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HOW TO GROW LISIANTHUS FROM SEED

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Lisianthus has a reputation for being a hard-to-grow, [email protected]#$% (excuse my French). And you know what? This flower lives up to its reputation.

However, it’s not as impossible to grow Lisianthus as some people might have you believe.

The key thing is timing

If you live in Zone 3, and you’ve read other advice about when to plant Lisianthus, throw it out the window. Because it doesn’t apply here. The most common growing information will tell you that you need to start your Lisianthus 12-16 weeks before the last frost date. That puts Zone 3 gardeners at the beginning of February or March, which is not nearly enough time to have plants that actually grow. Especially if your germination is poor, you will have no flowers.

You’ll be totally hooped.

Growing Lisianthus is like growing a baby. It takes about the same amount of time.

In this blog post, I will tell you the best way to grow Lisianthus, especially if you live in a cold climate like me and have a hot growing season. If you live in Zone 7 and higher, you can probably get by with the traditional advice and have no problems. Those of us in Zone 3, however, should follow this advice instead.

purple lisianthus in full bloom

PURCHASING LISIANTHUS SEEDS

Picking the right time to purchase your Lisianthus seeds is crucial because the plant date to start them is so early. With the current world situation, if you order at the same time as everything else for your garden, you will not have any Lisianthus blooms. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for seeds sometime in late summer or early fall.

Most garden seed companies don’t carry Lisianthus. There are only a few that do. I buy mine from William Dam and Stems Flower Farm in Canada. If you’re in the United States, you could also try Johnny’s Seeds.

LISIANTHUS VARIETIES 

When you’re purchasing Lisianthus seeds, look for ones that are coated. It will be much easier to plant. The frilly, double varieties are a lot prettier than the single ones and are more popular with customers. The Arena series is my personal favourite. 

GROWING FROM SEED VS BUYING PLUGS FROM A WHOLESALER 

Most established flower farmers decide at some point that the amount of time it takes to grow Lisianthus from seed isn’t worth it. They will then buy plugs from a wholesaler.

This is a wise decision.

However, if you are new to flower farming and are at the beginning of your journey, I would plant Lisianthus from seed. If you aren’t working with an established customer base, the time it takes to grow the flowers isn’t a problem.

Plus, seeds are the cheaper option. 

Unfortunately, most, if not all, local sellers do not carry Lisianthus seed-starters in small amounts. So, it’s either start from seed or buy plugs. There is no in-between with this one.

WHEN SHOULD I START MY LISIANTHUS SEEDS?

As mentioned above, if you start Lisianthus in February, it is already too late in a short growing season. You can start them at the beginning of January, but the most ideal time is actually a little bit before Christmas.

By starting them in December, it gives you some wiggle room. This means if you have a package with slow germination you have built-in enough of a buffer to still get flowers.

lisianthus seedlings in small cell containers

TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR LISIANTHUS SEEDLINGS ALIVE

One of the most important things to consider to keep your Lisianthus seedlings alive is to make sure your seedlings get at least 12 hours of grow light time a day. This may sound like a lot of time to some, but trust me on this one.

Keeping your seedlings at the perfect level of moisture is also extremely important. Watch that you don’t let them dry out or let them get too soggy. We’re looking for the Goldilocks ratio here.

If you do start to see a little bit of mould on your seedlings, don’t freak out. It’s normal. You can add cinnamon to stop it from spreading. 

Once the roots start coming out of the bottom of the seedling tray, it’s time to bump up the plants to a larger container, especially if you’ve planted them in a smaller cell. Since Lisianthus take such a long time to reach maturity, and because they will be in their cells for a long time, make sure you use a seed-starting fertilizer at least once every 2 weeks.

CAN LISIANTHUS SURVIVE THE COLD?

The short answer is yes. And more than you think. 

I did some tests last year with my Lisianthus plants, and I found that they were able to survive temperatures up to -5 °C (23 °F). I also had them covered in frost cloth under hoops. One thing I did notice is if the plant wasn’t at least at the four-leaf stage and looking sizably big it could not handle the -5 °C temperatures. If the Lisianthus had a stem on it, however, it could definitely withstand those colder temperatures. 

Essentially, what I’m suggesting here is to only send your biggest, baddest, hardiest plants out into the cold. And don’t forget to harden them off first

In the fall, you don’t need to rush to cover your Lisianthus if there are freezing temps. But, of course, cover them in frost cloth if there is going to be a hard frost. Lisianthus is a fairly cold-hardy plant.

two white lisanthus flowers in full bloom

You see? Lisianthus isn’t that terrible to grow. You just need to get the timing right and everything else will fall into place. I hope you found this post helpful. If you are interested in more content like this, I share more about my flower farming journey on YouTube. And if you want more cut flower goodness, check out Cut Flowers Made Simple, my guide to growing a backyard full of beautiful, blooming cut flowers! 


Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Kristen

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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