Learn how to save zinnia seeds from flowers and re plant the seeds for beautiful flowers next spring!
Zinnias come in many gorgeous colors and have a long blooming season, making them favorite annuals for gardeners everywhere.
A secret to growing these colorful flowers: you can easily harvest seeds from the parent plant and re seed them the following spring!
Zinnia seed saving will save you money on your plants- and it’s simple and easy to do. The seeds can be planted the following spring, or they can be saved in an air tight container for several years.
My kids are always at my side when gardening, and one of our favorite flowers to grow are zinnias. These gorgeous flowers come in many bright colors and grow quickly from seed, which is rewarding for young gardeners.
Zinnias are annual flowers in most zones, but saving the flower seeds allows you to easily re plant them year after year. One plant can produce hundreds of dollars worth of new flower starts, saving you time and money.
There are a few nuances to harvesting zinnia seeds, like what type of zinnia plants to expect the following year, how to save lots of seeds, and when and how to harvest them.
We are covering all of these zinnia seed saving details for you right here!
Types Of Zinnia Plants + Seed Harvesting
There are two types of zinnia plants: open-pollinated plants and hybrid plants. Hybrid zinnia plants are a combination of two different varieties.
Hybrid zinnias have a unique color or shape that they were specifically created for.
Unfortunately, hybrid zinnia plants will not give you that same unique zinnia flower as the parent plant. The resultant flowers will not have the same traits as the mother plant.
Open-pollinated varieties, however, will grow true to their original parent plant. So if you have an open-pollinated zinnia variety you love, make sure to harvest it’s precious seeds!
If you are hoping to have specific flowers re bloom, you will want to harvest seeds from open pollinated plants.
But, if you are open to surprises and just love zinnias, go ahead and save the seeds from hybrid varieties. You’ll be in good company, we do this too!
Life Cycle + Seed Saving
All flowers have life cycles. Studying the life cycle of the zinnia reveals why it is so crucial to harvest zinnia seeds at the right time.
Before harvesting, the zinnia flower head must first fully mature, transforming immature seeds into viable seeds. If the seeds aren’t fully mature they will not be able to germinate the following year.
As an annual, the zinnia plant will continue to put it’s energy into new beautiful zinnia flowers until the weather cools. At this time, the cooling weather will signal the plant to put it’s energy into seed production.
As the danger of frost approaches, the zinnia flower heads starts to put it’s energy into creating seeds.
The seeds grow beneath the flower petals, and once the flower petals have completely died, the seeds drop to the ground or blow away.
These seeds then promote the species by falling into the soil and (hopefully!) germinating in the soil.
Seeds are not ready to harvest until the flower head has fully dried.
The end of the zinnia life cycle is harvest time for us humble gardeners. This is when we can stealth fully slip in and harvest some of the zinnia seeds for our future flower gardens!
Tools You Need For Harvesting
You need just a few basic supplies when harvesting zinnia seeds:
- Paper towels to dry seeds on
- Glass jar for saving seeds
- Garden pruners
- Seed packet: (paper envelope, or seed envelope) or a glass jar with lid
- Markers/pen for dating seeds
When To Harvest Zinnia Seeds
When they are ready to harvest, zinnia flowers will have completely dried petals. The flower petals will be dried out and have completely fallen off. The flower head will be dark brown and the flower head will feel dry to the touch.
Zinnia seeds are usually ready to harvest at the end of summer or early fall.
Harvesting the seeds at the right time is crucial for the viability of the seeds. A viable seed is a seed that is fully mature and will be able to grow and develop into a new flower the following year.
If the seeds are harvested too early they will be sterile and will fail to produce a new plant the following year.
For best results, do not harvest zinnia flower heads early. Seeds that are not ready will be green and will be hard to pull from the flower head.
How To Harvest Zinnia Seeds From Flowers
1. Let Some Seed Heads Mature In Summer
Beginning in mid to late summer, leave some spent zinnia flower heads on your plant to mature. Most zinnia plants bloom prolifically, so it is easy to allow some of the flower heads to continue their life cycle until the seeds are fully formed.
