so if you have an empty patch in a well-draining and sunny area, toss some seeds and work them into the soil. This can be done as early as January or February. Seeds can also be sown in an unheated propagation house or cool basement. 

Pansy “faces” are known to be one of the first to pop up out of the snow. They’re low-growing, so add them along a walkway or in front of larger perennials in your garden. Beware of lurking rabbits and deer, though. They love to munch on these, especially when there’s not much else around. 

All pansies are pretty cold-tolerant and will peter out in the heat of summer. Typically, they are grown as annual plants, but they are technically a semi-perennial that can become invasive if left alone to spread and self-seed. Try growing ice pansies (Viola hiemalis) if you live in a very cold region. While the terms violas, pansies, and Johnny jump-ups are used interchangeably, there are differences between the species, including hardiness, size, and color options. 

8. Snapdragons 

Clusters of white snapdragons stand tall, their delicate blooms reaching for the sunlight. In the blurred background, more white snapdragons and lush foliage create a serene garden scene, while vibrant red flowers add a pop of contrasting color.
Winter sowing offers a great way to grow cold-hardy snapdragons with minimal effort and better results.
common-name common name Snapdragons, snaps
botanical-name botanical name Antirrhinum majus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 to 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-11

Snapdragons are adored for their carefree maintenance, consistent beauty, and color options. While direct seeding in your garden is not recommended, winter sowing is a great option for snaps. 

Snapdragons are surprisingly cold-hardy and will often germinate and grow on with more success without much attention. With a vase life of 7-10 days and great productivity, they deserve a spot in your garden. 

If using the milk jug method, sow seeds in January or February. Some light is required, so push the seeds down to keep them from blowing away, then leave them be for the winter, watering as needed. Pinch them back at about four inches tall to increase productivity and create longer stems. If you have low tunnels or a greenhouse, try overwintering some snaps, covering when necessary. 

9. Bupleurum 

Yellowish-lime bupleurum glows in the sunlight, its delicate flowers and stems creating a vivid display. The blurred background reveals a cluster of these blossoms, adding depth to the composition and showcasing the natural beauty of this floral arrangement.
A striking annual with yellowish-lime hues, Bupleurum thrives when winter-sown for easy germination.
common-name common name Bupleurum, hare’s ear, thoroughwax 
botanical-name botanical name Bupleurum rotundifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade 
height height 2 to 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

Bupleurum makes a fun bouquet filler but can also add a unique flair to an annual flower garden. It grows in clumps, so it looks great in a rock garden. Its shades of yellowish-lime green add visual interest. Staking may be required, so pair it with something sturdy or other varieties that need staking. 

While Bupleurum is a semi-hardy annual. It’s not quite hardy enough in most growing zones to survive winters as plants. However, it germinates easily and performs very well when winter sown. Sow seeds in late January or February and transplant them in April when you can work the soil. 

If you have access to protected tunnel space, try directly sowing them in the ground. Thin them as needed to 12 inches apart.

10. Cosmos 

White and purple cosmos with yellow centers bask in the sunlight, creating a captivating display. The delicate petals dance in the breeze against a blurred background of lush green grass, adding a touch of elegance to the garden scene.
These are hardy, colorful, and versatile flowers blooming from early summer till frost.
common-name common name Cosmos, garden cosmos, Mexican aster
botanical-name botanical name Cosmos bipinnatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Although I’ve tried the ‘Double Click’ and ‘Afternoon White’ varieties, I have had the most luck with the classic ‘Sensation Blend’ for hardiness, germination, and vigor. They bloom from early summer until the first hard frost, and they’re holding on even then. They’ll produce even under shorter day lengths and are suitable for growing in a greenhouse in the wintertime. 

When selecting a spot for them in your garden, consider mass plantings, borders, or along driveways. Their height and bright colors are sure to make a statement almost anywhere, but they may need staking, so keep that in mind when planning your plot. Soil fertility isn’t super important for these guys. 

