Now that my summer garden is winding down for the year, I’ve been spending some time harvesting flower seeds. Considering I buy most of the same flowers every year, I figured this would save me some money.
Knowing what works well in your yard takes a few years of trial and error. I still experiment with new flowers every year but for the most part, I stick to what works in my area.
For my very hot and sunny yard, Cosmos and Zinnias do very well. I plant Cosmos in some of my full sun container gardens and sprinkle Zinnia seeds in the planting beds.
This year I noticed that my coneflowers returned from last year on their own. I want to preserve all of these flowers for next year so I began gathering the seeds.
Harvesting Zinnia Seeds
At the beginning of summer, I sprinkled Zinnia seeds in different areas around the yard, not expecting much. Much to my surprise, they grew in every spot and survived the drought well.
To harvest the seeds from Zinnia flowers, you want to wait until the flowers are dead and brown. I usually deadhead these but I let some go in order to preserve the seeds.
Once they look like that, you pretty much just rub the seeds right off the stem.
After you do that, you have to separate the seeds from the chaff or husk. The seeds are the parts that look like they have little tails, shown below.
I keep a bowl or a paper plate underneath to catch the seeds. Then it’s easy to fold up the paper plate and slide the seeds right into a little envelope. I have these small brown envelopes for saving my seeds.
This is pretty much the general process for harvesting most seed flowers – with a few exceptions.
How To Harvest Coneflower Seeds
To harvest coneflowers, or echinacea seeds, there is one difference. You can’t rub the dried bud between your fingers because it will hurt. The flower heads are very sharp when they dry and kind of feel like a porcupine might.
For those, I used tweezers to pull the seeds out. Slightly more work, but so worth it for their beautiful smell and medicinal benefits.
The coneflower seeds are white, they may have a black end sticking out. Remove the black part, that is chaff and you don’t want that. Apparently, chaff can cause mold on the seeds.
Harvesting Cosmos Seeds
With Cosmos, the petals fall off and the flowers shrivel up before the stem dries out. For that reason, I harvested Cosmos differently. I picked them when they began to lose petals and put the whole flower in a plastic container with the lid slightly open for air. (When I started harvesting, I did this will all my flowers until I had time to go through them for the flower seeds).
I let the Cosmos dry up in the containers so I wouldn’t lose them. The Cosmos I planted this year were especially pretty in varying shades of purple and white, so I made sure to harvest several in the variety of colors I had planted.
Once they dry up, remove the brown seeds from the seed head by hand or with tweezers. Also, remove any husk or chaff, same as with the Zinnias.
You should be left with dark brown or black seeds.
Storing Flower Seeds Until Next Year
Once you’ve gotten all your seeds keep them in a cool, dry location until planting time next year. I keep mine in a drawer of my hutch. I read somewhere that when you store your seeds this way they should last up to two years.
Self Seeding Flowers
How do you know if your flowers are self-seeding? I’ve done some searches on this without finding any definitive answer. If the flowers have seeds in their heads, I would assume that they can self-seed.
I believe all the flowers I’ve discussed today are self-seeding if left alone, so it is an option to try it that way. I’ve had a few cosmos come back every year but I usually have to plant more to fill out the planters. Harvesting flower seeds yourself gives you more control and more flowers.
FLOWER sEED lABELS
After I had harvested my seeds and placed them into my brown paper envelopes, writing on them with a marker seemed so boring. So I took it up a notch and ordered pretty labels I made in Zazzle instead. They were simple and very inexpensive.
I used one of Zazzle’s pre-made designs and edited it for my flowers. Be sure to pick a label size that will fit on your envelopes. My envelopes are approx 2″ X 3″ so I ordered the small round labels in the 1.5″ size.
Now they look cute enough to share with family and friends for next year.