Flowers and gardening are fantastic, but saving seeds takes you to a whole new level. Not only do you get massive amounts of free plants, but it is rewarding and generally easy. Here are 11 popular flowers to start with and how to harvest for the best success.

Saving Seeds For Next Year – How-to Guide For 11 Popular Flowers

  1. Cosmos
  2. Zinnia
  3. Milkweed
  4. Coneflower aka Echinacea
  5. Rudbeckia
  6. Marigold
  7. Poppies
  8. Lantana
  9. Shasta daisy
  10. Hibiscus
  11. Cup plant

There is a mixture of annuals and perennials on this list because some perennials you just can’t get enough of!

A couple of years ago, I bought several packages of seeds from some of my favorite companies, and that’s what started it all for me. It is so gratifying to grow my own flowers out of the beauties of last year!

If you’re gardening on a budget or just love watching things grow, saving seeds is for you!

How to Save Seeds From Annuals

One thing to note is that many hybrids or created flowers do not produce seeds that will reproduce.

Besides the Lantana and Hibiscus, saving seeds from annuals is pretty basic.

  • The key to saving seeds is to allow them to completely dry and mature on the plant.
  • Snipping off half-dried flowers will not produce germinated seeds, nor will cut flowers. Seeds are only produced as the withering flower is left on the plant.
  • The longer you leave it on the plant, the better. This is why you’ll see my flower gardens have a few dead flowers here and there, especially in September. I’m saving seeds for next year!
  • Make sure you have a good, clean pair of pruning shears and some bowls or paper bags. I usually just cut off the entire flowerhead, including the stem, right into the bowl or bag.
  • After they’ve dried for a couple of weeks, I’ll pull apart the flower and gather the developed seeds and place them in a labeled paper bag or envelope for storage. Sometimes I’ll save the whole flowerhead until spring, and that’s fine too.
  • Developed seeds are usually at the flower’s center and are more full and solid than those that aren’t viable. Ensure you know which seeds need to be cold-stratified, or else they won’t grow.

Cold-stratified is a term used to mimic winter for these seeds. What I usually do is place them in an envelope and into my refrigerator for the designated time. This gives the seeds the moist, cold “weather” they need to germinate.

1. Cosmos

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers cosmos

Next to the marigold, I would say this is the easiest seed to collect from my garden.

They are also one of the easiest to grow. The seedlings are hardy, and almost every seed is viable.

Spent flowers dry up quickly, and you’re left with dried up spikes where the petals used to be; these are your seeds.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers cosmos seeds
Cosmos seeds directly from plant. Some will just fall into your hand when touched!

Some varieties are a little more closed in like the marigold, but it’s still very easy to collect!

2. Zinnia

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers zinnia

These beautiful flowers seem to last forever! While that’s amazing for our growing season, it’s easy to get impatient when saving seeds.

There tend to be quite a few seeds per flower, so thankfully, I only need to let a couple dry up and get brown.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers zinnia flowerhead
Not the prettiest sight, but this flowerhead has a handful of new seeds!

Think of it this way… each flower petal is the means of carrying the seed off into the wild blue yonder when it’s dried up. So the more petals a flower has, generally, the more seeds you have.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers zinnia seeds
These are the seeds at the end of each dried up petal.

With zinnias, the seeds often remain attached to the petal as you harvest.

3. Milkweed

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers milkweed

You might be familiar with breaking open milkweed pods as a kid and watching all of the soft down go flying everywhere.

At the end of each piece of that down is a seed attached, waiting to find a new home.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers milkweed seeds
Milkweed seeds ready for harvest.

It’s essential to know that the iconic Monarch butterfly caterpillar can survive on milkweed alone, so it’s vital to plant this valuable flower to help the population!

If you research how beneficial milkweed is to wildlife and pollinators, you’ll see it plays a critical role. Even the hummingbirds love the flowers!

The trick to saving seeds from milkweed is to let the pod stay on the plant and get brown.

