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January is the Time to Start Spring Blooms

By Joan Merrick, Colorado Master GardenerSM , and Carl Wilson, Horticulturist with Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

Pansies and snaps are some of the hardiest annuals for April planting and January is the time to start seed.

Never started seeds indoors? While you can purchase transplants, the satisfaction of growing your own can't be equaled.

Seed of your favorite varieties won't be found everywhere in the depths of winter. Catalogs or on-line suppliers will have them as well as a seed-oriented supplier like Rocky Mountain Seed Co. in Denver.

Sowing seed in January allows time for germination and proper sizing of pansy transplants to set out the first of April. If you've been perplexed by pansy seed that failed to germinate, darkness is key. Plant the small seed shallowly, water and allow your seed tray to drain. Then enclose in a plastic bag tied shut and place it in a dark closet. At 70 degrees Fahrenheit, seeds will germinate in 10-20 days.

Remove the plastic and relocate to a sunny window or place under lights to grow until April. Plant out and enjoy bright pansy faces until the heat arrives. Pansies are a definite cool weather plant and
will go down with the onset of summer. Remove flower heads as they fade for the longest bloom period. Cut plants back for summer. The same plants often revive with the arrival of cool fall weather and bloom into early winter.

Pansy plants may stay green all winter and will self-sow successfully if you allow seed to mature and drop. Hybrid types will not produce flowers true-to-type but Johnny Jump Up types will come back reliably for years.

Snapdragon seed should be sown indoors by early February. Don't cover seed. Simply sow on the surface and gently spray to moisten. Seeds require light for germination so covering with soil is undesirable. A clear plastic cover retains moisture until green leaves appear.

Seeds germinate in 10-14 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and require 6-8 weeks to reach transplantable size. Grow in high light and allow to dry out between waterings. Pinching plants produces branching and more flowers. Snapdragons hold up to heat better than pansies and will bloom all summer.

Both plants often reseed themselves so you may enjoy plants with less effort next year.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010