Winter sow in containers for perfectly hardened off cosmo seedlings large enough to transplant once the ground can be worked. You can also try direct sowing these in the fall. Cosmos are one of the easiest seeds to sow directly. 

11. Stock

A bunch of purple stock flowers with green buds, set against a backdrop of blurred purple and white blooms and foliage. Petals are delicately layered, forming a dense and beautiful cluster.
Winter-sow stock seeds in January for fragrant blooms with varied color options.
common-name common name Stock, Brompton stock, common stock, hoary stock, ten-week stock, and gilly-flower
botanical-name botanical name Matthiola incana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 to 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Perennial in zones 7-10

Stock is adored by florists and brides everywhere due to their clove-like fragrance, delicate florets, and soft color palettes, although some varieties come in darker shades. Winter sow them as early as January in milk jugs or an outdoor seed-starting area protected from critters. 

Start stock seeds indoors in the winter, then expose them to temperatures between 40-45° at the cotyledon. Observe the cotyledons’ color, shape, and size to determine whether the flower will have single or double blooms and discard accordingly.

Transplant them before spring and summer temperatures increase. Try growing stock in a protected tunnel in the winter. They can withstand light frosts. 

Pro tip: Stock belongs to the Brassica family, so protect them from flea beetles with insect netting to prevent damage. 

12. American Asters 

Purple American asters, each with green centers, stand atop delicate stems. Their rich hues contrast against the soft, muted green of the surrounding foliage, creating a harmonious display.
This flower is named “star” in Greek, blooming late in the year in various hues.
common-name common name Asters
botanical-name botanical name Symphyotrichum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun or partial shade 
height height 1 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Meaning “star” in Greek, this daisy look-alike is known for its late summer and fall blooms when most other colors have faded for the season. They range in colors from yellow, pink, and purple to blues and red. They’re low-maintenance and are easy to grow in pots to move around your yard or patio to showcase them. 

They provide important food for Monarch butterflies who are making the trek south for the winter. Monarchs possess true color vision, so planting them in clumps may help them find your patch! 

Sow seeds in the fall directly in the ground or use the milk jug method and transplant them out in late spring. In many zones, asters are a perennial. Cut them down to the ground before winter and thin or divide them in the spring when they break dormancy. 

13. Annual Marigolds 

A close-up of vivid red and orange marigolds, each petal displays delicate, layered textures resembling fiery sunbursts. The petals curve gracefully, revealing intricate patterns and vibrant hues under sunlight.
Winter-sow marigold seeds for easy summer blooms, starting in late February.
common-name common name Marigolds
botanical-name botanical name Tagetes
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-11

This popular summer annual can be readily found at garden centers beginning in late spring. But why not try starting your own from seed in the winter? Seeds are large and easy to save from your garden

Semi-hardy annuals like marigolds are great for winter sowing in containers. Sow seeds in late February and store them outside. If you have little marigold seedlings and there is a risk of a hard frost in late spring, you may bring them indoors or use a row cover to protect them. While the seeds are fine to be outside and will germinate just fine, the plants are still at risk for frost damage when they’re young. 

Marigolds make amazing companions for a wide range of crops, offer low-maintenance beauty to the first frost, and make a great addition to cut flower bouquets. ‘Lemon & Tangerine Gems Signet Marigolds’ and ‘Crackerjack African Marigolds’ are versatile, attractive varieties. The spicy, citrusy flavor pairs nicely with summer salads. 

14. Feverfew 

Petite feverfew blossoms featuring white petals and yellow discs, nestled among slender, green stems. The intricate flower heads stand out against the softly blurred foliage in the background.
This blooms profusely in summer’s longest days and has been used medicinally.
common-name common name Maids, Manzanilla, Wild Chamomile
botanical-name botanical name Tanacetum parthenium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Feverfew is a prolific tender perennial. It serves well as a bouquet filler, and its potent smell is thought to repel pests like flies, ants, moths, and mosquitoes. It’s a long-day plant and will bloom most prolifically and on long stems during the longest days of the summer. 

