How to Kitchen Garden
Published July 28, 2021 by Nicole Burke

5 Easy Steps to Save Your Own Zinnia Seeds and Grow Zillions of Flowers

Filed Under:
zinnia
seed saving
seeds
pollinator garden
Nicole Burke's dried zinnia blooms and zinnia seeds to save for next year

Harvesting Zinnia Seeds = Plant Magic

One of the things that got me hooked on the garden was witnessing the magic of seed production. Like, really, how can you not love gardening once you know how to harvest and save your own seeds. You know seeds lead to free plants, right?! If you have one zinnia plant, you have all you need to never buy another zinnia seed or plant again.

What does a zinnia seed look like?

Zinnia seeds are shaped like little spears and usually gray in color. (Tan seeds might not be viable.) If you buy seeds from the store, they'll already have been separated from their petals, but when you save your own seeds, you can keep some petals attached. Keep reading to learn how to save your own zinnia seeds for next year.

LEARN TO GROW YOUR OWN CUT FLOWER GARDEN WITH GARDENARY 365

Join Gardenary 365 to take our Cut Flower Gardens course. In this online course, you will learn how to grow, harvest, and arrange cut flowers. You'll also have access to our complete Gardenary course library inside 365.

Step One: Cut your zinnia flowers as they start to dwindle

Whether you planted them in your in-ground pollinator garden, flower beds, or raised-bed kitchen garden, zinnias are sure to bloom prolifically from summer all the way to first frost. (If you're not getting the number of zinnia flowers you'd like, here are some tips to help you increase your bloom production.)

As soon as you notice blooms are starting to wilt or look spent (like their time in the garden is coming to an end), take a clean pair of pruners and cut the stems beneath the blooms. In the Chicago area, the time to harvest flower heads is in late September or early October—that's when the flowers seem be a bit past their prime and the area is preparing for frost. If you live somewhere with a milder winter, you can probably enjoy your blooms for several more months.

zinnia flowers in the pollinator garden - save your own zinnia seeds

Step Two: Let zinnia flowers dry

Hang your blooms upside down to dry for about a month until they are completely dehydrated. You don’t want any moisture left when you store them or you risk growing mold.

Step Three: Store dried zinnia flowers over winter

You can remove the petals and store your seeds inside seed-saving packets, or you can leave the dried petals attached and simply store the intact blooms in a Ziploc bag. The cool thing about this is when it’s time to plant, you'll be able to tell what color the future blooms will be by the dried petals. 

Nicole Burke of Gardenary separating zinnia seeds from petals to save seeds

Step Four: Separate the zinnia seeds from the petals

Each flower head contains a lot of seeds that you can separate by rubbing them in your hands. (If you were to buy a seed packet, each little spear-shaped seed would already have been separated from the petal.) Seeds that are more tan instead of gray may not be viable, but that’s okay. You’ll still have tons! 

Nicole Burke of Gardenary scattering zinnia seeds

Step Five: Sow your zinnia seeds

Don't even think about planting zinnia seeds until your final threat of frost has passed. If you're nearing fall but still want to enjoy some zinnia blooms this year, you can plant one round of seeds if you still have at least 60 (preferably 75) days before your first frost.

Pick a spot in an in-ground pollinator garden, a flower bed, or your raised garden beds that gets full sun. Zinnias prefer at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight to bloom to their max.

You can use what I call the Lazy Woman's Method of Planting Zinnias (trademark pending... just kidding). To plant this way, you'll literally scatter the seeds by shaking them from the palm of your hand.

Use a small shovel or a hand rake to cover the seeds up a little bit, especially if they’re still attached to the petal (which is designed to help scatter the seeds in the wind… cool, right?). Water your seeds in really well. 

If you're the planning type, you could plant an ombre field or a rainbow display of zinnias based on the colors of the petals you saved.

You can be as wild or methodical as you want while you scatter your seeds. 

LEARN TO GROW YOUR OWN CUT FLOWER GARDEN WITH GARDENARY 365

Join Gardenary 365 to take our Cut Flower Gardens course. In this online course, you will learn how to grow, harvest, and arrange cut flowers. You'll also have access to our complete Gardenary course library inside 365.

Zinnias take about 55 to 65 days to bloom. Even if one in 20 of these seeds take, you'll still have gorgeous and easy (and free) blooms to attract beneficial insects to your kitchen garden. Bees and butterflies love them. (And how could a gardener not love them when they produce themselves over and over again?)

That, my friends, is how you have zillions of zinnias for the rest of your life, enough to enjoy for yourself and give to friends! 

(If you're looking for more tips on caring for zinnias, check out our complete grow guide below.)