Which seeds should I start indoors?

coleus seedlings

One way to get a head start on spring gardening is by starting seeds indoors between late February and April (depending on your area’s climate). This provides gardeners with homegrown seedlings to transplant after the last frost.

Did you know that not all plants should be started indoors? Certain varieties grow well when seeds are started indoors and later transplanted, while other seed varieties grow best when directly sown outdoors. Before you plant seeds, find out which types of seeds should be started indoors and which ones should be directly sown after the last frost.

Vegetable seeds to start indoors

peas, corn, sunflower and beet seeds
Not all seeds should be started indoors.

The following seeds typically transplant well, and can, therefore, be started indoors, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Okra
  • Pepper
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomato

seedlingsThe following vegetables can be started indoors, but must be carefully transplanted:

  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Melon
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Squash

Flower seeds to start indoors

Just like vegetables, annual flower seeds can be started indoors, too.

Purdue University Extension provides a general list of annuals that can be seeded indoors, such as pansies, violets, asters and marigolds. Each flower has specific requirements for how soon they should be seeded. Pansies and violets, for instance, should be seeded about 14 weeks before the last frost, while asters and marigolds should be seeded about six weeks before the last frost.

Your hardiness zone will determine when you need to start indoor seeding and when you can transplant seedlings outside.

Seeds that shouldn’t be started indoors

Clemson Cooperative Extension recommends not starting the following vegetables indoors:

  • Bean
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Corn

These vegetables should be directly sown after spring’s last frost. The roots of these vegetables can be disturbed during transplanting, causing hindered growth.

Reminders for starting seeds indoors

potted plants on windowsillHere are some indoor seed starting tips from University of Minnesota Extension:

  • Pay attention to seed packet planting instructions. Follow planting soil depth listed on each packet.
  • Use fresh seed-starting mix.
  • Make sure soil temperature is consistently warm; be careful with fluctuating temperatures, especially if seedlings are grown near windows.
  • Place seedlings near south-facing windows.
  • Consider using grow lights instead of relying solely on natural light

How to start seeds indoors

seedlings in containersFarm and Dairy online columnist Ivory Harlow offers two indoor seed-starting projects: newspaper seed-starting containers and DIY potting medium. She also includes a step-by-step tutorial for starting seeds indoors. The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers suggested seed starting dates on their website.

Why start seeds indoors?

If you’re not sure whether starting seeds indoors is a task you need to take on, consider Harlow’s advice for being able to choose from more varieties and also for saving money on growing plants.

The University of Maryland Extension says that starting seeds indoors can also increase your garden’s output, decreases pest and weather impact on plants and makes thinning out plants unnecessary.

Related posts:

Do you start any other seeds indoors? Tell us in the comments below.


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Katie Woods grew up in Columbiana, Ohio. Katie likes reading, writing, enjoying the outdoors and DIY projects.



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