Its name translates to “fever reducer” and has had many medicinal uses since the mid-19th century. 

Many growers with winter sown feverfew in January and February experience very high germination rates that lead to spring cold hardiness. Once established, they will tolerate temperatures as low as -20°F, but most plants die after two to three blooming summers. Winter sow each year to keep your feverfew patch continual. 

15. Anise Hyssop 

Elongated deep purple anise hyssop flowers stand tall on a green stem amid sunlit surroundings. The richly colored blooms contrast against blurred foliage in the background, creating a striking visual against the sunlight.
These plants make a digestive tea from their leaves and flowers.
common-name common name Blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop, licorice plant, lavender giant hyssop. 
botanical-name botanical name Agastache foeniculum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 4 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Anise hyssop looks beautiful in a rock garden or pollinator patch or simply strewn wildly along a border. Bees flock to it, and both the flowers and leaves can be dried and made into tea. 

It spreads easily by its underground rhizomatous root system but not aggressively, and it will easily self-seed if you allow it to in the fall. Dry the flowers and add them to fall salads. 

Anise hyssop prefers to be transplanted, and you can start seeds as early as December. You can sow them directly in the ground or in milk jugs. Gently tamp them down in the soil and keep them in an area away from harsh winds to keep them from blowing off the surface. Hyssop can be transplanted at any age. 

16. Lavender 

A beautiful sea of lavender blooms cascades along slender, elegant stems, creating a picturesque display. The delicate fragrance mingles with the air, enhancing the sensory experience of this enchanting floral scene.
Establish lavender easily by winter sowing in January or February.
common-name common name English lavender, common lavender, true lavender 
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula angustifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1 to 1 ½ feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Lavender is easy to establish and can be used in salves, teas, bath salts, and baked into tea cookies. Add it to a cottage garden on slopes or rocky areas, or put it in a container for easy patio access. 

Lavender is a hardy perennial in most growing regions and can be winter sown in milk jugs in January or February. Prepare your container with moistened potting soil. If you saved lavender branches from last season, gently pinch them off with your fingers now. Sprinkle these seeds or those from a purchased packet atop the soil. Cover lightly and mist them. Secure your lid and place it somewhere safe. 

In the spring, you can gently tug the seedlings and roots apart and either step them up into larger containers or transplant them. Give them one to two feet of space, water well at the time of transplant and during the first year, and mulch if desired to retain moisture. If growing in a cold zone, put straw mulch over the plant before winter to protect the crown. 

17. Columbine 

Blue columbine flowers with green buds and fuzzy brown stems close up against a blurred green backdrop. The delicate petals and intricate details of the buds create a captivating scene, capturing the essence of nature's beauty.
They complement cottage gardens and pair beautifully with bearded irises.
common-name common name European crowfoot, granny’s bonnet 
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 1 ½ to 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

There are several different varieties of Columbine ranging in height and color, and they’re all perfect for winter sowing. Its dreamy shades fit right into cottage gardens, making the perfect companion for bearded irises

Try the ‘European Crowfoot’ columbine for an unscented option or the dwarf variety ‘Red Hobbit’ in small spaces. Eventually, you’ll have well-established, drought and deer-resistant clumps of columbines that can be divided and shared or added to new garden spaces. 

Sow columbines in February and step them up when they have two to three sets of true leaves. Allow them to grow in containers or fabric grow bags for one whole season before transplanting them into your garden. 

18. Hollyhocks

Red and pale pink hollyhock flowers amidst lush green leaves, illuminated by sunlight. The tall, sturdy stems showcase both blossoms and budding flowers, adding vibrancy and texture to the scene.
Old-fashioned hollyhocks bloom every other year, while newer varieties act as tender perennials.
common-name common name Hollyhocks
botanical-name botanical name Alcea rosea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 5 to 8 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Hollyhocks can be perennial or biennial. Typically, the old-fashioned varieties only produce blooms every other year, but there are newer options that perform more like tender perennials and self-seed each year, ensuring a constant supply of this ornamental. 

