Collecting Seeds | Flowers

How to Harvest Zinnia Seeds | Endless New Blooms

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Harvesting zinnia seeds is a must if you want to keep your beautiful blooms going year after year! Learn how to harvest zinnia seeds so you can save, share, and grow incredible zinnia flowers all over again.

For me, the best part of saving zinnia seeds from the flowers we grow ourselves is the unknown of what the zinnia offspring will look like!

Different colors and blends may blossom to life within the next generation of zinnia flowers. Ombre tones or speckles and freckles may also present beautifully in new iterations of zinnias in the home garden.

Learning how to harvest zinnia seeds is easy, and it’s a task that even children may enjoy!

Depending on your zinnia seed harvest timing, you may find that you can even fit in a second planting before the growing season is through! How lovely it will be to see some of the daughter flowers in the same season!

I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I’m very passionate about growing zinnia flowers! I am betting you are too, since you’re interested in saving your own seeds!

It’s AMAZING and I’m so glad you’re here! Let’s get started on our plans to harvest zinnia seeds.

Gorgeous zinnia red lime in backyard garden - how to harvest zinnia seeds
Gorgeous zinnia red lime in backyard garden

When Can I Harvest Zinnia Seeds?

Knowing when to collect zinnia seeds is important to ensure the seeds you save are viable. For best results, harvest zinnia seeds when the flower head is dry and brown. However, you may also wish to deadhead zinnias to encourage more plentiful blooms during the growing season. In this case, harvest viable “green seeds” from zinnias and just make sure there’s an embryo.

I found this thread very helpful for saving and germinating green zinnia seeds. I’m following ZenMan, who breeds his own zinnias.

That’s my next goal and I am hoping to try it this summer and fall if I can get my act together!

What Do Zinnia Seeds Look Like?

Zinnia seeds look like little arrowheads. In most cases, zinnia flower seeds are a grayish color, but early harvest zinnia seeds may be green in color. Two types of zinnia seeds exist – those that come from the petals and those that come from the florets.

Pull a petal from a zinnia and you should see a zinnia seed attached to the petal. Floret seeds may no longer be attached to the pollen florets, but they once were.

Green Zinnia Seeds Orange Petals
Early Zinnia Seeds – “green seeds”

Floret zinnia seeds tend to be more of a self-copy of the parent zinnia. Petal seeds take on different looks and leave lots of room for variations and hybridization between the two parent zinnias.

Often offering surprises, zinnia petal seeds allow recombination of genes. Recombination in zinnias breaks apart the DNA so that each offspring has potential for a different combination of traits from the maternal and paternal parents.

Packed of California Giants Zinnia Seeds - What Do Zinnia Seeds Look Like?
5,000 California Giants Zinnia Seeds

What are green zinnia seeds?

Green seeds are zinnia seeds that have not yet matured on the plant. Mature flower seeds generally come from brown and dried flower heads. You may find green zinnia seeds when plucking a single petal from a live zinnia flower. The seed coat is green and may or may not contain an embryo.

How can you tell if a green zinnia seed is viable?

To find out if a green zinnia seed is viable, first pinch the seed between your finger and thumbnail. If it feels hard, you may have a viable seed. Next, use your thumbnail to scratch at the seed coat very gently. A bit of the coating should scratch off. If you see a white “nut” inside, your seed has an embryo and this should indicate an excellent chance of germination.

Viable Green Zinnia Seed with Embryo (white nut looking seed)
Viable Green Zinnia Seed with Embryo (white nut looking seed inside)

Benefits of Saving Zinnia Seeds

As a backyard gardener or flower enthusiast, you can find so many benefits to saving zinnia seeds. Consider these great reasons to save your own seeds from zinnia flowers.

