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Growing Green: Annual pick of the month

Life never slows down on the flower farm. Every year we start about 65,000 plants from seed, and those that take the longest (Lisianthus and Trachelium) were planted last weekend. 

Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisianthus) is one of my most favorite annuals, and can take 20-26 weeks to start from seed. The seed has specific heat and light requirements, which has made them a challenge to grow. The end product is definitely worth the time and effort. I first became acquainted with this lovely flower from ads promoting the “Blue Rose”.  (If you have been reading my column for a while, you know how I feel about true blue flowers!) Lissies are multi-petaled, cup shaped flowers that truly resemble roses (without the thorns). They range from 1-3 feet tall, spread about 1 foot, and come in many colors. (Although I have never seen a true red or orange.) Our first stems have as many as 12 buds and last at least 14 days in a vase. The subsequent re-growth has fewer buds per stem, but is vigorous until the first frost.  We plant our first Lissies in our high tunnels in mid-May, and have our first cuts by July. My favorites this year were a soft yellow (ABC 1-3 Yellow) and a blush champagne (Echo Champagne).  Look for Lisianthus in your favorite seed catalog to get the best color variety.  The seeds are TINY, so go with the pelleted varieties.  If you are not eager to try starting them from seed, look for them at your local garden centers. For more about Lisianthus, visit:

The other, lesser known seed we started this week was Trachelium caeruleum (Blue Throatwort). Like Lisianthus, Trachelium has very small seeds that need to be pelleted to be visible. Growing 3 feet tall, Trachelium has dome shaped flower heads crowded with tiny, tubular amethyst flowers. (Similar to Joe Pye or Heliotrope.) These plants are butterfly magnets with showy flowers and foliage. Seed germination takes about 2 weeks, and plants are ready to be transplanted at 10-12 weeks.  The initial seedlings are TINY, although the roots grow long and are vigorous long before the plants begin to grow.  For more information about Trachelium, visit:

Robin Trott is a Horticulture Educator with University of Minnesota Extension.