You still don’t want to clip the pod off yet!

Wait until you can see the pod opening, and then it’s ready to harvest. Any time before that and the seeds are probably not viable.

These seeds are actually pretty easy to break free from the down. You can shake them in a bag if you want for easier removal. They also need to be cold-stratified, so a month in the fridge should do it!

From experience, it seems about 50-75% of seeds planted have grown into plants, so maybe plant a couple more than intended. You can always give them away or plant them in a field somewhere!

4. Coneflower aka Echinacea

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers coneflower aka Echinacea

Saving seeds from your spent coneflowers is simple. I harvest and store these the same way I do my zinnias.

I just clip off the dried, dead flower, place it in a paper bag, label and store. Sometimes a gentle shake of the bag will loosen the seeds from the seed head.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers Echinacea aka Coneflower seeds
Echinacea flowerhead should look totally dried and brown before harvesting.

There are differing opinions on whether coneflower, aka Echinacea, needs cold-stratification or not. And you’ll read equal amounts on both sides.

Living in the Midwest, I figure than any plant that’s a perennial here will get the cold treatment, including Echinacea.

5. Rudbeckia

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers rudbeckia

Saving seeds from Rudbeckia is done the same way as coneflowers or zinnias. Right down to the cold-stratification. These need to be cold treated, about 30 days, to break dormancy.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers rudbeckia seeds
Rudbeckia seeds ready for harvest start falling out on their own.

Rudbeckia is also known as brown-eyed and black-eyed Susans. The difference is the center (brown or black), the shape, and the height. The brown-eyed Susans also are the main ones that are considered wildflowers.

Both are gorgeous, both are great for saving seeds!

6. Marigold

The marigold has to be the easiest plant to harvest seeds from! All you do is snap off that dried flower and bam, a handful of seeds that are easy to save just by grabbing the dried petals!

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers marigold seeds
Marigold seeds are easily harvested by pulling on the dried petals.

Not all of them will be viable, from what I’ve seen, so plant extra.

7. Poppies

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers poppies

Depending on your variety of poppy, they can be annuals or perennials. So saving seeds can be extra beneficial for you if you have annuals.

My oriental poppies are perennials, but I occasionally like to harvest the seeds and have some pretty bright orange flowers in my ditch or around the house.

It’s super easy to save these seeds! You’ll see what resembles a maraca left on the flower stem. These will be hardened, and as soon as it looks like they’ve developed a little top hat, you can snip them off!

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers poppy seeds
Maracas with top hats!

Fun tip: If you shake the flowerhead, you can hear the seeds rattling around in there like maracas. You know they’re ready to be harvested after they make music. 🙂

8. Lantana

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers lantana

Butterflies love lantana, and so do I! Saving seeds from them is slightly different, but they store the same.

After the petals fall off, you’ll see this little pinecone-looking thing left over, which is the pistil. These are the parts you deadhead, and these are also the parts you leave on if you want to harvest seeds.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers lantana berries
Some of the pistils will form berries. These will turn dark and will be ready to harvest.

Well, some of them.

Some of these pistils will have little berries on them; these are your seeds. You’ll want to leave these berries on the plant to mature, or they won’t be viable.

When mature, they will be black like a berry. Just take them off and let them dry for a couple of days. Your seeds are inside those berries!

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers lantana seeds
Lantana seeds are inside these berries!

Pretty easy!

9. Shasta daisy

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers Shasta daisy

The beautiful Shasta daisy is as easy to collect seeds from as the Rudbeckia. All you do is wait for a flower to die and dry ON the plant and snip off the flowerhead.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers Shasta daisy seeds
Shasta daisy flower heads in temporary bag – seeds are already falling out!

Shake it in a bag or take apart in a bowl, and there are your seeds.

Please note: Do not get these native daisies confused with the invasive Oxeye daisy. While pretty, it will take over native wildflowers, which is not beneficial to pollinators and wildlife. When saving seeds, bypass these!

