Seed saving is becoming more and more popular as people rediscover how easy and rewarding the process is. So let’s talk about the easiest and most common annual flowers used as companion plants in the vegetable garden and how to save those seeds for perpetual blooms—at no cost!
Starting with heirloom and open pollinated flowers is best. Whether you started from seed or potted seedling, you should be able to check if it is open pollinated or hybrid.
Hybrid plants won’t always grow back true to type. Next year’s flowers can end up being a little (or a lot) different from the parent plant. But, crossing flowers is how we come up with all kinds of beautiful new varieties, so keep that in mind too.
You can also save for specific colors and traits. These characteristics will become more pronounced the more years you save and grow from your own seeds.
Easiest Annual Flowers to Save Seed
Wait for calendula seeds (pictured above) to fully dry on stem. They look like little dried-up caterpillars (at least that’s what I first thought). The petals tend to clump up when drying but are easy to blow away from seeds.
Wait until the seeds fall off the central stalk easily.
Marigold seeds are kept deeper inside the sepal than most, so the flowers can look like they have no seeds, just wilted blooms and a dried husk bent over a stem. But as you open the dried husk part, you’ll find hundreds of “achenes” or seeds. They’re long, skinny and half cream/half black.
You’ll have enough seeds to grow acres of marigolds from a few blooms.
Nasturtium seed pods are very obvious right after the bright petals drop, as the pods are a vibrant green. You’ll want to wait until the seeds (a threesome) are dried and ready to fall off before harvesting.
You can also lift up the nasturtium plants and pick up seeds that have fallen onto the soil below. Fully mature seeds will be dry and papery little nuggets.
Because of the way zinnias grow, the flowers require you to leave a dried-out-looking bloom in place for a few extra weeks to harvest fully mature seeds. But you only need save one or two flowers (for each color you’d like to save) over an entire season. This will yield you more than enough to replace your borders the next season.
The seeds remain attached to the seed head and petals (which retain a hint of their color). You can shake a full seed head in a jar to loosen the seeds or pull off one at a time. The seeds themselves often look like little arrowheads.
Even though each of these seed heads look a little different, the plants are good at showing you when their seeds are fully mature. Once they look dried out, they’re ready.
Any seeds you save should be fully dried before storing. Seeds can be stored in a cool, dry location in paper bags, or in airtight containers kept in a cool and dark spot. All flower seeds listed here are viable for roughly five years.
I hope this gets you out saving your own seeds this season for even more cost-free blooms next season!
-Michelle, Forks in the Dirt