Filling your garden with a stunning array of colorful and fragrant flowers is the perfect way to curate an inviting and fun space to spend time during the warmer months of the year.
One of the best ways to make your garden an enjoyable place to be is to grow plants and flowers that are easy to grow.
Zinnias come in a wide variety of colors, including stunning green varieties. Most gardeners introduce Zinnias to their garden with a packet of mixed Zinnia seeds.
However, within the mix of colors, there is likely to be a particular color that you want to keep. This is where saving Zinnia seeds comes into the picture. In this article, we will look at how to save Zinnia seeds for the next season.
Why Save Your Own Seeds?
While purchasing seeds from a plant store isn’t the most expensive part of gardening, it isn’t always the best way to get the seeds you want for your flower beds. There are a few great reasons for saving your own seeds ready for next year.
One of the most obvious benefits of saving seeds from plants in your garden is that it saves money. Seeds often aren’t overly expensive, but the bigger the variety of plants you have in your garden, the more money you will be spending on seeds.
Saving seeds from plants you already have allows you to avoid having to purchase packets of seeds year after year.
Maintaining Your Garden Layout
If you are passionate about gardening, you will have a certain plan that you have created to help your garden look exactly how you want it to.
For more detailed plans, this can come down to the colors that are used in certain areas of your flower beds.
If this is the case in your garden, saving the seeds from the colored plants that you want is a great idea. Many seeds come in mixed packets which cannot guarantee that you get the same color every year.
Saving seeds avoids the unknown element of growing seeds.
Gardening is often a communal activity. Whether you actively garden with other people in communal gardens or allotments, or you engage with gardening groups, sharing seeds can be a great way to meet new people.
Seed swaps are a great way to get specific seeds that you want and to offer in-demand seeds to other gardeners. This can help to build a strong community of gardeners who can offer help and support.
It also helps to keep popular varieties of seeds in common use. This means that if a crop fails one year, you will still have access to the seeds through friends and acquaintances.
Allows For Adaptation
When you use a specific type of seed year after year, the crops can adapt to the unique conditions in your garden. The seeds that you save each year to plant the next year will have grown well in the conditions provided.
This means that over time, your seeds will become more and more accustomed to your garden and will grow and thrive more easily.
About Zinnia Plants
Before you jump into saving the seeds from any plant, it is important to understand what sort of plant you are harvesting and what it will need in order to thrive year after year.
Zinnias are herbaceous annual flowers that are native to Mexico. Any plant that is described as an annual will complete its life cycle in a single year. This means that it will need to be sowed again next year.
Zinnias set seed before they die after the first hard frost in the Fall. This is when you will want to look at harvesting the seeds. If a frost hits early in the Fall, you may be unable to harvest the seeds.
Make sure to keep an eye on weather forecasts to ensure that you get the seeds you want.
How To Harvest And Save Zinnia Seeds
Now that you know why saving Zinnia seeds is useful and a little bit about the plants, it is time to look at the best way to harvest and save Zinnia seeds to help you grow the same varieties next year. Below is a step-by-step guide to saving Zinnia seeds.
Step One: Plan Ahead
As with any successful gardening task, you will need to plan ahead in order to successfully harvest the seeds from your existing Zinnia flowers.
The most important thing to remember is to keep your seeds pure in order to ensure that next year’s flowers will look like their parents. To do this successfully, you will need to make sure that you are isolating the plants before pollination occurs.
To avoid cross-pollination, you will need to separate several buds before they bloom. The isolation will need to remain on the flowers until the bloom cycle has been completed. You will need to keep a close eye on the plants that you have separated.
If there isn’t enough ventilation, mildew can occur. This can spread to the seeds which will make them unhealthy and unlikely to produce healthy plants if they were to be harvested.
When it comes to harvesting your seeds, make sure that you are only taking them from healthy plants. To avoid mildew problems, plant stores will sell things that can help to avoid the problem from developing.
Step Two: Gather Materials
Before you rush into the garden to remove the heads from your flowers, you will need to make sure that you have all the things that you need to successfully harvest the Zinnia seeds.
The things that you will need to successfully harvest Zinnia seeds include
- A container to harvest the flowers
- Paper towels
- Paper plates
- A permanent marker
- A glass jar with secure lid
- A screen for drying
- The Zinnia plants
You will also need appropriate bags to cover the blooms before you get to the point of harvesting seeds. You can find appropriate bags in plant stores and online.
Make sure to cover the buds before they bloom and keep them in place until you harvest the seeds. Keep an eye out for mildew.
Step Three: Wait It Out
When the time comes to harvest the seeds from your Zinnia plants, it really is a bit of a waiting game. You might be tempted to pick the heads of your flowers as soon as they begin to shrivel.
However, this isn’t the best practice. For the best results, you should wait until your flower heads have turned completely brown and become brittle.