Hollyhocks won’t tolerate cold, wet winter or spring soil, making them the perfect candidate for winter sowing in containers. Soak seeds for 12 hours before sowing. They need light to germinate, so scatter them atop the soil you’ve prepared in your milk jugs or cell trays and gently tamp them down. 

Some growers claim to get blooms the first year when seeds are winter-sown in February! 

19. Nigella 

A close-up of blue nigella flowers featuring delicate, textured petals forming an intricate star-shaped bloom. Their slender, feathery leaves are green and finely divided, creating a wispy and airy appearance.
An early summer bloomer, Nigella brings a unique touch to cottage and pollinator gardens.
common-name common name Nigella, love-in-a-mist
botanical-name botanical name Nigella damascena
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height Up to 2 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Nigella blooms in early summer, adding a unique flair to cottage gardens used for cutting or blending into a pollinator garden

This hardy annual is frost-tolerant and can thrive almost anywhere. Seedlings that sprout in the spring after being winter sown are believed to build tolerance to frost. 

Love-in-a-mist grows a strong taproot, so transplanting is not recommended. Winter sow outdoors in garden beds in February or March for late summer blooms. You can also spread seeds outdoors in the fall for earlier summer blooms. 

20. Sweet Alyssum

Bundles of delicate white sweet alyssum flowers form clusters amidst green stems. These petite blooms create a charming, elegant display, offering a delightful touch to garden landscapes. The white blossoms stand out against the greenery, adding freshness and beauty.
This is perfect for attracting pollinators and enhancing salads with their peppery blossoms.
common-name common name Sweet Alyssum, Sweet Alison, alyssum
botanical-name botanical name Lobularia maritima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4 to 12 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9, perennial in zones 9-11

Commonly found along rock walls and in garden beddings, sweet alyssum is a sweetly-scented and easy-to-grow cheerful flower. Plant it beneath your tomatoes and broccoli to attract pollinators and decrease weed pressure. 

Sweet alyssum is part of the mustard family. Add the peppery flowers to a salad to add a nice bite. When grown in mild climates, it will flower consistently all season until the first frost. Try ‘Clear Crystals Lavender Shades’ for an extra fragrant variety in shades of purple and white. 

Winter sow this tender perennial in February. It grows quickly and effortlessly, so transplants will be ready to accompany your early summer vegetable plantings. 

21. Petunias

A close-up of a delicate pink petunia flower against a blurred backdrop of more blooms and foliage. Its soft petals curve gently, capturing the light, amidst a cluster of similar flowers, creating a beautiful display of pink hues.
Sow petunias in late winter for sturdier plants and earlier, long-lasting blooms until frost.
common-name common name Petunias 
botanical-name botanical name Petunia x hybrida
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 12 to 14 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-11

Types of petunias include large-bloomed grandifloras, compact multifloras, small millifloras, and groundcover options. They are perfect for retaining walls, hanging baskets, and cottage gardens

Petunias are tougher than they appear. Sow them in late January or February, creating more hardy plants than if they were sown in the spring. They should bloom earlier and stay vibrant through the first frost. 

The seeds are very tiny, but some companies coat them in clay for easier handling. Mixing them with sand can help. Sprinkle them, but don’t cover them when sowing in milk jugs, as they need light to germinate. 

22. Yarrow

Bunches of white yarrow bloom amidst green stems, creating a delicate contrast against a softly blurred white backdrop. The dainty flower clusters stand tall, presenting a serene and elegant visual against the neutral background.
This herb grows abundantly in North America and originates from Europe and western Asia.
common-name common name Common yarrow, milfoil, thousand leaf, soldier’s woundwort, bloodwort, devil’s nettle
botanical-name botanical name Achillea millefolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Yarrow has been naturalized in North America and is native to Europe and western Asia. It grows along roadsides and is sometimes used for its medicinal properties.

