05 March 2011

Larkspur seedling volunteer

Even before the crocus and daffodils bloom, larkspur volunteer seedlings emerge, sprinkled out and around every bed where they grew last year. The flower colors are unpredictable, on each plant, and even on one stem, ranging from white to pink to pale lavender/blue. One year I saved only the seeds from the deep purple-blue stems but the next year, the colors from those seeds were unpredictable. They are all beautiful though so who cares?
Larkspur seedlings
The challenge is to get them started in your beds once or twice so there are plenty of seeds on the ground come fall. Larkspur seeds need two weeks of 35 degrees prior to planting and Larkspur prefers the cool, moist summers, much farther north than our hot and humid summer months. In our zone 7 area, the seeds are planted no later than Thanksgiving weekend. Germination takes two or three weeks and the seedlings grow under winter's snow, ice and fallen leaves.

As greedy as I am for the plants to produce seed, I still cut some stems for vases in the house - the flowers last about a week. They grow about 3 feet tall before they start going to seed.

Texas A & M photo (link)
Due to genetic testing, Larkspur is no longer classified as a Delphinium but is now Consolida. I wonder if they give a thought to it as they blow in the gentle late spring and early summer breezes.

I have never seen Larkspur seedlings in any garden center, have you? Maybe the wholesale greenhouses sell the liner trays to flower growers.

In the northern U.S., the plants can be bothered with blight and mildew but ours bloom so early that they have always been disease and problem free in our yard. See the Maryland Extension Service Fact Sheet for commercial growers tips. They recommend Consolida orientalis for commercial growers.

Seed sources
Rocket Larkspur - American Meadows
Giant Imperial, Choice,Consolida ajacis  etc. 1,000 seeds $2 - Swallowtail Garden
Tall Larkspur - Prairie Moon (catalog still calls them Delphinium)
Sublime Formula Mix plus individual colors - Johnny's Seeds
French Florist, Earl Grey, and more - Renee's Garden 

Include these beauties in your seed order so you can plant them this fall!

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