Starting plants from zinnia seeds is an easy way to plant, since all it requires is sowing. It's important to know that your seeds are healthy, or your risk contaminating all of the zinnias in your garden. If you want to know how to salvage zinnia seeds, including the correct way to know when it's time to pick them, this article will provide you with everything you need to know.
How to Deadhead
Deadheading a flower means to pluck and save brown flower heads. After the flower is past its bloom and the petals have fallen, the dead buds continue to drain resources from the plant. These have to be pruned, or deadheaded, to promote plant growth. Typically, the dead flower is snipped directly below the bud, removing only the dead portion of the plant.
Inspecting Seed Before Deadheading
When it comes time to pluck the flower head, use a pin and peel back the sheath of the bud to reveal the seed inside. Ripe seeds are usually green, but they will turn brown as they dry out. If the seed is white or pale colored, it is not ready to be removed. Give it a few days and check again. Removing the seeds too early may yield seeds that have not yet been pollinated.
Buds Make a distinctive Sound
When you pluck a zinnia bud, it makes a distinctive popping sound. If you pull off a bud and there is no corresponding pop, hold off on pulling any more buds on that plant for another 2 to 3 days. Listening for the sound will prevent prematurely removing all the buds from a plant that's not ready to be deadheaded, and will provide you with better seeds.
Air Drying Seeds
To preserve zinnia seeds, you can hang the bud in a cool, dry location, or remove the seeds from the bud and store them alone. Put the seeds or buds in a cardboard box and store them on a closet shelf. Avoid containers that create an airtight seal, as they do not allow the seeds to mature as they dry, stunting or eliminating sprouting.
Winter Seed Storage
After 2 to 4 weeks, the zinnia seeds will achieve a uniform brownish color. Wrap them in tissue paper, and place the package in a resealable plastic bag. During the winter months, keep the seeds in a dark location.
Sprouting Zinnia Seeds
In the spring, fill a small flower pot halfway with an equal mixture of sifted compost and sand. Do not pack the soil. Add a section of the tissue with a few seeds in it, and spray the tissue with water. Lightly cover the tissue with a little of the soil mixture, and spray with water until moist but not wet. Store the flower pot on an indoor window sill for a few days, moistening the soil very slightly as needed. When the seeds begin to sprout, be careful to only moisten it a small amount. Seedlings may be planted any time after the final frost.