Easy-to-grow, attractive seedlings for wedding favors
January 18, 2012 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in early September. Huzzah! My fiancé and I were originally planning on skipping favors, but we're now considering doing a combined favor/place card—seedlings, based heavily on this. To keep the cost down, we'd like to grow the plants from seeds ourselves, but we're not sure what plants would be best for this kind of project, and we obviously need to limit the chances for failure here. Help us get it right.

I don't have a black thumb, but I'm not an expert, either. We're already planning to grow more than we'll need, under the assumption that not everything will grow, but ideally we'd be looking for something that germinates with a fairly high success rate. We're also looking for something that looks reasonably attractive as a seedling; in other words, these things won't be big enough when we're using them for the look of their (eventual) flowers to matter.

I love the look of the little succulents, but what litte I've read about growing succulents tells me that we can't just throw them in potting soil and expect them to grow well. And, given everything else we have to deal with for wedding prep, not to mention the fact that we live in an apartment and therefore don't have a yard, we'd like to avoid having to mix up our own soil. That said, we'll do it if it really is the only reasonable way to go.

We'll be growing the plants in our study, which gets a ton of light in the afternoon, although it's pretty limited on direct sunlight. The plan is to grow whatever seeds we decide upon directly in small glass jars to avoid having to transplant them later, but if that's a truly horrible idea, please feel free to set us straight.

—What plants would be best for this project, considering the limitations of our space (i.e., light)?
—How far in advance should we plant them (considering, again, that we'll need them by early September)?
—What sort of failure rate should we expect for the seeds?
posted by divisjm to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered getting a bed of succulents and dividing them up individually? Those types of plants typically separate very well.
posted by odinsdream at 2:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know anything about plants, but i have a truly black thumb and can't keep anything alive (including goldfish, but that's a different story...)

Plain ole grass is so so so easy to grow, and I actually think it would look pretty cute in a little glass jar. You could stick a little sign with the name on it right in there among the grass on a stake.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 2:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend growing jade. It's super low-maintenance and looks very similar to the ones in the photo.
posted by floweredfish at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2012

Growing succulents from seeds is unnecessary. It's super easy to propagate cuttings; you basically just cut a little piece off, let the open cut dry out for a couple days, then stick it in some cactus soil mix. If you live in an area where succulents are common landscape ornaments, you can just wander around the neighborhood taking little cuttings here and there and pot them at home. My wife, who made succulent boutonnieres for our wedding, has cultivated an impressive collection of planters overflowing with succulents that started from little cuttings snipped here and there. You'll have a very high success rate with cuttings, as they seem impossible to kill. I'd plant them at least a couple months ahead of time, as they require a while to get rooted before they start growing in earnest.
posted by Mendl at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would suggest growing sedums -- they are super easy to root and very low-maintenance. Like Mendi said, it's very easy to do this from cuttings.

If you go with seeds, nasturtiums have the most adorable tiny little leaves.
posted by Ostara at 2:17 PM on January 18, 2012

The sedums in the pictures you show are very easy to grow, require minimum light, and almost no water to survive. Unfortunately, they are not really easy to grow successfully from seed/spore. If you can find plants to make cuttings from, you should do ok for yourself in about 45 days.

If you'd like to grow from seed, you should try working with herbs. Basil, cilantro, chervil, thyme, dill are all fairly easy to grow from seed. Give yourself about 35-45 days to have plants worth looking at.

Finally, one herb that does very well from cuttings is rosemary. There's probably even a bush in your neighborhood. If you ask nicely, neighbors would probably be happy to let you take a few cuttings - the stuff overgrows so quickly that you'd probably be doing them a favor. Bury a branch tip about 2" long in the soil, water just a touch, and let it go.