The ‘Colorado Blend’ offers rose, pink, yellow, and red shades, which all look great in cut bouquets. Pollinators love all yarrow. 

Winter sow seeds in January or February in milk jugs by sprinkling them over a few inches of soil and tamping them down. Keep the soil moist, and crack the lid on warm, sunny days. Make sure they can get sun once they’re germinated. 

23. Borage

A pair of blue borage flowers, each with a star-shaped bloom, captivates in a close-up. The fuzzy texture of the petals adds a delightful touch. The blurred backdrop reveals the equally fuzzy foliage of these charming blue blooms.
Borage is perfect for culinary uses with its unique blue flowers and cucumber flavor.
common-name common name Borage, starflower, tailwort
botanical-name botanical name Borago officinalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10 

The unique blue flowers of borage have a refreshing cucumber flavor that can be added to water, boiled down into a simple syrup, or floated in a cocktail. A borage patch will always be buzzing with bees. 

Continuing to deadhead borage will encourage consistent blooms. Otherwise, it will begin to yellow and peter out. Wear gloves when harvesting as their leaves are a bit scratchy and can cause skin irritation. 

Winter sow in February or March in milk jugs. Transplant before spring temperatures get too hot as they prefer the cooler soils of spring. They self-seed easily, and volunteers will sprout up the following spring. 

24. Poppies 

A single purple poppy, bathed in sunlight, exhibits its vibrant petals. The blurred background showcases lush greenery, providing a serene contrast. The intricate details of the poppy are highlighted, creating a visually captivating image.
They thrive in cool soil and are best sown directly outside before snowfall.
common-name common name Opium poppy, breadseed poppy
botanical-name botanical name Papaver somniferum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-10

Poppies have a short bloom time, but there are nearly 800 species to choose from, ranging in color from pure white to candy apple red to blues and purples. 

Pro tip: Seed pods will form after the flowers bloom. Allow them to dry while on the plant, then harvest them once dried. Get the full stem and put them on display indoors. They make an amazing accent to winter decor and keep the seeds safe until you’re ready to sow them. 

These puppies, er, poppies, love cool soil and germinate best when temperatures are cool. They don’t transplant well, making them a great option for winter sowing directly outside. They require light to germinate, so it’s best to sow them in late fall or early winter, just before snow falls. If you missed the boat in the fall, try sowing them in peat pots so you don’t have to disturb their roots when transplanting them out. 

25. Sweet Peas

Sweet pea flowers bloom in a shade of pink amidst lush green foliage in a garden. Surrounding green leaves provide a blurred backdrop, enhancing the vivid hues of the flowers.
These boast captivating fragrances and vibrant colors like the ‘Mammoth Blend.’
common-name common name Sweet pea 
botanical-name botanical name Lathyrus odoratus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 5 to 6 foot, vining 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 50 days 

Sweet peas’ have a captivating fragrance and out-of-this-world color shades. The ‘Mammoth Blend’ has large blooms, long stems, and a longer bloom time than other varieties, and like all sweet peas, requires staking. 

If you grow in an area without true winters where the ground doesn’t freeze, directly sow seeds when you plant bulbs in the fall, anytime from October to November. Otherwise, sow them in January or February so they can establish roots but not increase above-ground growth until the spring. In the spring, they’ll need consistent watering and properly amended soil and fertilization throughout the season. They’re in the pea family, so they prefer cool temperatures.

Sweet pea seeds are a nutritious snack for mice, so sow these in single containers or cell trays and protect them with a large sheet of plastic or old greenhouse plastic, safely weighted and secured rather than sowing them in the ground. Try Epic Gardening’s cell trays that include a plastic dome. Store them higher than your milk jugs to decrease the risk of being eaten. Once you notice germination, be sure their light source is ample, or they’ll get leggy. 