If you attempt to harvest the seeds before the flower head has become brittle, the seeds won’t germinate which will result in the inability of the seeds to produce plants.
This means that your time will have been wasted. Remember that patience is a virtue when it comes to gardening.
Step Four: Gently Remove Deadheads
Once the flower heads have become dry, brown, and brittle, and are ready to be harvested, it is time to remove them from the stems.
The easiest way to remove the dried heads from the flowers is to gently pull them away from the stems. When you are doing this, it is important to make sure that you are not crushing the dried heads to avoid damaging the seeds on the inside.
If you have to apply too much force to remove the heads from the stems, you should try an alternative method.
If the heads aren’t detaching from the stems very easily and you are concerned about damaging the seeds, you can use a pair of shears or pruners to cut the heads from the stalks. This can be a much quicker method if you have lots of heads to detach.
You will only need to remove a few flower heads for an average-sized garden. However, if you want to save more seeds to participate in a seed swap, you will need a few more heads.
Step Five: Lay Out Seed Heads
Once you have removed all the flower heads that you want from your Zinnia plants, you will need to lay them out on a screen. This will allow them to continue to dry properly.
It is important that you let the seed pods completely dry before you can move on to the next step.
From the point where your flower heads are dry enough to be removed from the stems, it usually takes around a week for the seed heads to dry out completely. From this point, you can move on to the next step.
Step Six: Flail Seed Heads
For this step, you will need to find a spacious, flat workspace. This workspace should be covered with clean paper towels. This makes it easier to see the seeds as you are flailing the heads.
You should also place paper plates on the paper towels and label them with the name of the different varieties or colors of the flowers you are harvesting.
Take a single flower head and gently pull it apart or rub it over the corresponding paper plate. Make sure that you are as gentle as possible with the flower head to preserve the seeds and keep them on the plate that you want.
As you flail the seed heads, the arrow-headed seeds should be released from the pods. There may be some seeds that remain attached to the petals, these can be gently pulled from the petal and should come off quite easily.
Repeat this process for all of the flower heads that you have. Make sure that you only keep the seeds from the pods and keep different varieties or colors separate from each other.
Once all the seeds have been removed from the deadheads, make sure that they are spread out properly on the paper plates. Allow them to dry out for a further few days. Saving Zinnia seeds works best when you let the seeds become as dry as possible.
Try not to disturb the plates that the seeds are drying on too much as you will risk losing some if they roll off the sides.
Step Seven: Store Your Seeds
Once your seeds are completely dry, you can transfer them from the paper plates into envelopes. Paper bags can work in a pinch too. Make sure to label the envelopes so you can keep track of your seeds.
Once all the seed varieties have been put into separate envelopes, place the envelopes in a glass jar with a secure lid. This will help to keep your seeds in a safe place where they can remain until you need them at the beginning of the next growing season.
Make sure to store the jar with the seeds in it in a cool, dry place that does not get any sunlight. Closets or basements work well as long as there is no risk of moisture.
When storing your seeds properly, you can keep them for up to five years and they can still be used to grow flowers.
Step Eight: Replant Seeds Next Year
Once the winter has passed and there is no further sign of frost, it is possible to take the seeds that you dried and plant them as normal. You can plant them outdoors straight away in fresh soil.
Make sure to water them regularly and tend to them the same way you would with other seeds.
If you want to take extra care with your seeds, you can plant them in seed trays and grow seedlings indoors before you transfer them to your flower beds outside.
Tips And Tricks For Zinnia Seeds
The process of harvesting and storing Zinnia seeds is relatively simple and straightforward. However, there are a few ways that you can make sure the process works as smoothly as possible.
Below are some helpful tips and tricks to help your harvest and store your Zinnia seeds.
Collect From Multiple Plants
We have already mentioned collecting seeds from Zinnia flowers that are different colors to give you control over the colors you plant the following year. However, color isn’t the only reason why you should harvest from multiple plants.
For each color that you want to harvest, you should make sure that you collect from multiple plants of the same color.
Not only does this help to ensure a healthy collection of seeds, but it can also help to keep genetic diversity in the plants that you breed.
This will help to keep your Zinnia plants aesthetically pleasing, vigorous, and relatively disease resistant for longer.
Collect From Healthy Plants
This tip goes without saying, but it can often be overlooked, especially the first time you harvest seeds. You need to collect your seeds from healthy Zinnia plants.if you Zinnia has obvious diseases, you should not collect from these plants.
If your Zinnia has struggled throughout the season, you should not collect from these plants either as they could have diseases or other genetic issues.
Accidentally harvesting diseased seeds will be obvious when you come to plant your seeds next season. If your seeds carry diseases, they will rot in storage.
Because the seeds are stored in groups, the disease or rotting can spread to all the other seeds in the envelope. It is also possible for diseased seeds to grow the following season but spread the disease to all of your Zinnia plants.
