How to Save and Clean Your Own Seeds and Save Money on Your Favorite Varieties Year After Yearpopflier
One great way to ensure you can get your hands on your favorite seed each year is to save your own. It’s a beautiful and sustainable way to keep growing the best flowers year after year. In this article I’ll show you some basics about seed saving so you can give it a shot yourself.
First off, here are a few tips about seed harvesting. Certainly this varies from plant to plant but here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Research the plant to see if it even propagates by seed! (sorry, fans of chocolate cosmos!) You may be surprised by which plants can’t be propagated this way.
- Also, some seeds need cold stratification which generally means they spend a winter outside before they are ready to grow. These you can often trick by keeping them in the freezer for a few weeks.
- Look for flower heads with no petals, dried out, brown or black, crunchy or papery. The key is timing – let the flower age as much as possible but not so much that all the seeds fall out or fly away before harvesting. If you harvest too early, the seeds haven’t developed enough and won’t perform. Let mother nature work her magic.
- Cut off the seed heads and let them finish drying out completely for at least a few days. Don’t put them in a sealed container yet – we don’t want to trap any moisture at this point. Just spread them out on a tray or plate where they won’t be disturbed.
Once they’re totally dry, it’s time to clean up the seed. This is when you might put on some music, have a whiskey cocktail, and get in the groove. You will be here for a while.
There are so many kinds of seeds out there and sometimes it’s hard to even know which part you’re looking for. I’m going to go through a few examples of some of my favorites.
Once you have all of your seeds cleaned, bag, and label them. Trust me, you may think you know what you have harvested but you WILL forget – labeling is essential. Plain seed packets are a great option for consistent size as well as breathability. I have also used snack-size zipper bags before, too. Just make sure whatever you use can seal up well so you do not lose all of your work! Do not forget to add the date so you know how old your seeds are when you decide to pull them out again.
After your seeds are sealed and labeled you need to store them in a cool, dry spot and use them the following season. If any seeds need cold stratification you can also pop them into the freezer.
These are just a few examples and guidelines that I hope will be helpful to you. I would love to hear any tips and tricks you’ve come up with to make the process easier, too!
1. Red Spider Zinnia
The Red Spider Zinnia is one of my favorite plants because it is so airy, delicate, intense in color, and simply not your “typical” zinnia at all. The Red Spider Zinnia branches a lot, so when it is planted with other things it winds its way through and around many different spots. Sneaky!
The following steps will walk you through the process of extracting seeds from the Red Spider Zinnia. Generally the same process for harvesting seeds from a Red Spider Zinnia holds true for “regular,” larger zinnias as well. Sometimes the larger zinnias are slower to lose their petals, but as long as the petals are dry and browned, they should be ready to harvest.
I love scabiosa because it’s gorgeous at all stages, easy to grow, and a prolific bloomer. When it’s just a colored bud it adds interest and texture (and can be used in small work like flower jewelry); when it’s in bloom it really has a shape like no other – like a cute rounded muffin top with a tutu on. And once the petals have fallen and the seedheads form, they give a completely different textural look. Plus, they dry well for everlasting arrangements!
3. Chocolate Laceflower
Who loves chocolate laceflower as much as me? They are. Just. So. Dreamy. This plant you really want to let age a while. The beautiful umbels will curl up back into themselves (resembling when they first start blooming) like a tight fist and the teeny tiny petals will drop.
4. Flamingo Feather Celosia
I like weird plants. You may have already guessed this, but I’ll shout it from my rooftop. Flamingo Feather Celosia grows upright and kind of looks like lipstick. It is one of those plants that people look at and say, “What the heck?” What I love about this one is that the flowers just get longer and longer as the season progresses. Eventually they can start to look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, all wavy and wonky. Not only that, but Celosia, in general, loves the heat here in Denver and it grows really well. It is not a “picky lady!”
5. Coral Fountain Amaranth
Another lovely weirdo! Hanging Amaranth gives the look of dripping blooms. It makes gardens and arrangements look lush and abundantly overflowing and can add a total wow factor. My wife likes to say it reminds her of 70’s era design. Whatever, I guess I love the 70’s!
3. As you can see these seeds are even smaller. Their tan color helps to distinguish them. However, you can see how hard it is to find the seeds in the coral colored chaff. The seeds resemble small, tan quinoa grains with a tail wrapped around the edge. This is because Quinoa and Amaranth are in the same family. Both the lime and the coral are types of Hanging Amaranth.