Saving seeds can be economical, since a single flower can generate dozens or even hundreds of seeds. Although the procedure is simple, there are a few techniques that will improve your chances of being a successful seed saver.
1. Choose the best plants. There's always some variability in a planting of the same variety -- some plants will have stronger stems or a more pleasing color or fragrance. Use plant markers to help you remember which seeds to save, since the flowers will have faded by the time you harvest the seeds.
2. Observe seed formation. Most flower seeds are borne in pods or capsules. The ideal time for gathering seeds varies from crop to crop, but in general you want to let the seeds dry on the plant as long as possible. Observe plants frequently and watch as seeds develop and ripen.
3. Use paper bags to collect seeds. Shake the seed head over a paper bag to collect the seeds, or snip the entire dried seed head drop it into a labeled paper bag.
4. Separate seeds from chaff. Some seeds fall freely from the seed heads or pods; others need to be rubbed to loosen them. Remove non-seed material.
5. Store seeds in a tightly sealed container. Good choices include small glass jars (baby food jars are handy) or film canisters. Keep them in a cool place -- in the refrigerator if there's room. You can store several different types of seeds in separate, labeled envelopes in the same jar.
Decorate envelopes, insert seeds, seal tighty, then give as gifts.
Include plant details and cultural information on the storage jars and envelopes, including plant name and variety, planting depth, and sun/shade preferences.
Article published on May 26, 2009.