Mildew is one of the most common diseases that you should look out for when harvesting Zinnia seeds. Seeds that are infected with mildew will have a powdery like substance on their surface.
There are some products that you can purchase to decrease the likelihood of this disease infecting your plants prior to harvesting your seeds.
Dry The Seeds Thoroughly
Once you have collected your healthy, varied seeds from your Zinnia plants, it is important that you make sure they are dried thoroughly. There is no shortcut to drying the seeds.
Generally you will need around 2 – 3 weeks for the seeds to properly dry out.
If you fail to dry the seeds properly and store them through the winter with moisture still in them, you might be greeted by moldy or mildew coated seeds.
Ultimately, there is no situation in which you can leave your seeds to dry out for too long. The longer the seeds are given to air dry the better.
Once the seeds are fully dried, you just need to store them in a dark, dry, cool place until you are ready to plant them. You can plant your seeds the following season or keep them for up to 5 years.
Plant Breeding Facts
We briefly mentioned above that if you are looking to harvest Zinnias of certain colors, you will need to isolate the plant before it blooms. This is to preserve the color of the plant when you harvest the seeds.
Zinnias are naturally cross-pollinated by insects and bugs when the flower is in bloom. This means that even though you have taken seeds from a pink Zinnia, the plants that grow from the seeds may not be pink, they could be an array of colors.
If the color of the flowers you grow are important to you, it is important to isolate flowers before they bloom. This will ensure that the flowers are only being pollinated by Zinnias with similar characteristics.
The most common ways of isolating your Zinnias are with distance, time, and mechanical isolation.
If you are growing Zinnias in your home garden, using distance and time to isolate your plants is going to be more difficult. You will need to carefully plan your garden before you grow your first Zinnias.
The plants will need to be spaced an appropriate distance apart to ensure there is no cross-pollination.
Alternatively, you will need to plant your Zinnias at different times to stagger the bloom of the plants and make cross-pollination much more difficult.
For domestic gardeners, mechanical isolation is much easier. This method involves either bagging or caging your flowers. This helps to ensure that the desired pollen is pollinating the plants. A tomato cage is a great option for covering your Zinnia.
Simply cover the cage with a lightweight fabric such as tulle before the flowers begin to bloom.
Once the flowers are in bloom, you will need to introduce insects to the cage to pollinate the flowers. Alternatively, you can hand pollinate the Zinnias.
How To Hand Pollinate Flowers
If you don’t want to introduce insects to your isolated flowers, you can hand pollinate them. Hand pollination is the process of mimicking natural pollination.
The easiest way to hand pollinate Zinnias is with an artist’s paintbrush or a Q-Tip. Simply wipe the Q-tip or brush across a few of the stamens on one plant, then touch the pollen covered brush onto the small, filament-like pistils on the ray or disc flowers.
If the hand pollination is successful, you will be able to notice a few seeds developing in a matter of weeks. In order to successfully pollinate Zinnias by hand, you will need to study the anatomy of the flower to place the pollen correctly.
Saving Zinnia seeds to plant in future seasons is a surprisingly simple process that can save you money in the long run.
More than being a money saving measure, harvesting and storing your own Zinnia seeds can be a great way to gain a much more in-depth understanding of the plant and how to care for it.
If you want to cultivate particular colors of Zinnia, you will also gain a strong understanding of how to hand pollinate a Zinnia plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been given a beautiful bunch of flowers as a gift from a loved one, you might be wondering if it is possible to save the Zinnia seeds from the bunch of cut flowers. The most likely answer to this question is, no.
This doesn’t mean that it is impossible in all cases. However, it is likely that the flowers were harvested before the seed has set.
This is because the flowers need to be cut when they are at their peak to extend the life of the cut flower.
You can always save the Zinnias from your bunch of cut flowers to allow the heads to fade and turn brown. From here, you are likely to be able to tell if there are any seeds in the pods worth harvesting.
The other issue with cut flowers is that you have no way of knowing what the flower might have been cross-pollinated with.
If you are a more hands off gardener, it is reasonable to wonder whether Zinnias reseed themselves.
It is possible to allow Zinnias to reseed themselves, however, the seedlings are not likely to be spaced properly when they germinate.
This will lead to the necessary transplant of seedlings as they begin to appear in the spring. Massive clumps of Zinnias growing together will need to be spread out more to grow properly.
This can end up being just as labor intensive as reseeding yourself.
Alternatively, you can give the Zinnias a helping hand by taking the seed head and crushing it in your hand.
You can then scatter the seeds more evenly across your flower beds. Raking them into the soil will help to keep them in place rather than traveling on the breeze.
Of course, reseeding in this way may result in some seedlings emerging too early in the spring and being killed off by late frosts.