Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How To Save Seeds

I'd like to share today some tips on how to save and store seeds from flowering plants. 

While out in the garden deadheading my plants to tidy things up, I noticed that the Gaillardia (common name Blanket Flower) had mostly gone to seed.   Normally I wouldn't let a plant get so far along in the seed production stages, since this often results in the end of the flowering season.   But this one had gotten away from me, so I figured it would be a great example to use for this blog post.

You can see that Gaillardia have fluffy white fuzz attached to their seeds, and they blow on the wind like a dandelion.  They also attach to birds and bunnies and squirrels and such, and travel around that way.   

As I cut off the deadheads of this plant, it's clear what the seed heads look like in the varying stages of drying.   If I had deadheaded this plant when they were all newly formed, I might have gotten a longer life out of the plant.  As it is, I think the plant is just about done flowering for the year.

These are keepers...

And these are going to the compost pile, since these seeds are not ready to harvest.

And it appears that we'll be having more Gaillardia in this spot next year, with all the seeds left behind.  

I took my container of seed heads to the table on the porch to get down to the easy work of saving them.   it's as simple as pulling on the white fluff to release the dried seeds from the seed head.

You end up with little tiny fluffs with brown seeds attached to them.

Here you can see what one seed head looks like that is perfectly ready (the lower one), and what one looks like when it's not quite fully dried (the top one).

The seeds on the ripe one are nice and brown, while the seeds on the not-ripe one are still green.  These will dry out and (hopefully) be just fine, but I don't think I'd pull them any greener than this.

After working on all the seed heads that I'd saved, I had a nice pile of seeds ready to store.

It's as simple as labeling an envelope with the flower name and this year's date.

And them putting them into the envelope.   I store the envelopes in a glass jar (to keep out humidity). 

Since this was so easy and kind of fun, I went around the garden looking for more types of seed heads that might be ready to harvest.  I found some Shasta Daisies of the 'Becky' variety...

... and some marigolds.

I also found some chive blossoms (top left in the photo below).

To harvest the marigold seeds, it's as simple as gathering a dried up flower head,

pulling the dried seed head apart, 

and collecting the slender black seeds within.

The daisies are similarly easy.  Just grab a seed head that is fully dried and brown,

use your thumb to pull the seeds apart

and they come off nicely.

These daisy seeds are actually not quite fully ripe yet... it would have been better to wait another few days to allow the seed head to dry more while on the plant.  But that would have given my daisy plants the message to stop producing flowers, so I pulled these off a little earlier than I should, to keep the plants flowering longer in the summer.

You can see this one is still really too green.  I'm hoping that if I let them air dry they'll still be good.

So I'm keeping this bowl of daisy seeds inside for a while until they fully dry.   Finger's crossed that it works!     If not, then I could always be more patient and wait until later in the season when the daisy plants are truly finished blooming, and allow the seed heads to dry more fully on the plants before harvesting them.   

After about an hour's work, I had gathered a few envelopes full of seeds for planting next year.   Later in the afternoon I gathered some seeds from my Cosmos plants too, and I'm considering gathering some petunia seeds (though they're incredibly tiny and more difficult to handle).   Later in the season I should be able to get other seeds from various plants around the yard.  It's kind of fun to inspect the flower structure to see where the seeds might be!

All of these will be stored in a glass jar over the winter.   I'll do a little online research to see which of these need to get a week or two in the refrigerator, which need to be sown inside, and which can be simply scattered across some soil.   I'm considering trying this method of seed starting, since I don't have a basement in which to set up a seed-starting area.  

How about you?  Do you save seeds?  How do you sow them in the spring?  I'd love to hear all about it!  Please leave me a comment and let's chat!

Linking to:

Lavender Garden Cottage:  Cottage Style Party
StoneGable:  The Scoop
A Stroll Thru Life:  Inspire Me Tuesday
Fluster Buster:   Fluster's Creative Muster
Place of My Taste:  Work It Wednesday
Between Naps On The Porch:  Metamorphosis Monday
A Delightsome Life:  Home and Garden Thursday
Fishtail Cottage:  Garden Party
Rooted in Thyme:  Simple and Sweet Friday


  1. So I am guessing you plant the seeds in the Spring, but do they reseed if you leave them alone? I have some of the blanket flower and notice they do not come back next year. Is that normal, should I save the seeds then and just plant them in SPring? I also thought that Pansies seeded themselves but thats never happened yet either.

    1. Hi Janice, thanks for your question! Some of these plants will re-seed themselves next year, but it really depends on what kind of environment they find when the land on the soil. I have hardwood mulch under my plants, and so that's not an ideal situation for them to take hold and germinate next spring on their own. So I will be starting them from seed indoors in the late winter, and then moving them outdoors when the weather is right. If you'd like to try it, but you're not sure how to do it, there are hundreds of videos or website available on how to start seeds. (I'm going to try the method mention din my post - using milk jugs as mini green houses - check up above for a link to the website on this).

  2. Awesome tips and tutorial! Seed saving is one of our favorite ways to keep blooms in our garden! I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,