80110thumbWhere winters are cooler, the deteriorating stems of flowers that bloomed last year either got pruned away already or got knocked down by the weather, and are now rotting on the ground. Around here, where the weather is milder, and some flowers only recently finished blooming, used up flower stalks still stand in stasis. Most but not necessarily all should get pruned out and raked away.

Dahlias succumb to frost as soon as it arrives. If not already cut back, they fall to the ground like steamed spinach, and should get raked up and put into greenwaste. There is nothing to salvage. Sunflowers are related to dahlias, but do not collapse so easily. Even if they are not pretty, those that produce seed can be left for whatever birds like to eat them, and then recycled when empty.

Of course, not all of the seed must be left to the birds. Some or all can be saved for next year. The flowers only need to be allowed to dry so that the seed matures. If the birds start to eat them first, old flowers can be cut and stored in open bags or boxes in a shed or garage, out of reach of birds. Stems should be cut longer if they are still green. Seeds should fall from the flowers as they dry.

Seed can also be collected from lily-of-the-Nile and African iris, although these perennials are so easy to propagate by division that growing them from seed might be more trouble than it is worth. Their seed capsules must be allowed to dry, just like sunflower seed. Belladonna lily makes a few weirdly succulent seed that are worth collecting. Some primitive cannas make weirdly hard seed.

It might be worth researching flowers that happen to be in the garden to determine if they produce viable seed worth collecting. It is also important to know what seed requires scarification or stratification. Seed that needs stratification must be exposed to cold temperatures to be convinced that it is time to germinate in spring. Canna seeds need to be scarified by filing through the hard shells before they germinate. Other seeds need other types of scarification or stratification.

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9 thoughts on “Collecting Seeds For Next Year

  1. And veggies! Heirloom gardeners save veggie seeds for next year, keeping the strains alive. I save wildflower seeds too, so I can plant more where I want them. Storing them in the freezer all winter insures stratification for those that need it, and provides better germination rates for things like beans, hot peppers and squash. Sometime you can fool Mother Nature…….just a little. 🙂

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    1. I just plant seeds in autumn and let our minimal chill do the work. If they need more than that, I probably have no business growing the; although, I did grow some sand cherries from New York, which got chilled in the refrigerator. Our blue elderberries needed to be scarified, which was news to me. I was not about to rub each of those tiny seeds on sand paper, so just ground a several between stones and planted the whole bunch. I got more than I expected from that one. I could not go on about vegetables because that article is from my gardening column, which has limited space.

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  2. Speaking of birds, I live in an apartment and have seen strange plants pop up. Suspect they were carried by the birds.

    I have once grown plumeria/frangipani from seed with scarifcation.

    I find cuttings easier, esp basil. Although some veggies like long beans, I need to collect seeds. :-))

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    1. I have never heard of plumeria grown from seed, probably because they are so easy to grow from cutting. I grow them down south, but not up here. They dislike the frost here. It is funny that I always grow basil from seed, instead of cutting. I usually prefer cutting. Ha! Oh well. I have been growing the same geraniums since I was a little kid! It just depends on the type of plant. There are reasons for cuttings, and reasons for seed.

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