If you love the flowers in your garden but don’t love the idea of spending money on new ones, why not save their seeds to plant next year?
To maximize the odds that new plants will grow true to their parent, only collect seeds from those labeled “heirloom” or “heritage.” Seeds from hybrid cultivars, which result from breeding two or more varieties, will produce plants that resemble only one of the plant’s parents, so you have no way of knowing what you’ll end up with.
Still, there are no guarantees. Accidental hybridization can occur in your garden when wind or insects transfer pollen between varieties. To help avoid this, plant only one variety of the plant from which you plan to collect seeds.
But if you don’t mind surprises, go ahead and experiment — you might create a beautiful new plant!
As with much of gardening, timing is everything. It’s best to collect seeds on a dry, sunny day. And regardless of the seeds you’re harvesting, let them mature and dry completely on the plant. Otherwise, they might not germinate. Wait too long, however, and you could miss out.
After harvesting and separating out non-seed material like petals and husks, spread seeds on a screen or newspaper in a single layer and allow drying for about a week.
Then place them in a paper envelope or sealed glass jar and store them in a cool, dry spot. A refrigerator is ideal, as long as seeds can be kept away from fruit, which exudes ethylene gas that can affect their germination. Adding a silica gel pack for the first day or two of storage will help prevent mold growth.
Label your envelopes or jars because regardless of how sure you are that you’ll remember what they are in spring, you probably won’t.
Collected seeds can remain viable for several years when stored properly, but their overall germination rate will diminish. For the best results, plant harvested seeds the following year. Also, be sure to leave some seed heads standing to feed birds over winter. They’ll reward you with free pest control in your garden next year.