This year I planted zinnias and they absolutely thrived! They have 100% been the highlight of my garden this year. I decided to save the seeds from my mature flowers so I could plant the same variety next year. The good news is that this is super easy! So if you have a zinnia plant- you never have to buy seeds again. Here’s a tutorial for harvesting zinnia seeds.
How do you get seeds from zinnia? You let a mature flower dry on the plant. Next, cut off the head and let it dry an additional week. Then, pull the petals from the dried zinnia. At the base of the petals will be an arrow shaped seed. Pull those off the petal and let dry for an additional few days. Once the seeds are gathered they can be stored in a seed packet or envelope.
harvesting zinnia seeds tutorial
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. I’d be over the moon happy if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! Videos are actually released on YouTube first (usually the night before they’re published on the blog). Thank you!
can I save these seeds?
First, determine what type of zinnia you have- open-pollinated or hybrid. Why does the type matter? Open-pollinated zinnias create seeds that become flowers that look like the original zinnia plat. Hybrid zinnias on the other hand, don’t usually look like the flower they come from. You can still use the seeds, but be prepared for them to look different.
Which zinnias are open-pollinated?–
- Benary’s Giant
- Cactus Bright Jewels
- California Giant
- Canary Bird
- Candy Cane
- Crazy Legs
- Cut n Come Again
- Dreamin’ Mix
- Giant Double Violet Queen
- Gold Medal Mix
- Green Envy
- Jazzy Mix
- Mega Diversity Mix
- Peppermint Stick
- Pumila Mix
- Purple Dahlia
- Queen Lime
- Red Spider
- Salmon Rose
- Scarlet Mix
- State Fair Mix
- Thumbelina Dwarf Mix
SUPPLIES for harvesting zinnia seeds
step 1- let flowers dry on the plant
When can you harvest zinnia seeds? After the flower has matured and dried. Zinnia seeds can be collected any time after it has been blooming long enough for the flower to die and develop seed heads. Even after a fall frost, zinnia seeds should still be viable on mature blooms. Just make sure to fully dry them out before harvesting the seeds.
How can you tell if it’s dry? Look at the flower- the color should be mostly brown. When you touch it, it should feel dry and crunchy. The flower will be light since it’s all dried up.
Why does it matter if you harvest a mature zinnia flower? With zinnias, it’s best to harvest a mature spent flower because that means they’ll produce healthy seeds. Harvesting a baby flower will give seeds that won’t germinate. So that’d be a waste of time. Let’s not do that!
What time of year should you harvest zinnias for seed? Typically, zinnias take 2 months to go from a seed to a mature flower. During the beginning and mid summer, it’s best to cut off spent flowers (called dead heading) to encourage new growth. In late summer and early fall, start leaving a few flowers growing on the plant to dry out for harvesting.
Now we’ve gone over the details, choose a dry day in late summer to harvest the zinnia flowers for seeds. Look over the flowers and spot any that are mature and dry on the plant. Then, use garden scissors or shears to cut those off.
I like to leave a few inches of the stem attached to the head. Then, place the flower heads out where any remaining moisture on the zinnia can dry. I put my flower heads on a garden table that allows air circulation from all sides. If rain is in the forecast, make sure to have them dry inside.
Let them dry for a week.
Note, if you’re harvesting from multiple varieties, make sure to keep those separate and label them as you go.
step 2- gather the seeds off the head
Next, once the heads are dry, gather the seeds off the head of the zinnia.
If you’re wondering how do you get seeds from zinnias? It’s easy! Just pull the petals off the head of a dried zinnia flower. They should easily release. Especially if the flower is 100% dry. At the end of the petal is an arrow shaped seed!
Simply pinch off the petal so all you have is the seed.
Another option is to gently pull apart the head of the flower. Make sure to save the arrow shaped seeds that are released.
Tip- it’s best to work on harvesting seeds sitting down while at a clean work surface.
step 3- completely dry the seeds
And now, allow the seeds to completely dry. Any moisture left on the seeds could result in mold or rotting- which would be a gross surprise in the spring.
To let the seeds dry, spread them out on a screen or something like a sand sifter (like I used) where air can circulate and dry all sides of the seed. Do not cover the seeds.
It’s best to choose a location that is dry and cool. Don’t put the seeds by a fan or vent where the seeds could blow away.
Let the seeds dry for 2-3 days.
step 4- store the zinnia seeds for next spring
Finally, it’s time to store the zinnia seeds for next spring. To do this, simply place the seeds in a labeled envelope. I used these Seed Packets.
Labeling. If you’re working with multiple varieties of zinnia seeds, mafke sure to store them in separate envelopes and label them accordingly. Even if you only have one variety, it’s probably smart to add the variety to the outside of the seed packet so you don’t forget. Also note the date the seeds were put in the packet on the envelope.
Once they’re in the seed envelope, store them in a cool dry place that isn’t in direct sun. At this point, moisture is the biggest threat to the seeds. They need to stay dry or they won’t germinate when they’re planted.
Putting the seeds in a seed tin and then placing it in a cool closet is an optimal way to store them and avoid moisture.
I’m planning on using my seeds next spring, but if stored properly, they’ll be viable for three to five years.
This year was my first year planting zinnias in my garden. I am now hooked! In the spring, after my last frost, I planted the seeds directly in the ground. By July I had really beautiful zinnia flowers. In August, September, and October they really showed off. The flowers were big, there were a variety of colors. The plants provided endless bouquets of cut flowers.
At the end of October we had our first frost of the season which killed all the zinnia. Since they were all dead, I pulled them out and composted the stems. I couldn’t believe how big they’d gotten in a few months!
For me, harvesting zinnia seeds happened a few weeks ago, before the frost so I can enjoy this same variety next year!
I hope this post has been helpful and you feel confident harvesting zinnia seeds. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section.
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