When flowers in your garden fade and the seeds ripen, it’s the best time to take care of next year’s plant offspring. Here’s what you should keep in mind when harvesting and collecting flower seeds.
Flowering summer meadows, beds full of flowers and herbs: the exciting variety of plants makes the garden an experience year after year. Flower beds and meadows can be easily extended by simply collecting flower seeds for next year after flowering. While perennials grow in one place in the garden for many years, annuals and biennials must be sown over and over again. If plants such as silverling, poppy, balloon flower or hollyhock are simply allowed to vagabond through the garden, it is enough to let nature take its course. Then next year you can enjoy one or two surprises.
However, if you want to sow flowers specifically in a certain place or need larger numbers of different types of flowers, for example, to create a flower meadow, collecting and harvesting flower seeds in your own bed is the most cost-effective way to grow new plants. The same applies to rare plants or those that are difficult to obtain in stores.
How to collect flower seeds
Selective sowing instead of self-propagation.
The origin of plant life is the seed, which is formed after pollination. Usually it is spread by insects or by the wind, so that even adjacent areas are in lush bloom the next year. The only drawback is that the new place does not always coincide with the place you want the plants. Targeted sowing can remedy this. This involves collecting the mature flower seeds of the plants to spread them in beds, pots or meadows the next year.
Seed harvesting can begin as soon as the plants have faded. Put paper bags over the wilting flowers in good time: this will prevent unwanted dispersal and protect the seeds from hungry birds and other animals. To prevent the seeds from becoming moldy, harvesting should always take place in dry weather. Sunny and windless days are ideal.
How to properly harvest and collect flower seeds
Cut off the ripe seed stalks just before the seeds fall out or are blown away by the wind. The right time for harvesting can be recognized by the fact that the fruiting stalks turn brownish. Do not harvest too early, because only mature seeds are characterized by good germination. In dry weather, collect the capsules in a bag or envelope. Alternatively, cut off the old flower stalks completely and place them heads down in a bowl or dish where they can dry. This way, no flower seeds get lost and after a few days, the individual seeds can be easily shaken out of the dried fruit pods. Then, with the help of a sieve, remove the shells and other unwanted components from the seeds. Sieve it directly onto a light-colored surface, such as a white sheet of paper. This way the seeds are clearly visible and can be easily picked up and packaged afterwards. After each sieving, clean the workplace so that the seeds of the different plants do not mix.
The correct collection techniques
Umbelliferous seed stalks are best cut off before they have become really brown and scrawny, and allowed to ripen on a cloth, then stripped. The pods of legumes should be dry and dark in color, but not yet cracked open. Seeds of poppy rattle in the pods when ripe and can be easily shaken out. Proceed in the same way with primrose seeds. The globules of sweet pea are often bored by beetles. Already when collecting, but at the latest when cleaning, take care not to store seeds that have been hollowed out or are numb.
Allow sunflower seeds to dry before harvesting.
To harvest sunflower seeds, cut off the flowers just before they fade. Leave as little of the flower stalk as possible and then place the flower heads in the boiler room or attic to dry. If the humidity is too high, sunflowers will begin to mold. When they are completely dry after two to three weeks, the seeds can be pulled out quite easily, some even fall out on their own. After that, you can put the sunflower seeds in a jar and store them in a cool, dry place until you sow them in the spring.
Harvesting seeds of spurge and Christmas roses.
Although spurge likes to sow itself, sometimes you want to collect the seeds, for example, to specifically propagate the plants. This is a difficult endeavor, as the ripe fruits pop open when touched and the plant ejects its seeds. Tie a piece of air-permeable fabric around the fruits while they are still green. You can use gauze or a lady’s stocking for this, for example. When the fruits are ripe, the seeds will jump into the little bag and can be conveniently collected. The trick can also be used for Christmas roses.
Decorative seed stalks
Some fruit stalks are almost too beautiful to harvest for flower seeds. Poppy pods, love-in-a-mist, and pigweed, for example, shed so many seeds that a few stalks remain for dry bouquets. For poisonous plants like poke and arum, it’s better to wear gloves. Collect the seeds of your flowers in time, however, before raw fall weather makes them too wet. When doing so, harvest only well-dried inflorescences and store them in a warm, dark and airy place. Many cultivated forms may “not fall real”. That is, they are often visually different from the mother variety, and in some cases again take on the characteristics of the wild species.
Store flower seeds properly
After sieving, place the collected seeds in small, opaque bags or other containers, such as small jars. Make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them. Otherwise, the seeds can easily become infected with mold and die. It is important that the storage location, such as a basement room, is also cool and dry so that the seeds remain germinable for a long time. An alternately humid climate, such as in a garden shed, also has an unfavorable effect on the flower seeds’ ability to store and germinate. Label the seed bags to avoid confusion later. If you let the seeds dry well on cotton sheets or paper before bagging them, you can keep them for up to three years.
Which time of year is best for sowing depends on the plant. Seeds that need cold to germinate, such as poppies or columbine, should be sown in the fall; all other plants should be sown in the spring. In turn, various biennial species such as foxglove, hollyhock or evening primrose are sown immediately after harvest. To avoid confusion when sowing, you should label the packets with plant names and harvest dates. This way, you will know not only what you can look forward to, but also when it is high time to sow the seeds.