How can I tell which seeds will come back true

Crestview, FL(Zone 8a)

I am so new to gardening. Three months or so ago we bought a home that needed yard help. Though I had helped my mother with weeding and planting purchased plants, I consider myself a newbie. If not for all of the information on DG my baby steps would have been crawling. That said here is my question.

When I gather seeds how can I tell which plants are going to come back true to the parent? I have purchased and planted plants from the garden center from which I hope to harvest seeds to share with others. I also have some plants growing from seed packages which I would like to harvest seeds. I think I have figured out there is a way to tell by knowing the plants name, but I don't understand how. I sure would hate to harvest seeds, send them to someone and have them not have the same plant I took the seeds from.

Thanks for the help.

Zone 8a

Paris, TN(Zone 6b)

Hiya Stacey,

I'm new also, but I seem to recall that if the plant is an F1 hybrid, they may not come exactly true - some will, some won't. Open pollinated plants I believe will come true. So check your plant tags online and see if they are F1 hybrids or not. And I'm sure someone more experienced than I will come along and add information as well :)


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

Well its a bit trial and error. Some companies list plants as F1 when they are not to put people off trying to take seed. Others don't come true from seed wether they are f1 or not like lupins. And open pollinatd stuff can come out with some interesting crosses depending on what else is around. If a plant sets seed i say collect it and offer it. Listing and swapping on here will pretty much tell everyone its open pollinated as who here creates there own f1's? If you know its f1 as its out of a packet you could say so. Some people like f1's some hate them and think its some kind of conspiracy or something. lol
Just have fun growing

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

F1 is simply the 'first generation' of a hybrid cross. Next year's plants from the F1 seed will be F2...and so on.

The information given above is correct as far as it goes, but your question is how to tell if they are going to be true. You can't tell from the plants or the seeds of the parent or the offspring. You have to know what plant you have and like you guessed, you tell by the name.

Most hybrids have a special name rather than a generic name, but that is only a guideline. If you have zinnias called 'Candy Explosion"..(just made up, not actual name) chances are, it's a hybrid. If you have zinnias just called pink, then they'll be open pollinated.

The thing about your open pollinated plants, depending on how the pollen is spread, and what is growing nearby, they can become crossed, and the resulting plants from saved seed will be F1 hybrids. This can be done by insects..(in the case of zinnias) or by wind, (in the case of grasses) Each species of plant has specific ways that it's pollen is spread, and when you know those, you can keep them from being cross pollinated.

Some plants that I want to keep true, I hand pollinate and bag the blossoms if I don't want insects getting in. Others that use the wind, you'll need to isolate for whatever distance is reccomended for it specifically.

As stated above, some plants termed hybrids will grow true...this is the case of the little 'Santa' grape tomato that you buy at the supermarket...saved seed will grow true in about 95% of the plants.

A lot of it is trial and error, and the only way you'll know in some cases is to plant the seeds the next year and see what you get. In the case of a hybrid, the F2 generation displays tons of varients as to plant and flower form...the genetic material has been put in a bag and shaken you get every imaginable option. some will look like your parent can carefully save those for several seasons, isolating the desireable form and saving seeds from only those can create your own open pollinated form of a hybrid over 4 or 5 seasons.

As far as trading goes, I'm pretty much a purist...some folks feel differently, but I would never trade a seed that I wasn't completely sure that it would come true when planted. That's just me...I grow specific plants for specific reasons, and if I'm searching for a seed, I don't want to waste a whole season on a plant that is not what it was advertised to be.

If I had any doubts as to the purity of my seeds, I would make sure that the person I was trading with was fully aware that they were collected from a possible hybrid, so there could be variations in the traded seeds. Some folks care deeply...others like surprises and will gladly trade for mystery seeds. Just make sure that everyone knows up front of the possibility, and have a good time.

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

Cheers for the above further explanation.
I personally woud never swear to plants coming true from seed i have even if i bought it as such. You never know and would get really abusive people having a go at you if it came out wrong by accident.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

One more thing -- if you buy packets of seeds that have marketing names -- "Tequila Mix" snapdragon comes to mind -- don't expect to be able to nail down a named variety from anything that comes out of that packet. As far as I can tell those are the sweepings from when they clean the seed sorting machines, and you would be lucky to get snapdragons, much less all one kind of snapdragons. The bees will carry the pollen to every other plant they go to, which could also include some prized named variety. And whatever results from that cross sure won't be a pure descendent of the prized variety.

If you use mixed or heinz 57 seeds, you may be very pleased with the flowers themselves, so don't be shy about letting people know the origin of the seed. For some varieties I don't think it is all that critical (cleome comes to mind here). For others it is EXTREMELY important (named varieties of daylilies). Just be up front about what you are trying to trade when you collect the seeds.

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

Lol at the sweepings up comment. I like that.

Crestview, FL(Zone 8a)

Thank you all for all of the fantastic information. I would have said thank you earlier but I wanted to wait until I felt most people who were inclined to answer took the time. I really enjoyed reading everything each of you wrote and definitely feel I have a better understanding of this aspect of gardening.

Thanks again.


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

No worries Stacey Glad to help. It is one of those subjects that has many opinions.

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

From what I have read here, it answers my question about the pack of zinnias I bought for my "red" garden. The zinnia pack had a picture of the prettiest hugh red bloom named, "Scarlet Queen". I planted all of them and only got light pink and orange blooms. Disappointment amid my red garden for sure.


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

Hi Deborah,
Shop bought or from a proper seed company should have the correct seed in to give what it says on the tin.
I have seen Ebayers trying to sell stuff that might not come true to type.

If its from a proper source i'd complain bitterly and expect some free seed this year from them! Take a picture as evidence.
Accidents do happen. We had a batch of geraniums at my GC that we sold as red and someone planted them all in a colour scheme border so not too happy when they came out pink. I refunded all there money of course.


Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

The seeds were purchased from Target. I may take some pictures and e-mail the company listed on the seed packet. I keep all of my empty seed packs.

Thanks for the good idea!

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)

No worries.

Have fun


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I have often been told that it was a waste of time to collect petunia seeds since they're all hybrids. I planted 3-4 unrelated packets inckluding color mixes, and then collected seed, mostly from blue mother plants.

They came up almost indistinguishably from the (various) parents. Blue and purple predominated, but there were also clean white blooms, and distinct pinks. They may have recombined, but for my purposes, the mix of colors was as satisfying as any pedigreed packet I could have bought.

And, instead of starting with 15 seeds for 15-20 cents each, I started with so many thousand seeds that gave away as many as I could.

I planted several zinnia types close together, and maybe the bloom shapes blurred together. The fanciest giant shapes did not re-appear. The colors were all still vivid and never muddy, but several plants spanned a spectrum of pink-through-purple - pretty, but not what I started with.

Orange and yellow stayed clean for some reason, which was fotunate, because I liked those best. So I'm trying to save those seeds, if the rains don't turn them to mush!

There is a whole "Hybridizer's Forum" for people who do this carefully. I'm approaching it more carelessly, lazy and laissez-faire.

I just warn people when I offer "my" seeds: VERY random-pollinated.


Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images