published Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Lea: Don't forget to leave some seeds for birds

Pat Lea

Q: Many of my flowering annuals and perennials are producing seed heads. The birds love them, but can I actually grow new plants from these seeds?

A: The answer is both yes and no. Be prepared to experiment. Some plants come easily from seed, and others require elaborate preparation. Each kind of plant has its own demands for germination.

You should probably start in the library and look up the requirements of plants that are your favorites in the garden. Start with plants that are easy to grow from seed, then progress on to the more difficult.

Annuals, such as impatiens, are noted for seeding freely and often will produce new plants the same summer as the bought plants. Seeds of impatiens can remain on the soil from year to year and will bloom the next season. They require almost no encouragement.

Perennials, such as rudbeckias, stokesias, hostas, even Siberian irises, will produce seeds that are easy to germinate.

The basic procedure for plants that are fairly easy to grow starts with cutting the seed heads from the plant. Use sharp pruners to cut, and collect your seed heads on a dry day. Choose seed heads that appear thoroughly dried. Often you can hear seeds rattling in the casing. Sometimes by pinching a seed head, dried seeds will easily pour out.

Place them in a dry pot or paper bag, and put it in a cool dry place. You can allow them to continue to dry for another day or two.

Next, lay a newspaper or cloth on a table and then, depending on the seed casing, you can rub, pinch, squash or pull the heads to release the seeds. Throw away the chaff, and save the seeds. You can store them over the winter in a glass container.

You can start some perennials by dispersing them in a tray of potting soil kept evenly moist. They will produce small plants that you can set out in fall.

Some seeds require chilling and can be stored over the winter or for several weeks in the fridge.

Growing plants from seed is a rewarding hobby. You must learn your different plants and use different techniques for each.

Don't forget to leave some seed heads for the birds to enjoy.

Email Pat Lea at

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