Brian Kidd says it’s time to start afresh as a new dawn breaks for the Busy Lizzie

Time to get busy with those Lizzies.
Time to get busy with those Lizzies.
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If you love Busy Lizzies and would like to try to grow them from seed, this is about the right time as there is a lot more energy in the sun and it may be easier to attain the temperature required for germination.

Pam and I are going to grow a few as I think the risk of the dreadful downy mildew which killed them all three years ago is unlikely to strike again.

Have a good look at the seed packets. Don’t go for the cheapest. Look at the illustrations and you will see some rather unusual ones. There are a lot of glorious types, so avoid the ordinary mixed.

If ‘F1 hybrid’ is mentioned on the pack, these have quality and will germinate well. If they don’t, the seedsman will send your money back or offer you more seeds.

We need to be able to hit a temperature of about 18-20C (65-68F). This is easier on a window ledge than in a greenhouse. If that isn’t possible, wait for another three weeks. There is plenty of time and Lizzies grow quickly.

Before sowing the seeds, ensure the seed tray has been scalded with boiling water to kill any lurking bacteria. Fill the seed tray to the top with any seed compost. Shake the tray to get the surface even and then use a ruler to finish it off. Don’t firm the compost. Watering will do that perfectly.

As Lizzie seeds are large enough to space about an inch apart and as they must germinate in the light, sprinkle about an eighth of an inch of horticultural vermiculite over the surface and then leave them in the light.

Cover the seed box with cling film.

The vermiculite absorbs water and keeps a fine film of water all over its particles and the seeds are then surrounded with moisture and they will all germinate.

If you want to sow direct into insert trays then choose the 40-cell size. Instead of sowing them in a seed tray, put one seed in each cell covering them with vermiculite and germinating them in full light, but not hot sun.

Whichever method you try, it is important not to allow the seeds to dry out, so a daily check on moisture content of the compost is vital.

Keep the seed packet and the till receipt. If you are not happy with the germination you must send them both back to the seed merchant, not to the shop where you bought them. All seedsmen need your custom and it is almost unknown for them not to replace seeds.

On the bright side, as soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out.

Use a universal compost or John Innes No1 and only 40 seedlings to each seed tray. Much better results with perfect roots can be achieved if you prick out the seedlings into insert cells.

You won’t regret it as they will all have plenty of fibrous roots and last the whole summer in full flower.


Lots of coloured primroses and polyanthus in pots are in the shops. Smell the flowers and you should be able to choose some with perfume.

They’ll grow well on a windowsill in good light.

Choose those with just one or two flowers with lots of unopened buds beneath the foliage.