(While we are advocates for deadheading zinnias to keep plants blooming and healthy, it’s ok to save your best flowers for seed harvest!)
Try to pick your “best flowers” for seed collecting: the plants that feature the big blooms, vibrant color and healthy foliage. Do not harvest from weak plants or plants that have disease like powdery mildew.
2. Wait For Zinnia Seed Heads To Dry
As mentioned above, the zinnia seed head must be fully mature before harvesting the seed. Dried flower heads will have dry flower petals, be dark brown and look/feel dried out.
When ready, the petals will easily pull away from the flower.
This indicates that the seed pods are fully developed and ready to harvest.
If it’s not raining, let the zinnia flower head rest in the sun for several weeks to dry out before harvesting.
3. Harvest Zinnia Seeds
Cut off the dry flower heads and set them in a small container and bring them inside (out of the wind!) to harvest the zinnia seeds. Separate the seeds from the spent flower petals.
The seeds are super tiny, so a watercolor paint brush can help to sort them out!
Harvesting zinnia seeds is incredibly easy. When the flower head is dry the seeds will literally fall into your hand, but you may need to gently tug off the dry flower petals.
The seeds will be gray and shaped like little arrows.
4. Dry Seeds
To dry zinnia seeds simply place them in a safe, dry area with low humidity and free of breeze. Set them on paper towels or parchment paper. (We actually used a piece of printer paper and set them on top of a cupboard out of the path of our busy family).
5. Store Zinnia Seeds
Next, you need to store your zinnia seeds for planting. You can use a seed packet, plastic bag, or recycle a glass jar with a lid (which is what we did here).
Use separate containers to store different varieties of seeds and mark them with either the color and growing habit of the plant, or the name of the plant if you know it!
What do zinnia seeds look like?
Zinnia seeds are small gray seeds that are shaped like tiny arrowheads. Some times the seeds are black:
How Long Do Zinnia Seeds Last?
Zinnia seeds can last for 3-5 years when properly dried and cared for. The best way to store zinnia seeds is an air tight container (such as a glass jar with a lid).
Many people store seeds in envelopes: just make sure you have separate envelopes for each variety and keep the seeds in a cool, dark place.
How Long Do Zinnia Seeds Need To Dry?
Typically zinnia seeds will be dry in 48 hours, but this can depend on your climate.
In very dry areas, the seeds may be completely dry when harvested. We live outside of Boise, Idaho where there is very little rain or humidity in early fall. Our seeds were dry very quickly.
How Do You Know If Seeds Are Viable?
Zinnia seeds can be tested in the spring before planting to see if they are viable. Simply soak them in water. If the seeds sink, the seed is still viable, but if they float they may not germinate.
Remember, the zinnia flower head must be fully mature before harvesting. This indicates that the seeds have matured and will germinate when planted the following spring.
The end of the petals will be faded, or the petals may have even fallen off. The flower head will be dry and dark brown…look for these signs.
Benefits Of Growing Zinnia Flowers From Seed
Sure, you can easily purchase zinnia starts in the spring from any gardening center or big box store. But zinnia seeds are easy to harvest and cheap to buy, so why would you?
Here are a few more reasons to fill up your flower beds with zinnias grown from seed:
- They make great cut flowers + it’s easy to plant hundreds of plants from your own seeds
- Zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow, requiring little maintenance other than deadheading
- One flower bud can contain dozens of seeds, saving money every spring
- These bright flowers make excellent border plants and will bring pollinators to the vegetable garden.
- Zinnias attract pollinators and will ensure your vegetable garden has plenty of bees
One of the easiest flower seeds to harvest, zinnias will practically drop their seeds right into your lap!
My kids and I enjoy spending a few minutes at the end of the season to harvest the seeds- they are truly so easy to collect, dry and save.
In order to harvest the seeds, wait until the plant has fully matured. The flower petals will be completely dry, the flower head brown, and the seeds will be very loose.
You can grow your own beautiful zinnias next spring by following the simple steps in this article. Let us know in the comments how your seed saving journey goes!