Grow Delphiniums from Seed

How to Grow Delphiniums from Seed, a less expensive way to get more of this gorgeous perennial.

Delphiniums are a beautiful element of the classic English Cottage garden.  They stand tall and stately (up to 6 feet) and are worth the fuss to keep them looking fabulous and healthy.

I show you how to grow delphiniums from seed in this post to get great germination rates.

I updated this post and at the end I will share how I started more seeds this year.

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What type Delphiniums

This post I will focus on the Delphinium elatum, a hybrid that performs so much better than the Pacific hybrids.  They are hardier and taller, while being much less mildew prone.

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Where to buy Delphinium seeds

As far as buying the Delphinium elatum as plants the nearest to me supplier is over 3 hours away at Annies Annuals which is in Richmond, CA, and if you visit over on her site you will see she has only high praises for this particular type of Delphinium.

Instead of plants I chose to order the seeds from the breeder in New Zealand…Dowdesewell’s Delphiniums.  I have had wonderful results. (they also have a list of growers that sell their Delphiniums as plants, you may have someone near you)

I have a friend growing Pacific Giants and I am giving them a try: Pacific Giants from Botanical Interests I will let you know my results.

The Pacific Giants have done very well. We have dry summers and very little humidity so mildew was not an issue. So feel free to grow these beauties.

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Grow Delphiniums from Seeds

So do you want to know how I grow these beauties from seed?

(this is one way, I share another further down that eliminates the pre-germination part. You may wish to use that method as it reduces the steps)

It is very simple.  When they first arrive I refrigerate or pre-chill the seeds for a week. 

When I am ready to pre-germinate them I wet a coffee filter place the seeds on one half of the now wet coffee filter and fold it over, insert it into a large plastic bag (I used a  zip loc bag), and set it in an out of the way spot. 

For me, that was on top of the outside of the refrigerator.

(I prefer using coffee filters as the weave is tighter and the newly germinated seeds don’t attach to them as easily as they do with paper towels. But paper towels do work so you choose which to use)

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I hold the bag up to a window and check it after about 5 days (Delphs germinate in about 7 to 10 days but you never can tell when you get an early bird). 

From that day forward I check it daily and when I see a little white tail I know it is time to put the germinated seeds into pots.

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I have some tubs with seed starting mix all ready to go… and I transfer the sprouted seeds to the tub.

Cover the seed oh so lightly with the mix or chick grit and press in. For more on how I start plants from seed CLICK HERE

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The not yet sprouted seeds get folded back up in the coffee filter and returned to the ziploc bag until they do germinate. 

Pretty soon you should have a bunch of these..baby delphiniums..Yay!

Pot them up into individual pots as they grow taller and stronger.

Sowing in Pots

I tried sowing in containers in my greenhouse this past season without first pre-sprouting and it worked very well.  My greenhouse has no supplementary heat, the delphiniums get the chill they need and start to sprout if sown at the optimum time.  That would depend on your location.

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Plant Your Delphiniums

Once planted in the garden you will need to protect them from slugs as they first sprout, for some reason they find Delphiniums a tasty delight.  

This type of Delphinium is a perennial and will return year after year.

They are heavy feeders so side-dress with compost throughout the summer. Or supplement with an organic liquid feed like this one, Agrothrive

Staking will most likely be necessary as the heavy blooms spiking towards the sky will topple over in the wind or stiff breeze. 

In dry summer areas be sure to water regularly and deeply.

One day soon I would love to have a hedge of Delphiniums…most likely not practical but wouldn’t this be a show stopper!

Delphiniums from Dowdeswell's in New ZealandZe

 via Dowdeswells Delphiniums

This beauty is next on my list.  I don’t have any with a white bee…..yet!

Dowdeswells Delphiniums

Several shades of blue are in my collection but I am looking to add more..the pinks have caught my eye and one called Pagan Purples..and my oh my, the Lilac Ladies are dreamy!  I wish I could order them all.

Mixed Delphiniums

Update: I winter sowed my seeds this year, you can see how I did that here, just press!