Success rate will probably be about 70% or so, unless something goes terribly wrong.
posted by Gilbert at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2012

I grew strawberries from seed this summer, and it was pretty fun. I am a total garden noob too. Only about half to two thirds of them germinated. One whole tray didn't germinate at all for whatever weird reason. We planted them in egg trays originally and have now transplanted them to slightly bigger pots. We lost about another 1/3 on transplant. They are really cute even as tiny seedlings. But they are very tiny for the first couple of months.

We also grew tomatoes and beans from seed, which had a much higher success rate (around 90%?) but are not very attractive, and probably actually grow TOO fast for you. (I.e. some will be enormous by the time the stragglers are the right size.)
posted by lollusc at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2012

African violets would be cool. I would sow in March and by September, they might even be blooming but if not, they'll still be pretty plants.
posted by shoesietart at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2012

We had no luck at all with herbs from seed. The only one that germinated at all was basil, and we planted maybe 20 seeds. Two grew. But we planted directly into the garden in this case (because people had told us they grew so easily), so maybe you'd have better luck.
posted by lollusc at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2012

Unless you have an amazing green thumb, I'm seconding suggestion to do cuttings from succulents. Based on your picture, it looks like that was exactly what was done. Plop the cutting into a jar with cactus mix--done. It's up to your wedding guest to keep it alive. Buy your plants RIGHT before the wedding date. My brother got married this summer and decided to do baby succulents as wedding favors and bought them the week before at a flower mart. Most made it but some had been overwatered or were just dead looking. Unsolicited advice: Get help--don't plan to do this all by yourself the day before your wedding. It's happened at every DIY wedding I've been a part of--applying labels to 150 plants takes time and you don't want to spend the day before your wedding doing that. (BTW I think it's totally fine to skip favors entirely. Just my two cents)
posted by biscuits at 2:40 PM on January 18, 2012

Some sort of succulent sounds great! I know plants, but I'd enjoy one more than many other plants that are easy to kill. I'm sure less confident people would as well.

If you do decide to go with seeds, I'd recommend doing a germination test on the seeds you buy before planning how many to start. It might save space, or save you from complete failure if the seeds happen to be mostly or entirely duds.
posted by a_green_man at 2:50 PM on January 18, 2012

Plants are weird - don't get your heart set on this working out. That said, geraniums are ridiculously easy to propagate. Just cut off a small branch and stick it in water, and it will sprout roots.
posted by yarly at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2012

Do you just like the look of them, or do you want them to actually grow when people take them home.

If you're set on the idea of some sort of lasting legacy, plants like geraniums, strawberries and nasturtiums aren't going to last very long if they're given out in September, and unless their well established won't transplant well (given that you actually live where your profile says you do.)

Go with a houseplant if you want them to last regardless of how harsh the fall and winter are.
posted by scrute at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2012

Plants in pot with dirt could be a mess on a table--thye get knocked over, people don't remember to take them home, etc.. Why not use packets of seeds instead? Let love grow, and so on.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:47 PM on January 18, 2012

African Violets from cuttings. I'd start them in water and then move them to soil once they have roots.
posted by anaelith at 7:09 AM on January 19, 2012

May I suggest using handmade paper with flower seeds in it, which the guests can plant at home? The word "plantable" seems to help Google searches, like the one that lead me to this example.

I got something like this once and I thought it was VERY cool. The only cooler wedding favor I ever got was a small box made of white chocolate that was full of other chocolates, all mde by the bride's mom. (I stole an extra one on the way out.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:50 AM on January 19, 2012

This is a bit late, but I did want to pop in and thank everything for their help. We're still not sure that we're actually going to do this (and I agree with biscuits that favors really are unnecessary), but it's been great food for thought. If we do decide to go this route, we definitely have a backup plan, so there would be no broken hearts (although a few wasted dollars).

It might also be worth noting, although it doesn't matter much at this point, that we weren't set on succulents, which is something that I should have specified from the start (the ones in the image I found just happened to be nice looking, is all).

In any case, thanks as always, Mefites!
posted by divisjm at 7:28 AM on January 22, 2012

« Older Creating my own crime map   |   Uploading to YouTube before I grow old and die Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.