Collecting seeds

Guide to saving different types of seed

Get to grips with saving different types of seed, in this handy guide.

Different types of seeds need to be collected in different ways to ensure you end up with as many as possible, at the right stage of ripeness, before they fall or are blown away on a breeze.

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Hold off on deadheading this summer and leave some of your favourite flowers to set seed. Then keep a close watch as the seeds ripen over the coming weeks and months. If you’re short of ideas, here are 10 plants to save seed from.

Follow sage advice in our guide to saving different types of seed, below.

When poppy pods are ripe, small holes open near the top and seeds will fall out at the slightest movement.

Berries

Wait until berries are fully mature to ensure the seeds inside are ripe and will germinate. With fleshy berries like Viburnum opulus, remove the flesh and just sow the seeds. With berries that have a hard, greasy coating, such as peonies (pictured), sow as they are.

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Pods

These tend to split or twist, dispersing their seeds by explosion, so you need to act when the pod is fully mature but before it has propelled its contents. Snip off whole pods and store them in paper bags.

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Large seedheads

Umbellifers, such as fennel, hold their tiny seeds in loose clusters – just place the whole head in a paper bag when ripe. But with agapanthus, remove the black, tadpole-like seeds individually.

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Shakers

When poppy pods are ripe, small holes open near the top and seeds will fall out at the slightest movement. Put a paper bag over the ripe pod, then invert the whole thing before snipping it from the plant.

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Composite seedheads

As seeds start to fall from the packed seedheads of echinacea and scabious, cut and store in a paper bag. When seeds are set to take flight from dandelion-like heads, cut the stem and plunge into a bag.

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Test before you sow

If you’re unsure how long some seeds have been stored, and whether they’re still viable, then it’s a good idea to test the seed viability. Quick and easy, this essentially involves laying seeds on a wet paper towel and observing how many germinate.