Most garden sites tell you to rip open the seed heads wearing leather gloves and using pliers. My method requires none of that, and will give you hundreds of seeds if harvested at the right time….
How to save seeds from Echinacea:
- Cut off seed heads when the blooms have faded and turned brown.
- Store & dry the seed heads in a paper bag.
- Knock the seeds off of the seed head using my method (described below & short video).
- Store the seeds.
You can then store the seeds for a couple of years in an envelope, or sealed plastic container if thoroughly dried. But, continue below for my detailed method and video…..
Process to save and harvest Echinacea Seeds
1 – Locate some plants
The first step may seem obvious, but it is actually more important than you think. Once you have identified some plants, if they are in the wild then they are most likely true native species, or cultivars.
However, if you are going to save seeds from a neighbor’s strange colored (orange, white or red) Coneflower then you should be aware that the plant could be a hybrid. If it is a hybrid, the seeds will grow a different flower. (Discussed more at the end of the article).
2 – Collect seed heads
A couple of weeks after the flowers have bloomed, seeds will form. On Echinacea, there are actually two places on the seed head to collect seeds. At the base of each petal, and within the ‘cone’ of the cone flower itself.
After the seed head is starting to turn brown / dry out you can harvest the Echinacea Seed Heads. You should cut the seed head off either 5-6″ below the seed head. Or, carefully hold the seed head and cut just below it. Place these into a paper bag.
You should allow the seed heads to fully dry out before harvesting, or allow the seeds themselves to dry for a week after you have separated the seed.
3 – Remove seed from the seed head
Now this is where my process for saving Echinacea seeds is the BEST! As you will know by now, the ‘cone’ or seed head is quite prickly, and not fun to handle. So, rather than taking clippers and cutting up the seed head to release seeds, we are going to do something much better….
Get a container that is at least 6” diameter by 6” tall, like an old plastic coffee can. Put several seed heads into the coffee can, secure the lid, and shake it vigorously! After about 10-20 seconds of shaking the seed will be released from the cones.
Then you can just open the lid, remove the (now empty) Coneflower seed heads. What will be left in the can is primarily good, viable Echinacea seed (and a small amount of chaff). You can now let the seed dry out for another week or so on a plate, or somewhere cool and dry (and not in direct sunlight).
3.1 – Sift the seed to remove chaff (Optional)
If you don’t want some chaff mixed in with your seed then I have another tip. You can use a common kitchen strainer to remove the chaff. Just pour the seed/chaff mix in a strainer, and gently toss the strainer.
If you do this outside most of the chaff will either fall or blow away. If inside, much of it will fall through the strainer. This is entirely up to you. I don’t mind the chaff, but hey – to each their own.
4 – Store the seed
I store my Echinacea seed in random plastic containers or jars. Plastic baggies or zip-lock bags work well too. In my experience, the seed will be viable for several years after harvest. But in each passing year the percentage of seed that will sprout decreases a bit.
Also, I made a video describing the process a while back on youtube. I’ve linked to the video below, so you can see the whole process from start to finish in action.
Want to learn the best ways to germinate Echinacea? We wrote a detailed guide on how to grow Coneflower from seed below answering any/all questions (stratification, planting depths, etc).
Want to Save Black Eyed Susan Seeds???
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a different genus of plants, but you can still save seed from it quite easily! Click below to read our how-to DIY article to save your seed WITHOUT Chaff!
NEW ==> Save Bee Balm Seeds!
Why you should save your own Echinacea/Coneflower seeds
Every gardener with a hint of do-it-yourself ethos in them should save seeds from Echinacea (Coneflower) to propagate more plants! One single Echinacea plant can yield 500 or more seeds depending on the available number of blooms in a given year.
Your only competition for harvesting the seed is the birds, particularly gold finches who love to land on the seed heads and pick out the seeds. You can then grow as many plants as you want, or your garden can handle for basically no money!
Coneflowers generally cost $5-$15 in the garden center depending on size. If you are willing to wait until the second year for flowers, then you can have as many plants as you want for very little money if you just grow them from seed!
I generally grow 10-20 plants per year and it doesn’t cost me anything. I’ve shared them with family and friends, as it is a great way to increase the number of native plants. People are very open to natives once they find out they can get them for free from me 🙂
Have you considered Dividing Echinacea?
Also, if you want to learn another way to propagate Echinacea, why not check out our guide on how to Divide Echinacea below?
Why you shouldn’t save seeds from Hybrids
If the plant is a hybrid, then the seed produced may either not be viable, or will germinate some other flower. That is because hybrids are produced by cross pollinating two different species of plants.
Most often the seeds from a hybrid will either be sterile or produce one of the parent plants. So, if you are ‘borrowing’ some seed from a neighbor, be sure to get an actual ID on the plant before you save the seeds.
Echinacea – Physical Description
Echinacea is a genus of flower that is comprised of 10 species, and is in the Daisy Family of flowers. These herbaceous flowers are native to North America and very beneficial to pollinators and birds. Depending on the species they generally reach 3-4 feet tall (0.9-1.2 m) by 1-3’ wide (30-90 cm). Echinaceas have daisy-like flowers that bloom for a long time in mid-summer to early Fall. All species of Echinacea are perennial flowers that are hardy in USDA garden zones 3-8. Multiple blooms will be on the top of tall stalks that all come from a central clump of green leaves that are large, long, and pointed.
The most common species is Echinacea Purpurea, also known as Purple Coneflower, and that is what I will use for my example of how to harvest Echinacea seeds.
And before you go…
You may want to check out our comprehensive guide on saving flower seeds! I collect a lot of my seed from the wild, as that is the cheapest way to get seed. It also ensures I am growing plants that are well adapted for my local ecosystem. Check it out for some more tips!
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