Wildflower seeds are easy to collect and sow in your own garden. Let’s break this page down by collecting, storing, and sowing.
Now this doesn’t mean you can’t simply buy wildflower seed and sow it.
There are gardeners who want to do it both ways.
Collecting Your Own Seed
Collecting seed is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I suggest you tuck away a few small paper envelopes with you when you go hiking or wandering the countryside.
But having said that…
- If you’re on private land, ensure you have the owner’s permission to collect seed.
- Do not collect seed from parks and nature preserves. That’s why they’re called “preserves”
- Never, ever collect seed of endangered species
Ensure these envelopes are folded by the manufacturer so that when the main flap is pulled over, there are no holes left open for seed to escape. I once left a half day’s collecting on the floor of my car because of the holes and poor glue of a batch of bad envelopes.
Also keep a pen or pencil (pencils write when wet!) with you so you can write the name of the plant on the envelope. Trust me on this. Add several months to a single envelope and you won’t remember what kind of seed is in there.
Collect seed when it is ripe. While some seed will continue to develop and mature if taken off the plant, many will not so unless you know the plant you’re collecting, take only mature seeds.
Seeds will be mature when the seed pod is dark brown, drying out and readily split (or even split already which is a major readiness sign). Put some of the seed in the envelope and spread the rest of it around to grow new plants.
Never take all the seed from the entire area if there are a limited number of plants.
Collected wildflower seeds should be stored cool and dry (the crisper of the fridge is perfect) until it is time to sow them.
Freezers are not generally recommended for best storage as the freezing temperatures will either kill the seed or put them into deep dormancy (and you’ll have a heck of a time waking them up.)
In the wild, seed has a long period of getting ready for winter dormancy (the hormones within the seed change over time) so if you simply take them home and pop into a warm house or a freezer, the shock of change will (quite probably) kill more seed than you save.
Three Methods of Germinating Wildflower Seeds That Actually Work
There are three effective methods of germinating wildflower seeds.
- Wildflower technique #1 The easiest is simply to sow them outdoors when you get them home and let them come along at their own pace. As long as you don’t weed them out of your garden, you’ll be quite pleased after a few years to have your own little wildflower community.
- Wildflower technique #2 The second system is to treat all wildflower seeds as garden perennial seeds and start them as you would any perennial garden seed
- Wildflower technique #3 A system half way between the two is to create a small area of the garden and plunge a bottomless flower pot (cut the bottom of a pot that is at least 6 inches across) into the garden soil so that only the top one inch of the pot remains above ground. (The easiest way to do this is to dig a hole, set the pot in place and then fill the pot with the soil from the hole.)
Sterilize the soil
Sterilize this soil by slowly pouring a large kettle of boiling water into the pot – or even several kettles of water to do a really fine job. The sow the seed in the pot. This will mean the seed will get the natural cold and warm cycle it expects and you’ll be able to see when it germinates rather than trying to sort it out from the weeds.
Transplant the seedlings in the fall after their first year of growth. (space thinly so the seedlings have room to grow.) Yes, you can wait until the following spring as well.
Once the seeds are growing and established in the garden area, collect seed from these plants and sow directly into the garden area to increase the numbers of plants in the area.
By this time, you’ll also be able to recognize baby seedlings from baby weeds from the wildflowers