Get more flowers for less money

  • Soak nasturtium seeds before planting to increase germination.

    Soak nasturtium seeds before planting to increase germination. Courtesy of Diana Stoll

  • Cosmos are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

    Cosmos are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

By Diana Stoll
Updated 4/25/2018 6:17 AM

A garden full of riotous color and containers jam-packed with blooms is possible without breaking the budget if a gardener heads for the seed rack instead of garden center benches.

Many annuals grow quickly enough they can be planted directly in the garden. Plant them according to the directions on the seed packet, water with a fine spray to keep the soil moist, but not soggy, and wait for seedlings to emerge. Then thin them so plants end up growing at their recommended spacing. It's that easy!

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

These easy-to-grow annuals ask only for well-drained soil loosened to a depth of 6 inches and sunshine.


Calendulas, commonly called pot marigolds but unrelated to marigolds, are just as beautiful in containers as they are in the garden. Varieties are available with yellow, coppery-peach, pink or orange blooms. Flowers may be single or double.

Calendulas prefer cool weather and, if deadheaded, will flower from spring through fall if sited in filtered sun. In hot summers or planted in full sun, they may take a blooming break until the weather cools. Pinch plants to keep them bushy and compact.

Don't love your calendulas too much. Average, well-drained soil and moderate watering is all they require to contribute beautiful and bountiful blooms for their gardeners and the butterflies, bees and other pollinators, too.


One of the easiest flowers to grow from seed, cosmos should be planted toward the end of May. They won't bloom until midsummer but will be worth the wait when their yellow-centered, daisylike flowers brighten the garden until frost.


Cosmos are available in a wide range of colors and sizes. Some varieties are as small as 12 inches; others as tall as 5 feet or more. Flowers may be white, pink, red, yellow, orange or red and single, semidouble or double. Some varieties feature rolled petals, giving them a tubular look.

Tall varieties may need staking, especially if they are planted in fertile soil. Pinch plants to encourage branching and more flowers. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators will thank you.


If you grew seeds as a child, you probably planted marigolds. Their happy flowers come in solid or bicolored blooms of yellow, orange or rusty red. There are small varieties barely reaching 6 inches tall and larger types stretching as tall as 3 feet.

Marigolds are not fussy about soil as long as it is not too wet. Plant seeds after the danger of frost is behind us.


Nasturtiums are dazzling and delicious! Their leaves, stems and flowers have a peppery flavor -- perfect for spicing up summer salads. Available in both mounding and vining varieties, they boast charming round leaves. Nasturtiums bloom in red, orange, yellow and cream.


Plant seeds mid-May. Soak seeds in water overnight to soften the seed coat and increase the rate of germination.


There are lots of reasons to grow zinnias. They bloom in a rainbow of bold and brilliant colors. There are short types for the front of the border, tall varieties for the back, and sizes in between. Zinnias are lovely cut flowers, and they provide plenty of blooms for arrangements. Birds and butterflies love them as much as gardeners.

Plant zinnia seeds toward the end of May in well-drained soil amended with lots of compost.

It is easy to garden big on a small budget by sowing seeds instead of planting annuals in 4-inch pots. This year, grow more color and save some green.

• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist, garden writer and speaker. She blogs at

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.