  • Free Seeds for Planting Next Season – There’s nothing like keeping your seed storage containers stocked with seeds you’ve lovingly saved for next year.
  • Next Gen Planting, Same Season – If your growing season is long enough, you can grow the next generation of your favorite zinnia flowers before frost arrives. Collect green seeds or try with dried zinnia seeds if you have enough time. Zinnias may bloom in as quickly as 6-8 weeks!
  • Tons of Seeds to Share and Trade – Bring the beauty of your garden far beyond your own property lines. Share your saved zinnia seeds with friends, family and fellow gardeners for free or in seed swaps.
  • Introduction to Breeding Zinnias – Saving your own zinnia seeds allows you to try your hand at creating zinnia hybrids in your own backyard. You can spend as little or as much time as you like on this new hobby!
  • Great Sensory Activity for Kids – Even your favorite little ones will be well suited to help collect and harvest zinnia seeds from your gardens. The seeds are big enough and easy enough to handle that kids can really enjoy the wonder of seed collecting and seed saving.

How to Harvest Zinnia Seeds for Planting

Discovering how to collect and save zinnia seeds is easy once you merely get started!

Follow these simple steps to save zinnia seeds from the garden.

  1. Find and remove dried, brown zinnia flower heads. Choose a dry, sunny day when there’s been no recent rain.
  2. Place the flower heads in a brown bag to continue to dry if needed.
  3. Remove individual petals to reveal arrowhead-shaped seeds on the ends of the petals. Decide if you’ll keep the petals attached to help remember color, or gently separate and discard the petals to maximize your seed storage space.
  4. Break apart the entire zinnia seed head to reveal any other seeds that may be viable. You may also find the zinnia’s floret seeds inside the flower head. Save these, too, as they can also produce healthy flowers.
  5. Save the zinnia seeds in paper envelopes or small containers. If you’re breeding zinnias, you may wish to get a special container such as a diamond gem drills case.
  6. Consider a labeling system. If you’re breeding your own zinnias, you may wish to print out labels with photos of the parent zinnia from which you harvested your seeds.
    •  TIP: If you don’t have time, consider just saving some of the seed heads whole. Place them in a brown paper bag or paper prescription envelope until you’re ready to plant them!
Lime Blush Zinnia for Seed Saving
Lime Blush Zinnia for Seed Saving

Final Thoughts: How to Harvest Zinnia Seeds

Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers and one of the easiest to grow! They are drought-tolerant, produce many blooms, and thrive with little care.

You can grow zinnias for fresh-cut flowers or simply to make your gardens look amazing.

Once you have all those gorgeous zinnia blossoms, it’s time to start thinking about how to harvest zinnia seeds and save them for next season!

I find zinnias to be one of the easiest flower seeds to harvest and save. Even if you only have a few moments to spare, you can throw a couple dried zinnia flower heads into a paper bag for next year.

By the way, if you want to increase your zinnia flower production to truly prolific amounts of blooms, try deadheading zinnias. Removing the spent blooms allows the plant to focus on making more flowers.

(Of course, you only want to do this at times when you aren’t actively harvesting zinnia seeds for next time.)

Are you planning to save your own zinnia seeds this year? Be sure to share your favorite tips or ask any questions you may have in our comments below!

Happy Gardening!

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8 Comments

  1. I have grown Zinnias for many years, for fun and profit. This year I was surprised by a volunteer that had crossed with an unknown color and a light pink Oklahoma. It is a peach color and lovely. I was curious to know if it would produce more of the peach color and planted a few. From those seeds 6 plants have grown and so far have given light pink,
    golden yellow, and peach flowers. So that has been exciting.
    My question is, what are the chances of my planting the 2nd generation peach and getting a constant color?
    Thanks for the information above also.

    1. Hi Diane,
      It sounds like you are out of the gate with flying colors in breeding your own Zinnias! The peach color sounds truly gorgeous! (And I am feeling inspired!) As far as I am aware, the petal seeds of each zinnia flower have the ability to each cross in their own infinite combination of traits. (It’s crazy, I always want to grow them all!) The floret seeds, however, tend to be more true to type of the parent flower.

