Growing coneflowers from their original seeds is one of my favorite parts of gardening. Instead of purchasing seeds every season, collecting them has enabled me to become a self-sufficient gardener.
But to say that I learned about coneflower seeds harvesting the hard way would be putting it lightly! The first time I grew these plants, I only thought of harvesting their leaves and roots for tea. By the time the next season rolled in, I had to buy seeds all over again.
Determined to find a better way of doing this, I dove headfirst into learning everything I needed to know about coneflowers. This included their different uses, such as landscaping, their medicinal use, and how to harvest and care for them.
To avoid making the same mistake that I did, I have put together a simple tutorial on how to harvest echinacea seeds.
What You Will Need To Follow This Tutorial
- Paper bag
- Garden scissors
- Envelope or jar
- Sealable plastic bags or seed envelopes
- Scrap paper to label the seed after harvesting
- Rubber band or string
- Kitchen strainer
Step By Step Instructions
Here is a thorough guide on how to harvest echinacea seeds:
- Collect The Flowerheads
Start by picking the best coneflower plants from which you’ll harvest the seeds. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s actually very important.
You should only harvest seeds from native echinacea plants and not hybrids. This is because the seeds from hybrids are often sterile and hence incapable of reproducing.
Once you’ve identified the perfect plants, use a quality pair of scissors to remove the seed heads. You can learn more about how to choose the ideal gardening scissors for your needs here.
It’s also wise to wear a pair of gardening gloves before proceeding.
To remove the seed heads, snip the stem about six inches down from the base of the seed head. Put the cut seedhead in a paper bag in an upside-down position with the spiky seed head facing the bottom of the bag. Close the bag by tying it with a rubber band, string, or twist tie.
- Dry The Flowerheads
Hang the paper bag in a basement or garage to allow them to dry. As the seed heads dry, some of the seeds will naturally fall inside the bag.
Depending on how wet the flowerheads are, the drying process could take one to three days.
- Urge The Seeds
When the seed heads are completely dry, remove them from the paper bag and pull the remaining seeds out.
As you’ll notice, the seed head is quite prickly. So, to avoid hurting your fingers during this step, use a knife to remove the seeds, which is a bit more convenient to use than garden scissors.
- Scrape And Scrape
Since the seeds are buried deep inside the cone, you’ll need to gently break them open to separate them from the chaff. But what do coneflower seeds look like? They are small, white, triangular-shaped seeds that resemble grains of rice. Your task is to separate them from the dark parts.
When the seeds are released from the cones, sort them from any traces of chaff. You can use a kitchen strainer for this. Simply put the seed/chaff mixture in a strainer and toss it gently.
If you’re doing this outside, the chaff will likely blow away in the wind. If you’re indoors, the chaff will likely fall through the strainer.
- Pack The Seeds
Before packing them for storage, confirm that the seeds are dry. If they’re even slightly wet and you store them over the winter, there’s a good chance that they’ll rot.
To check for dryness, press your fingernail into a seed. If the seed is dry, it will crack upon pressing. However, if it’s wet, it will feel soft and pliable and it won’t crack.
To store these seeds for the next season, all you need to do is wrap them in a piece of paper like I did. You can also use special seed envelopes or a sealable plastic bag.
Seed envelopes are the best of the three options because they’re easier to label. It’s a good idea to note the type of echinacea seed and the date of harvest. Make sure to store your seeds in a cool and dry place.
The question many gardeners ask is: for how long are coneflower seeds viable? Based on this article, which borrows data from several institutions, like Oregon State University, Purdue University, and Virginia State University, the average life expectancy for perennial flower seeds is two to four years.
In my experience, coneflower seeds remain viable for up to three years. But, to get the best results, consider planting them within one year of harvesting.
Harvesting Echinacea Seeds Video Guide
Here’s a video tutorial showing how to properly scrape the seeds:
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Personally, using this guide on how to harvest echinacea seeds has helped me each season. I never have to go looking for seeds from seed catalogs or companies.
I’d love to hear your comments or suggestions about this post. And, if you find it informative, don’t forget to share it.