26. Butterfly Weed

Petite orange butterfly weed flowers, vibrant in sunlight, adorned with delicate leaves. The detailed close-up showcases their intricate structure against a backdrop of lush greenery, creating a picturesque scene in a garden or natural setting.
A non-milky member of the milkweed family, butterfly weed attracts diverse pollinators with its nectar.
common-name common name Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed, Pleurisy Root
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias tuberosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 to 3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

When butterfly weed is in bloom, its delicious nectar attracts many important pollinators.  It’s a member of the milkweed family but doesn’t have a milky sap like some others.

Butterfly weed is native to most of eastern Canada and the continental United States. Try pairing it with bright-colored zinnias, salvia, cosmos, or dwarf sunflowers.

Native plants like milkweeds are perfect for milk jug winter sowing for growers who experience a true winter because they need cold stratification. If you live in a warmer climate, you may need to refrigerate them for a month or so before sowing them in milk jugs. Starting seeds in February will work best in most regions. 

27. Chamomile

A close-up of chamomile flowers showcasing white petals with bright yellow centers. In the backdrop, an array of similar flowers and foliage is visible, creating a lush background.
This resilient herb makes a calming tea when harvested in full bloom.
common-name common name German chamomile or wild chamomile
botanical-name botanical name Matricaria chamomilla 
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 18-24 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Chamomile is a low-maintenance flowering herb, seemingly growing anywhere from low fertile soils to cracks in the road and throughout rock walls. It will pop up year after year if you’ve ever grown it in your garden, but it’s easy to pull out and re-establish elsewhere if so desired

For the highest quality, harvest when flowers are almost fully bloomed. Drying doesn’t take long as the petals are small and delicate and can be used as a calming tea for up to a year. 

Large chamomile plants don’t transplant well, so winter sowing in January to March will grow seedlings ready to transplant after the risk of frost passes. The seeds need light to germinate, so sprinkle them on the soil surface and tamp them in to keep them in place. Chamomile has shallow roots, so once you notice germination has occurred, water when you can. 

28. Dahlias

A close-up of a dahlia reveals layers of white petals with delicate pink edges against blurred, muted green foliage. The intricate flower stands out, showcasing its unique color gradient and intricate petal formation.
Propagate dahlias by snipping sprouts and planting them in fresh soil indoors during the winter.
common-name common name Dahlia
botanical-name botanical name Dahlia pinnata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 5 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10, tubers should be dug up and stored over the winter in zones 3-7

This one might surprise you, but did you know you can propagate dahlia tubers all winter long? When a dahlia sprouts in a cell tray or small container, snip the sprout off and add it to a new container with fresh soil. Each dahlia tuber can sprout 3-4 times over the winter months, giving you lots of cuttings and a huge headstart in the spring. Although this process can be done in the winter, heat is required, so do this indoors or using heat mats. 

Home gardeners, florists, and flower experts are breeding new cultivars constantly as it’s quite easy and fun. Dahlias can be propagated from both seed and tuber. Check out our full article, all about propagating dahlias from cuttings

29. Lupine

A beautiful display of pink lupine flowers perched atop green stems and leaves, creating a striking contrast. The lupine exhibits a tall and elegant stature, enhancing the garden's visual appeal.
They boast a colorful range from whites to vibrant purples, blues, and pinks.
common-name common name Lupin, regional bluebonnet 
botanical-name botanical name Lupinus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 1 to 4 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Lupine is one of the most fun flowers to watch pop up seemingly out of nowhere in the spring. They are one of the first things to bloom, sometimes emerging here in New Hampshire when snow is still on the ground. They range in color from white to pink and vibrant purple and blues and are deer-resistant. 

Their peapod-looking pods dry up in late July or August and can be saved until it’s time to winter sow. Seeds will easily be dispersed, so remove all the pods if you want to control where they go. 