10. Hibiscus

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers hibiscus

The beautiful hibiscus starts blooming in summer and keeps going even after a light frost. Saving seeds from them is relatively easy, but you have to make sure you harvest at the right time.

Once the petals fall off, you’ll see the green seed head, which now looks like a cute little package. Leave it on the plant and watch for it to turn brown and dry up.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers hibiscus seeds
Hibiscus seed pod can turn brown and open up to disperse seeds within 24 hours!

Once it’s brown, you’ll want to snip that off as the browned seed pod can open and disperse its seed in about 24 hours.

Inside the pod, you’ll see lines of round seeds, almost in a little chamber. These are your beauties for next year! Store in a cool, dry place with the rest of your seeds.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers hibiscus seeds
Hibiscus seeds line the inside of the pod.

The way to get them to start growing can be a bit tricky, as the seeds’ outer shell needs to be broke or nicked (without damaging the inner seed) to start the gemination process. This is to allow the water to get to that viable seed so it can start growing.

Hardy hibiscus seeds need cold-stratification several times to germinate, which is nature’s process of keeping them from growing too early.

To do this, they can be stored outside where they will be dry but exposed to the elements. You can also stick them in the freezer for a few days, let them thaw, and repeat several times.

To nick or break the outer shell can be tricky, but definitely doable. If you have a steady hand, you can lay your dried seeds on a paper towel and nick them with a sharp knife or razor blade. You must be careful not to cut the inner seed, though!

The other method consists of soaking them in water for a few hours to soften them, and then place them in a jar with some aquarium gravel and giving it a fair shake. Once that outer shell is cracked or broken, they are ready to plant.

I prefer the second method, as I’m always afraid of cutting too far with the razor blade or knife.

Whichever way you prefer, saving seeds from the hibiscus isn’t that difficult and is definitely worth the beauty!

11. Cup plant

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers cup plant
Photo courtesy of Dave Lage

This beautiful plant isn’t well-known enough, in my opinion. Its a perennial and will also grow wild in meadows and fields. Its a plant I feel you can’t have enough of!

The cup plant is beautiful and very beneficial to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Also, it forms a sort of “cup” at the base of each leaf. This cup will hold rainwater for wildlife to grab a drink.

Saving seeds from the cup plant is simple. After the petals fall off, the center will begin to develop seeds.

saving seeds from next year from popular flowers cup plant seeds
Cup plant seeds in temporary bag.

Snip off the seed heads as soon as the stem below it begins to dry up and turn brown. Store in a cool, dry place with the rest of your seeds!

60 days of moist, cold-stratification is recommended before planting. I simply use my refrigerator!

Tips For Storing Flower Seeds

  • Most seeds store the same and prefer cool, dry places. You can keep the whole flowerhead or clean up the seeds by sorting them and removing all of the chaff.
  • You can store them in any container you wish. I like to keep the seeds in brown paper lunch bags or envelopes. This is to give them a breathable place of storage so there’s no hidden moisture.
  • It’s almost important to make sure your seeds are labeled. It’s been too many times that I’ve had no idea what I was planting because I didn’t label as I was saving seeds!
  • Before storing, your seeds must be completely dry. Any moisture can cause the seeds to mold or maybe even try to grow.
  • I also like to store them in a dark area, so any warm sunlight or bright light doesn’t cause them to grow.
  • Some seeds can be stored for years to come, but I try to use most of them the following year. I’ve found that annuals don’t always last as long as perennial seeds.
  • Instead of storing perennial seeds, you may also fall sow them!

Saving seeds to start your own new round of flowers for the next year is so gratifying and money-saving! I really love doing it and have learned a lot. I’ll share those things in another article, but for now, I hope this one was helpful to you!

Are there any other seeds you’ve harvested for the next year? Please do share them with me below… I know I have several other ones as well! 🙂

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