I have not had success with direct sowing on the ground yet. That may be because of the wild Springs we have.  It can be freezing cold one day and warm and mild the next then back to a deep freeze.

white delphinium, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

Happy Delphinium Planting!

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34 Comments

  1. This is such a great post! Going to have to try this. And I am smitten with that “Cobalt Dreams”! I have decided to have one small border where I can put more water needy plants. So excited for spring.

    1. Isn’t Cobalt Dreams…..well, dreamy? I love, love it and will be ordering the seeds soon. I too am trying to locate my water lovin’ plants together. But my roses will have to stay put. I know with the grey water systems we will do fine.

  2. Hi Pamela, I had not been able to successfully germinate delphiniums until I tried your technique. With your help, my experience with Dowdeswell’s “Mixed Blues” has been fantastic – massive flowers in beautiful blues, with both white & dark bees. Thank you. 🙂

    1. I am so glad this worked for you. I know how frustrating it can be to some germinate things. I love Dowedeswells Delphineums. I need to start a bunch more so I have a large array! Mine perform beautifully each year and are worth any effort to grow! What is also nice is this techniques works for other tough to germinate seeds.

  3. Hi Pamela! Discovered you today and have already sent off an order to New Zealand about an hour ago – including the cobalt blue! It is a magnificent bloom. I have also tried your method using the coffee filter to germinate – I harvested some seeds from my shop-bought seedlings at the end of last summer – a magnificent purple/blue combination and the bloom was as thick as my upper arm! Just stunning! So am excited to have a germinating method that sounds great! Now to be patient for 5 days!

    1. The seeds should do great, I was a total newbie when I germinated my first ones and it was pretty easy. I accidentally killed my cobalt blue ones this past year and I did not have any seeds saved from them so I am in the process of ordering more seeds from Dowdeswell’s. I love theirs so much. I haven’t found any at shops around here to buy from so I have to do the seeds.

      1. Sending a big thank you from Perth, Western Australia, Pamela – really having fun with my delphinium seeds from NZ – especially the cobalt one – gorgeous! Like you said, they really are EASY to germinate if you follow your clear instructions!
        Happy gardening!
        Rae

        1. Mine are on their way, I forgot to check the mail today. They may be in for all I know. Can’t wait to get more growing!

  4. Pamela,
    My Mom grew Pacific Giant delphinium from seed and she was so proud of that! They were the most gorgeous ones you have ever seen. We lived on a farm and they were always well fertilized with manure, and they were over 6 feet tall with large beautiful (all shades of blue, purple from sky blue to deep purple) flowers covering the whole stalk and the stalks themselves were like broomsticks. People would marvel at them! The delphiniums I see now are so skinny and wimpy compared to my Mom’s. I’ve never seen any close to hers!

  5. Oooh, Pam! I cannot wait to try some delphiniums from seed!!! I’ll have to order some from the New Zealand grower. I have seen a very few plants here in Texas and they are expensive. I think I’ve paid $10/delph in California and only planted like three plants (couldn’t really afford them). I like the idea of growing from seed much better.

    Thank for a lovely article and I’ll share to my FB page, too,
    Barb 🙂

    1. They are gorgeous, just be sure they will grow in your zone, I am not sure what part of Texas you are in. I hope they do grow for you. I love mine!

  6. I am going to try this! Thank you for posting your methods for germinating this seed I love them too! 😻

    1. If you start your seed this summer you should see blooms next, sometimes the following. Once established you will have them every year as they come back for awhile but always start more seeds or take cuttings to re plant. Many of mine reseed themselves but not prolifically.

  7. Hello,

    I noticed you mentioned getting seeds for delphiniums with white centres.
    I have a beautiful plant that is ready to seed. I’d be happy to send you some seeds. I can send you a photo if you like.

    Kay

  8. Oh no. I think I goofed. I harvested my seeds when the plant was still green… so my seeds are white and not brown/dry. Did I ruin everything or will these still work after they dry out?