      Wait for the flower heads to fully dry on the plant so you ensure the seeds are mature. Then, look for the seeds that look different from the rest and are not attached to a petal. (Some zinnia growers have described the floret seeds as hard pellets rather than the arrowhead shape, sometimes looking like mouse droppings.) Try planting some of those and tagging them so you remember which ones they were. I think that is your best bet to reproduce the peach shade or any others that you loved. I’d plant some of the petal seeds as well for the fun of the mystery to see what you get.

      I read somewhere that it may take a few generations to get a pretty solid and reliable hybrid but I think you are well on your way! Would love to hear from you again if you’d like to update us. This is very exciting!

      Happy Gardening!

      – Kate

  2. Thank you so much Kate. That’s great info about which seeds to use. I will be very careful to plant them in separate containers. (I do most of my flowers in raised beds or various large containers.)
    I am very excited to see what happens next year and will keep you posted.

    1. Hi Diane,

      So glad it was helpful! We will be looking forward to your updates! Wishing you a beautiful garden year after year!

      Kate

  3. Hi! As I’m harvesting my seeds, I’m wondering if the smaller, cream colored seeds are the floret seeds? Surrounded by tons of the papery covering? They aren’t as big or stiff as the dark green arrowhead ones. Are these viable as well? I didn’t know if they just haven’t matured (even though the flower was completely dried up), and should just be tossed, or if these little ones are actually the ones you said are replicas of their parent plant?! I labeled the flowers I harvested and dried, only to learn from your article that the seeds from the petals may produce all different combinations, but the ones from the middle will replicate their momma flower that I labeled. Basically, are these smaller (almost wimpy looking) ones certainly worth saving?
    Thank you so much! This is my 2nd year and I’m obsessed!

    1. Hi Sherri! Great hearing from you – thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment. If you want to share a photo of your seeds, I am happy to take a look. I’ve heard floret seeds can take many unique appearances. It sounds to me that if they are flat and surrounded by the papery petals, those might be immature seeds. It is hard to say without seeing them. Can you bend them between your finger and thumbnail? If so, I hate to say they may not be viable. But, you can always still try. Throw them in a corner of your garden if you aren’t sure, and see if they sprout. As far as I remember, someone described the floret seeds as being oddly shaped like little cylinders or grains of wheat or etc. You can still throw them in some dirt, no harm in trying just in case! I just wouldn’t pin 100% of your garden’s hopes and dreams on them just in case. I’ve harvested a lot of zinnia seeds the past few years and noticed some flowers have viable seeds while petals are still in color and others I have had to leave much longer past initial browning of the petals. I’ve also planted some seeds I thought were duds that grew and some that I thought were great seeds that didn’t. It’s worth a shot! Good luck – love to know how it goes.

      BTW – I highly recommend checking out this thread for more info on the floret seeds: https://garden.org/thread/view/77919/zinnia-seeds-question/

  4. I harvested zinnia last fall and let them dry on my porch. I forgot to bring them inside so they froze through the winter months (zone 5 a Iowa). Will those seeds be viable this spring to sew?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jean! So sorry to hear about your zinnia seeds. I think some seeds are able to go dormant through the freezing temperatures and then sprout when the time is right. I am not totally sure if this is the case with zinnias. Some gardeners actually store seeds in the fridge or freezer, so I think you have a good chance! What I would suggest is trying to plant them anyway, starting the seeds indoors before the last frost. Seedlings are more susceptible to the frozen temperatures. You can try the plastic baggie method on my sidebar if you want a quick and easy method, or traditional planting in potting mix. If you think you can use more zinnias in the garden, I would probably get some backup zinnia seeds just in case. I’ll take almost any excuse to buy zinnia seeds. 🙂

      Best of luck – hope these grow beautifully for you! Let us know if you think of it.

      Happy Gardening!

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