Top 10 Plants for Harvesting Seeds
Stick to your plant budget by harvesting seeds from these 10 flowers.
Maybe you want to share a favorite plant with friends and family. Or perhaps you just want more bang for your gardening buck. Whatever the reason, harvesting and planting your own flower seeds takes little effort—and as these beauties burst into bloom, you’ll appreciate them more than ever.
We asked our friends at Seed Savers Exchange to help us gather a list of the 10 best flowering plants for harvesting seeds. These are specific cultivars, but you can apply the seed-collecting techniques to similar plants. If you’re not familiar with the nonprofit exchange, check out its website, seedsavers.org, which has a wealth of information on seed preservation, storage and planting. Use these tips to start saving—seeds and dollars!
(Calendula officinalis, annual)
Perfect for northern gardeners, this long bloomer, also known as pot marigold, shines in shades of yellow and orange all summer. Its edible petals have a sweet-tart tang.
Seed saving: Calendula is one of the easiest plants for seed harvesting. But you’ll need to keep an eye on the blooms: As soon as they begin to fade, it’s time to pick the seeds. If you don’t get them soon enough, they’ll fall and the plant will reseed itself.
(Celosia cristata , annual)
A native of the tropics, this cockscomb has fuzzy red flower heads that bring welcome texture to the garden. It’s also a pretty addition to your homemade bouquets.
Seed saving: Cockscomb seeds can be found in the heads, between the velvety flowers. Once the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bunches. When the seed heads are completely dry and crisp, lightly crush them with your hands and the seeds will fall out.
Love-in-a-mist ‘Oxford Blue’
(Nigella damascena ‘Oxford Blue’, annual)
If you’re new to seed collecting, this plant is one of the easiest to try. It’s fairly easy to grow, too, if you’ve got a spot with full sun and average soil.
Seed saving: When the blossoms fade, a striking seed pod forms. Once it turns brown, simply cut it off and allow it to dry completely. Then crack it open and remove the seeds.
Old-fashioned vining petunia
(Petunia multiflora, perennial in Zones 9 to 11)
With multiple flower colors on one plant, this is an irresistible petunia. A garden classic, it’s wonderful in both hanging baskets and borders.
Seed saving: An easy one for seed savers. When the flowers go, a seed pod forms, turning from green to brown. Once it’s brown, cut it off and allow it to dry completely. Then crack it open and remove the seeds. Be ready: There will be hundreds of them!
Jewels of Opar
(Talinum paniculatum, Zones 9 to 11)
The whole plant is easy on the eyes, with beautiful foliage and small pink blooms. Even the seed pods are attractive—some might even say they’re showier than the flowers. This one’s a natural as a filler for containers or borders.
Seed saving: When the flowers fade, you’ll see a ruby-orange seed pod. Once that starts to dry, cut it off and place it in a protected area to dry. Then crack it open and collect the small seeds from inside.
(Alcea rosea, Zones 3 to 8)
Back in the day, towering, colorful hollyhocks were grown to disguise outhouses—and the name stuck! The plant produces stunning single blooms in white, pink, red, magenta and burgundy.
Seed saving: When seed heads turn brown, they’re ready for harvest. But beware: Hollyhocks irritate the skin, so wear gloves, goggles and sleeves when handling any part of the plant. Once you’re protected, gently rub seed heads between your hands to free the seeds.
(Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3 to 9)
A favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and gardeners alike, this is an old-fashioned garden staple. They’re beautiful and easy to grow. What more could you possibly ask for?
Seed saving: If you want to harvest these seeds, you’ve got to beat the birds to it! When the blooms are dry, cut them off and hang them upside down in bunches. The seeds live in the heads between the spikes. Once the heads are nice and crisp, lightly hand-crush them to extract seeds.
(Zinnia elegans, annual)
You might see an occasional orange bloom in the midst of the usual bright-red flowers of this cheerful zinnia. To prolong the bloom time, remove the spent blossoms frequently.
Seed saving: Zinnias will cross-pollinate, so if you want to save pure seed, limit your garden to one variety at a time. Seeds are ready to harvest when the blooms turn brown and dry. Look for the seeds in the center of the flower head.
(Polygonum orientale, annual)
Thomas Jefferson, a famously prolific gardener, is credited with growing the first rosy-pink blooms of this flower in America. A fast grower, it’s considered invasive in some areas, so do your homework before planting.
Seed saving: Before the start of frost, clip off the most mature pink clusters and allow them to dry in a protected area. When they’re completely dry, rub the flower clusters between your hands to separate the seeds.
(Cleome hassleriana, annual)
Known as spider flower because its wispy blooms look like an arachnid’s legs, this gorgeous tropical native is a real conversation piece. Just be careful of its thorny stems.
Seed saving: Cleome is one of the most reliable flowers for seed production. As soon as the spidery blooms begin to dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bunches, or dry them on a screen. Once they’re completely dry, the seeds will be easy to extract.