    1. Oh no! I do believe that your seeds will not be ripe enough to germinate but you can still try. Sometimes we are surprised at what may work. Try again next time to let them get brown and the pod just about opening on the plant before collecting the seed. One thing great about gardening is there is still next year. 🙂

  9. Dear Pam,
    Gardening north of Boston, and tried the coffee filter method with some delphinium seeds from NZ. After 9 days no seeds have sprouted, but about 50% have simply turned to mush! I planted up the rest in containers and hope to salvage at least a few.
    I put the wet, folder coffee filter in a zip lock bag and placed them atop our refrigerator, as you describe doing. In retrospect I had too much water on the filters, plus it was a very hot week and the top of the fridge must have been above 80 degrees F. Have others had this problem?
    best,
    Rick

    1. Did you cold stratify the seeds first? It may have been too hot and yes the filters should only be damp and not soaking wet. They like it cooler to germinate, 65 to 75 degrees. Mine stall growing once it gets up to 80 degrees in their little pots even after they have germinated. They only do well in heat once they are in the ground and a year or so old. I am waiting for it too cool down here to germinate more myself. I hope this helps. sorry you have had issues. I will revisit my post and add some cautions.
      Pam

  10. Just to let you know, Annie’s Annuals is in Richmond, CA, not Fremont. Richmond is at the North end of the San Francisco Bay and Fremont is at the South end.

    1. Thanks for that Candace, I actually do know that, I don’t know why I put Fremont. My husband and I joke around about all the refineries being right there.

  11. Dear Pamela, do you know what is the name of the pink delphinium with white bee of the photo?
    Best regards,
    eloy

  12. Hi Pamela, I wanted to thank your for wonderful instructions on growing delphiniums. I have never been successful until I tried your method. I only had about eight plants that survived my transplanting them into the garden but they were magnificent. People were stopping on the road to look at them all summer long. They have seeded themselves profusely all around the existing plants. Hoping they will survive the winter here in New York! Thanks again!
    Alice

    1. Delphiniums love the cold and actually thrive in Alaska so I think you are safe. I am so glad that you were able to get them to grow. Aren’t they so worth it?

  13. Does anyone have experience with Delph’s and deer? I live where many deer roam on my property and I try to only plant deer resistant plants, the ones they don’t like to consume!!!

    1. I have deer and so far I haven’t had any issues but I do use a deer repellent when I see some have been in my garden. I get the one that is peppermint oil based. It works well.

    2. In my area, New York state, the deer love delphiniums. I spray the plants with deer repellant. (I use “Bobbex”.)

  14. Thank you for posting how to grow delphiniums. I had tried before unsuccessfully. Your method worked! My garden is fairly close to the road and when they bloomed every day people were stopping and staring at the flowers. Good thing I live in the country otherwise there would’ve been car accidents!
    They self seeded also.
    Thank you!
    Alice

  15. Well, thanks to you they sprouted! Give or take ten seeds each Centurian and Delphina. I hav taken them from between the coffe filters and placed each seed in it’s own container of commercial seed starter

    Now what? In a cool dark place? In a sunny window sill? Covered with plastic until they pop up? I’m guessing, but until I hear otherwise-

    Uncovered, in a cool dark place, moist , temp mid 60’s
    Many thanks. Max

    Many thanks. Max

    1. A bright location is the best but not too hot. They like between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. No need to cover with plastic just be sure the surface does not dry out. As soon as they sprout make sure they get very bright light or they will become elongated and weak. I am so glad this worked for you.

  16. Hello! I have some pelletized pacific giants. That package has no instruction really, other than keep seeds moist till germinated. Can I put the seeds in a damp coffee filter and bag if they are pelletized? Do you cold stratify yours? I read that increases the rate of germination for many people. I too would like a hedge of these. 😊 I read some put the bag in the fridge for a week. Have you tried this? I know the pelletized need moisture as they protect the seed and melt away with moisture so I’m wondering if I should just stick them in the fridge as is . Thanks

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