When to collect zinnia seeds

Litchfield, ME

I'm brand spankin' new at trying to collect and save seeds for next year. I'm am particularly confused on when and how to collect zinnia seeds. Does it have to be done before frost hits?
I'm also curious about collecting the blue globe thistle seeds. Do you have to wait for the pods to pop while on the stem or can they be picked now and dry on their own?

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

ZG I've never collected the globe thistle, but zinnias are a snap. You can collect them anytime as long as the seed heads have turned brown from maturity, not from death. LOL. In other words it's OK to wait until after a frost to collect them as long it's not the frost that turned them brown. (I think I just turned something very simple into something very confusing.)

I've been collecting mine for a few weeks now. Instead of dead-heading as soon as the blooms begin to fade I just leave them on the plant an extra week or 2 until they're good and brown and pinch them off then. Tell you what....I've got a plate of them sitting right here. I'll just snap a picture for you.

Here's what they should look like when they're mature.

Thumbnail by Lala_Jane
North West, OH(Zone 5b)

When you crumble the seed head apart you'll get a mixture of chaff and seeds. The flat black/grey discs are the seeds and the rest can be discarded. You'll probably find many seeds in one seed head so you won't need to save many (until you become an addict like the rest of us and save them just to be saving them.... even long after you have more than you'll ever need.)

This message was edited Oct 8, 2008 11:01 PM

Thumbnail by Lala_Jane
North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Oh and one other thing I should add. Make sure they're completely dry before bagging them up. I usually let them sit on a plate or newspaper for at least a week after picking them to ensure dryness. There's nothing sadder than a bag full of moldy seeds.

Litchfield, ME

Dear Lala-Jane,

Thank you so much for the information! I haven't been on Dave's Garden for a little bit so I apologize for not thanking you sooner. I am going to go out and see what I can find and get them drying. I am always nervous about doing my own seeds because I rely on them to grow big and beautiful every year because I sell cut flowers. The expense of buying new seeds every year though is outrageous! I spend a good $200 from Johnny's Selected Seeds and they are great performers but am looking for ways to be more thrifty (who isn't, right?)

The information and pictures you provided is wonderful. Thank you again. I'm going out right now to see what I can find!

Will keep you posted.


Conneaut, OH(Zone 5a)

All seed collection is about the same.Let the seed pod turn brown,pick it,dry and store.The only way I've been able to get blue thistle to grow is by wintersowing.Visit the wintersowing forum.Try it once,you will be hooked.Start saving those jugs now.Edge

Fairmont, WV

Ok so the ones in the center are the seeds not the ones at the end of the petals??? These are profussion zinnias... I think I have been saving the wrong part. I have been saving the ones at the end of the petals.

Thumbnail by lusarytole
Conneaut, OH(Zone 5a)

Seeds are inside the flower bud itself.Pull the petals off.Dry the dead flower.When dry crunch it up with your hands.You will get a mix of chaff and seeds.

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

You are most welcome, glad I could help. Trust me you needn't be nervous, zinnias are a piece of cake. The cherry zinnias in the picture below are just a fraction of what I grew from saved seed this year.

There are so many seeds in a seed head that you can be choosy about which ones you save too. I usually keep the fattest, plumpest seeds and toss the rest. If they're really light-weight and fly-away I tend to think they're not as viable.

Thumbnail by Lala_Jane
North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Orange Profusion

Thumbnail by Lala_Jane
Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Pretty! I've grown the orange, cherry, and apricot profusions. Cherry has been my least favorite because the blossoms fade so much as they age.


Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Zinniagirl, if you've been growing hybrid zinnias, they won't come "true" from saved seeds... you'll get zinnias, and they'll probably be pretty enough, but they may not look just like the parents. I'm mentioning this mostly because you said you were purchasing expensive seeds, which made me think, "hybrid."

OK, I'm about to go crazy[er] separating my zinnia seeds from the chaff.
Has anyone found a way to do this that is not mind-numbingly tedious?
I want these seeds not just to plant myself but for trading & gifts.

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Thank you Karen and I have to agree...the Cherry (and the Coral Pink) do fade much quicker than the orange and Apricot.

Critter the only zinnias from which I've collected seed are the Profusion series and Purple Prince. They may not be exactly the same as their parent plant, but the differences are too slight to be discerned with this naked eye. LOL

Potagere in a nutshell, no. There are some tricks that can make the job a little easier, but if you really want them clean it IS tedius work.

One thing you can do is crumble the heads in a bag and shake, shake, shake. The heavy stuff (hopefully the seeds) will drop to the bottom of the bag and you can scoop those out and at least have a smaller starting pile. You can then take a handful, spread a thin layer out on a cookie sheet, tray, newspaper, etc. and carefully blow very lightly on the contents. The lighter weight chaff will scatter where the heavier seed should more or less remain in place.

What you have left pretty much has to be picked through by hand. Sometimes I can lose a little more of the chaff by using 2 pieces of paper and transferring the seeds/chaff back and forth between the 2. (Again, the heavier seeds will drop and the chaff will cling to the paper.) To remove very fine chaff I put the seeds in a small strainer where the powdery stuff will fall through and the seeds will not.

Hope that helps.

Thanks, Lala Jane! Even getting rid of the bulk of the chaff would be a big help to start. I'll try the bag and the strainer. Then the habd separation should be easier, huh?

