A Thursday Question

Why do seed packets say “Wait until night and day temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) before planting” when seeds, dropped from a plant the previous year, spontaneously sprout and survive when it’s considerably colder?

Specifically, I’ve been waiting patiently to plant sunflowers, because the seed packets say it’s been too cold until right about now. BUT, at the base of where a sunflower grew last year, several seedlings popped up WEEKS ago! I’ll plant some seeds today, and I’m really curious how long it will take them to germinate, and how long it’ll take them to catch up to this over achiever.

Can you see the sunflower at the bottom? This was on May 8.
Here it is again, two days ago. This little seedling, perhaps protected by the tulip and daffodil leaves behind (and above) it, has survived several frosty (literally) nights.


  1. I’m no botanist so haven’t anything to offer in way of an answer but have a similar question about watering. I’ve heard advice that it’s not good to water at night because it can encourage rot and disease because the water evaporates slower. But night rain doesn’t seem to be a problem and some say watering in the sun causes the leaves to burn but they seem to do fine when the sun comes out after a shower. So many questions.

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  2. Nature does, what it does best and it knows better than us! I always start seeds too early in my eagerness. Many survive. I think that sunflowers are toughies but specialty varieties may be different.

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      1. Hubby gave me a mixed set for Christmas and the fancy varieties have been terrible to germinate and look rather weedy. I have some self-seeded ones coming up and they just look so much more healthy.

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  3. In ‘nature’ seeds fall to the ground period. They don’t dig down 6 centimetres, at 10 centimetre intervals – they grow where they fall. Some will grow in tree trunks lol

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  4. Do you know whether your over-achiever is a native sunflower? My impression is that our natives are earlier and more vigorous than some of the ‘fancy’ sunflowers people plant.

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  5. It will be interesting to see if you get ‘Ruby Eclipse’ flowers, or some throwback from the hybrid. Or maybe you have a critter/bird-planted stranger! Any way you look at it, that’s one strong seedling.

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    1. I imagine the soil in this spot (south facing, against a raised bed) helped, but still, we’ve had several nights well below freezing since it emerged! I may start paying less attention to seed packets as well!!

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  6. Self sown seedlings are more likely to succumb to frost by starting early. Those sown a bit later are less likely to experience frost. Also self sown seedlings grow slower during cooler earlier weather, so are more susceptible to mollusks and fungal pathogens than those that grow faster after getting sown.

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      1. Oh, it is likely aware, but took its chances instead. Just because it did not get frosted or eaten does not mean that it was not more susceptible to such damage than those sown later.

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  7. Interesting thought Chris. Maybe your seedling has already adapted to the conditions in that particular spot. There is so much about plants we don’t understand! I already have a few annuals planted out, and now a possible frost is forecast for the weekend! Yikes!

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