January is the Time to Start
By Joan Merrick, Colorado Master GardenerSM
, and Carl Wilson, Horticulturist with Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,
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
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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