10 Easy Flowers to Start From Seed in Your Garden

Brassy marigolds in full bloom.

Jim, the Photographer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Planting flowers from seeds might sound tricky, but not all flowers need an expert green thumb and careful planning to thrive. While planting bulbs is a common way to jumpstart your flowerbeds, seeds are often the easiest path to colorful full blooms come spring and summertime. And it's not just about beauty: Flowers play an essential role in a well-balanced garden, attracting important pollinators to your plants and trees.

These 10 flowers are easy to coax into beautiful blooms from just a few seeds and will help banish any doubts you might have about cultivating a dazzling and healthy garden.

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

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Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus)

Sunflowers at sunset.

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Ready to go after just an inch or two of soil and a prime spot in the sun, sunflower seeds are an easy way to bring impact to your garden. Sow the seeds directly into the ground when the weather warms up to maximize their bright yellow, annual blooms.

Small sunflowers grown for cuttings can be sown in large pots, but for a dramatic effect grow some of the giant varieties like ‘Mammoth’ (Helianthus giganteus) in the ground. At the base of sunflowers, you can plant beans that will climb up the sunflower stalk as support.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loose and well-draining.
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Marigold (Tagetes)

Marigolds in the sun.

Jim the Photographer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marigolds are one of the easiest flowers to start from seed, either in containers or in the ground. Blooming brightly all summer long, their daisylike flower heads come in various tones of gold and brass. While they need plenty of sunshine, they aren't too picky about soil – be sure to dig down about six inches before dropping the seeds in, however.

If you're growing marigolds for their bug-repellent qualities choose an older variety rather than the newer hybrids. Most varieties are annuals that need replacing.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy or sandy, well-draining.
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Cosmos (Cosmos Bipinnatus)

Light purple cosmos in bloom.

Rachel_B / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Planting cosmos seeds are a breeze – after the last spring frost, you only need to dig a quarter inch down in the soil before dropping them in. These tough but pretty annuals take their time (about 7 weeks), to bloom, but the wait is well worth it: The orange, pink, and white flowers will attract plenty of bee and butterfly pollinators into your garden. You won't need to run out to get soil for them, either, as they thrive in just about any kind.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy.
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Two yellow and orange nasturtiums.

Linda, Fortuna future / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Nasturtiums are great flowers for a beginner to plant from seeds. These annuals grow well in containers as well as the ground – plants start to appear in just seven to 10 days after sowing. Usually, you won't need to add any extra fertilizer, and they're not picky about soil.

Nasturtiums have interesting round green leaves that complement their fragrant orange, red, yellow, and white blooms. Best of all perhaps, is that almost the entire plant is edible: The leaves, flowers, and seedpods have a peppery taste reminiscent of mustard.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10-11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Sandy.
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Zinnia (Zinnia Elegans)

A pink zinnia flower in full bloom.

Peter Miller / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once the weather starts to warm up in spring, Zinnia seeds germinate very easily in the ground or a container. Just be sure the temperature is sitting around or above 60 degrees outside during the day.

Zinnias bloom into elegantly tall and puffy-looking single, semidouble, or double flowers. However, they're annual, meaning they'll need to be replaced each year. There's also a wide variety of shapes to choose from, including the popular beehive, button, and cactus shapes.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy or sandy, lightly fertilized.
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Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)

An orange calendula flower in a garden.

Peter Miller / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Calendula seeds are easily sown directly in your garden after the last frost. Alternatively, you can start them indoors six to eight weeks before the anticipated date of last frost. With stunning bright yellow to deep orange blooms, they're perfect to line the edges of your beds with or keep in a container – wherever their pop of color is most needed

Calenduals are annuals, but are great at self-seeding. Be sure to keep their soil slightly moist, and give them at least some shade if your area gets extra hot in summer. They're commonly known as pot marigolds.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Ample organic matter, well-draining.
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Four O' Clocks (Mirabilis Jalapa)

Bicolor pink and yellow four o' clock flowers.

Toshiyuki IMAI / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Blooming into small, fragrant flowers, four o' clocks are directly sown in your flowerbed after the last frost, and are quite low maintenance. Their name is inspired by how they bud open in the afternoon from midsummer through to fall. They prefer consistently moist soil, so make sure you water them through any dry spells. They're annuals in most colder climates, but perennials in warmer ones.

Four o' clocks bloom in orange, pink, white, yellow, and magenta. Some individual plants even have multiple flower colors blooming all at once.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining.
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Moss Rose (Portulaca Grandiflora)

An orange moss rose.

my hobby / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Moss roses are perfect for new gardeners looking to start off their flowerbeds with some seeds. Low-maintenance and tolerant to periods of drought, they're also usually left alone by common pests if their soil drains properly. Sow your seeds directly in the garden after your last frost, or start them indoors; either way, you'll be greeted by stunning white, red and pink flowers in only a couple of weeks. They're easy to propagate from cuttings, too – just imagine the possibilities! They're great at self-seeding, so while annual, you'll likely see them return year after year.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Sandy and dry, well-draining.
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Columbine (Aquilegia)

A white and purple columbine in full bloom.

Brenda Dobbs / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Layered and bonnetlike in their lovely and often bi-colored blooms, columbines take just a few seeds sown directly in the ground to flourish. With over 70 species, you could have flowers ranging from light pastel tones of yellow to bright reds and oranges. These perennials bloom in spring and early summer with the added benefit of attracting the most appealing pollinators – birds and butterflies. They're hardy, too, so if you keep their soil well-drained, they'll thrive in most environments.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Moderately moist, well-draining.
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Morning Glory (Ipomoea Purpurea)

Blue morning glories in full bloom.

Shigemi.J / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


After planting just a few seeds, you'll have vines of stunning morning glories climbing up walls, trellises, and arbors that add a dimensional feeling to your garden. While they do take a long time to blossom if sown after last frost, these late summer bloomers add momentum to your garden when much else has already bloomed. Starting the seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost will speed up the process. Morning glories are mostly annuals, but they're generally great self-seeders that come back season after season.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (annuals).
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Moderately fertile, well-draining.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.