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Yes, seeds collections are tedious work. I do it while watching TV at night. I just them on a paper plate and then brush out the chaff to one side and seeds on the other. Sometime I use a plastic knife to sort them. I just harvested an envelope full of lavender Rose of Sharon. There are tons of seeds on the tree still, but I don't think I'm going to harvest anymore.

I have great appreciation for all those people that gave me seeds at the beginning of the year!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

With zinnia seeds, I get out whatever chaff is easy to remove and leave the rest. I let people know it'll be a mix of chaff and seed, and I make sure there's a generous amount of seed in the packet. I often direct-sow zinnias, so the chaff helps me see where I've scattered my seeds. If I want to start a few plants in cell packs, it's not a big deal to pick a dozen seeds out from among the chaff.

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Yes, the chaff doesn't hurt anything, just harder to see how many seeds there are if you have lots of chaff. But I pull everything off of the head just to make sure I get all the seeds.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

LaLa, thanks for letting me know about Profusion and Purple Prince coming pretty much true from seed... I think I've got some seeds of both of those for sowing next year!

You know, I do mostly vegetable gardening, and I long ago discovered something that has been confirmed by Carol Deppe [Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties] and agronomists at the University of Idaho:
Some seed companies have marketed OP varieties of tomatoes as "F1 hybrids". Why? Well, there is, as yet, no "Truth-in-labeling" for seeds AND labeling a variety as a hybrid discourages seed saving and encourages new seed purchases at high prices.
I wonder if the same might apply to some "hybrid" flowers?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

OMG is that really true mon ami? Can they legally do that? I'm gonna check out the Canadian Seeds Act.

Seems to work in the USA. But they deregulated a few years ago. See where that got us?

Mantua, OH(Zone 5a)

Getting rid of zinna chaff....I went to a hardware store and purchased several sizes of window
screening to filter the zinnia seeds through. They cut me a 12 inch square off their rolls of
screening in three different sizes I wanted to try with the zinna seeds. This has worked for me
over the years.
Harvesting zinnia seeds....I harvest the seeds by color and size. I have harvested these just as
soon as the flowerheads start looking brown and with enough color left for identification. These
seedheads are then dried for a couple of weeks in the sun. I never let them get damp.
I trim the seedheads of the flowerpetals with scissors prior to taking the seeds out. Germination
rate has been great with this method.

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Lynn, have you checked out Swallowtail Garden seeds?


They have great prices on larger quantities of seed. I got individual colors of large, cutting zinnias from them last year, and still have plenty of seed for next year. I was very impressed with the percentage of large, fully doubled blooms too.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Wow, I'm surprised that window screen would remove the chaff. Most of my zinnia seeds are way too big to fit through a window screen, as is the chaff. Do you screen the chaff from the seeds, or vice versa? In other words, which falls thruough the screen, and which doesn't?

I use several sizes of colanders to remove chaff from many seeds, but I've not come up with anything that works well for zinnias. For those, I just plant seeds with a lot of chaff.


Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I have found that the easiest way to get rid of chaff is by gently blowing. I put the chaff in a small plastic bowl and lightly shake it while gently blowing. The seed is heavier than the chaff and stays at the bottom. The key is gently blowing - if you blow too hard then everything will blow out of the bowl.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I'm not too good at that Anita. Seeds go everywhere!

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

I was just looking through leftover seeds from spring, and realized I got the zinnias for cutting from Pinetree Gardens. They were 50 seed packs for $1.10.

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

I just asked the profusion true to color question on another thread - glad to know they come true. I have tons of Cherry Profusion if anyone is interested.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I would love some! Is there anything you are looking for? I might be able to trade. If not, I'll gladly send you postage.

Pearisburg, VA(Zone 7a)

Anita, I'll send you some. Not looking for anything right now. Are you in the address exchange? If not please dmail me your addy.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

yes I am - Thank you!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

does anyone have a good, easy way of cleaning Zinnias?

there is so much chaff, that it takes forever and a day to find the seeds.

OK. Didn't we cover this above?
If not, it's just as easy as following us zinnia seed sorters!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

LOL Jim -- i guess i didnt read all of the thread. Just saw it now.

but it is tedious work!! and I honestly do not find a lot of seeds with all the 'stuff'.

Sometimes you don't get a lot. Depends on timing, weather, etc.
But, how many do you need?
In general, I find fewer seeds in a commercial packet than in a single flower head.

But, yeah, it's tedious!
Still, if you are not giving or trading but just planting, the quantity of chaff doesn't hardly matter, It's just "natural compost".

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

i'm giving and trading.... and planting.

I've got a lot on my DR table ... it's just a lot of sorting.

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Just don't sort it. Considered it a "mixed". I personally would not mind getting the chaff. I know it's good etiquette. Just ask the person and sort it then if they have a problem with it.

Yeah, I know how that goes! A lot more energy goes into "their" seeds than into "mine".

I am not "au courant" with all the "accepted" DG abbreviations/acronyms. In fact, I have a rather strong aversion to acronyms. Some I can work out, but DR in reference to a table eludes me.

Oh, gosh! She means dining room! What? You don't eat there?

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

>>Oh, gosh! She means dining room! What? You don't eat there?

LOL...no we dont eat on the dining room table.

We use the kitchen table. DR table is for holidays... and seeds... and mail when i'm out of town.

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