Scatter seeds on the ground in late fall or early winter, right before snowfall. Lupine will do well in areas with poor silk fertility or among rocks. The snow will provide insulation and keep them in place. Try to space them 12-18 inches, leaving two to three between larger varieties. Their deep rhizomatous root system doesn’t transplant well, so winter sowing in containers is not recommended. Once established, they can tolerate temperatures as low as -30°. 

30. Blue False Indigo 

A cluster of blue false indigo flowers basks in the sunlight, surrounded by lush green foliage. The delicate petals catch the sun's rays, creating a vivid display of natural beauty. In the background, more greenery enhances the overall scene.
Blue false indigo complements cottage gardens with its enduring blooms and striking seed pods.
common-name common name Baptisia, Blue false indigo, Wild Indigo, Rattleweed, Rattlebush, Horse fly weed
botanical-name botanical name Baptisia australis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4 to 5 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

The romantic shades of blue false indigo lend themselves well to cottage gardens and have amazingly long bloom times, sometimes lasting up to 6 weeks. Leave the pods to dry and turn black after they bloom in the summer for an interesting new garden look, or use them in dried wreaths and arrangements. 

Pair them with ornamental grasses or other pollinator-friendly perennials. Large, established plants are drought-resistant and can hold up to 100 spikes at a time when blooming. Baptisia is a part of the legume family and is very cold-hardy. Cut back large plants to the ground in late fall or winter.

Baptisia doesn’t transplant well, so direct sow in the ground as early as January in some regions. When selecting its location, plant for a long-lived, strong plant that will prefer not to be disturbed or moved. 

31. Forget-Me-Nots

Mixes of blue and purple forget-me-not flowers nestling among their lush green foliage, forming a picturesque and vibrant scene. The tiny blooms pop against the backdrop of their stems and leaves.
These early-sprouting, low-maintenance forget-me-nots can be invasive and compete with native plants.
common-name common name Woodland forget-me-not, ornamental forget-me-not, wood forget-me-not, forest forget-me-not
botanical-name botanical name Myosotis sylvatica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height About 1-foot 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Forget-me-nots may be one of the first flowers to sprout in late winter or early spring, and they don’t mind excessive moisture. They are extremely low-maintenance, and pollinators love them. Be cautious when planting them near natives, as these prolific flowers may cause serious competition; they are considered invasive by the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States

Forget-me-nots are short-lived perennials, but they reseed easily, so deadhead them often if you want to reduce this. They’ll overwinter fine with no special treatment, and their dropped seeds will flourish next spring. Alternatively, gather seeds in the fall and sow them in containers in January or February for an even earlier start. 

Tips From Winter Sowing Gardeners

  • In general, if a flower easily self-seeds, you can winter sow it.
  • Set reminders or make notes in your calendar of certain dates. It’s easy to forget about flowers out of sight!
  • If you find young seedlings that have dried up or flopped over, they may have gotten too hot during sunny days. When the weather is calling for warm days, crack the lids, and don’t forget to water.
  • If plants are short or stocky, they need more light. Just move the location of the jugs.
  • If your plants were eaten, place the containers up higher.
  • If plants are spindly or leggy, remove the lid sooner so they can get more direct sunlight.
  • Blown over? Put the containers in a more protected spot from harsh winds.
  • Label containers and take ample notes.
  • Don’t give up if something fails!

Final Thoughts 

I hope this article inspired you to try starting some of your favorite flowers (and some new ones) this winter. The flowers discussed here will add much beauty and interest to your garden when the weather breaks and spring arrives. You’ll have a head start on the season if you winter-sow seeds.

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Close-up of bright pink and purple blooming Lupines in a sunny garden. Lupines are tall, striking wildflowers that feature dense, spiky clusters of vibrant, pea-like blossoms. Their palmate leaves are typically composed of several leaflets and provide a lush backdrop to the showy floral spikes.


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