Which Is Better?

Tomato seedlings and gloves on an outdoor table
(Image credit: Antonio Martin Sanchez / Getty Images)

When mulling the question of whether I prefer planting from seed or transplants, I have to think back on which I do the most, and that would be transplants. However, I also plant seeds. I think most people do both.

Growing Flowers From Seed

I try to start seeds indoors, but they usually don’t survive. They start to come up but usually succumb to damping off disease. I have more success by waiting till the last frost has passed and then planting into the ground. So, that has become my pattern. In May, or when I get around to it, I sprinkle my easy-to-grow annual seeds in the bed reserved for those flowers. It’s usually tall zinnias, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), and two kinds of annual milkweed. Sometimes I add different seeds into the mix like marigolds or love lies bleeding. It's always seeds that come up quickly and easily from seed. Most of them return from the previous year as I let the seeds mature and drop. So, it’s usually July before I see them pop up.

In another bed I started larkspur from transplants a couple years ago and let the blooms fade and seeds form. I shook the seeds into the bed when they were ripe and now the larkspur comes up on its own. I’ve also found that purple coneflower grows easily from seed, and I have taken several seed heads from one garden and laid them in another. Voila! The next year I had coneflower in a second bed.

Growing From Transplants

I love visiting all the garden centers in spring and picking out transplants. I’m not as eager to plant them as I am running out of space to plant. I need to start a new bed, but where? There are lots of underground cables in the yard that interfere with my gardening life.

I also enjoy buying transplants from online nurseries. I have my favorite online nurseries that I frequent. I particularly buy iris, hosta, daylily, hoya, and spring and summer flowering bulbs online. I will buy plants online that are hard to find locally as well.

I even buy vegetable transplants if I am going to try fruits or veggies. I have grown herbs and lettuce from seed because they are easy. I always grow parsley, fennel, and dill from seed each year for the black swallowtails. If the bounty gets eaten and I still have caterpillars, I dash to the local garden center to buy more transplants of parsley, fennel, and dill. If I start to run out of annual milkweed, I also head to the store for transplants. Sometimes it’s hard to find those in late summer but we have a country nursery that carries lots of plants for butterflies so I can usually find them there.

So, I think it comes down to what works best for me at the time and how long I want to wait for flowers or veggies. I have so many perennials that come back each year, so it’s no problem to wait a couple months for plants from seeds.

Susan Albert

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to Lowes.com. While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.