Penstemon flowers are gorgeous, but often expensive at garden centers. With my methods you can save and harvest your own penstemon seed quickly and cleanly.
How to save seeds from Penstemon / Beardtongue:
- Cut off seed heads when the capsules have formed and turned brown. Usually about six weeks after blooming.
- Store & dry the seed heads in a paper bag for about a week.
- Burst the seed heads by pinching them in your fingers inside the bag
- Sift seed through a sieve or common kitchen strainer to remove the chaff
- Store the seeds.
Penstemon seeds can be stored for a couple of years in a paper envelope, or a sealed plastic container/bag (if you are sure they are dry). See below for our detailed process for saving Penstemon seed.
This method can be used for just about any species of Penstemon. Including our native Hairy Beardtongue as well as the taller Foxglove Beardtongue.
Process to save and harvest Penstemon Seeds
1 – Locate some plants
Whether saving your own seed, a neighbors, or finding some plants in the wild – you must find some plants! If plants were sourced from the wild they they are likely native. If plants were purchased from a garden center then you should try to research if the plant was a hybrid or a cultivar.
Seed from cultivars will grow the same plant, with the same/similar genetics. However if it is a hybrid, the seeds will grow a different flower. (Discussed more at the end of the article).
2 – Collect seed heads
Seed heads can be collected approximately six weeks after the Penstemon flower has bloomed. If the stalks and capsules appear to be brown and dried, the seed head is ready for harvest.
The stalks of the seed heads do not tear easily. You should use scissors or pruning shears to cut the stalks. Cut a couple of inches (5 cm) below the lowest seed head. Place this into a bucket or bag.
Allow the seed head to dry for about a week in a garage, or somewhere dry. Moisture on the heads/stalks can lead to mold which can harm the seed.
3 – Release seed from the seed head
The Penstemon seed is located within the seed heads. To obtain the seed, squeeze or pinch the capsules while holding them over a bag or bucket. The seed will fall out of the capsule.
Next, shake the bag or bucket (with lid) to ensure that all seed falls out. This will ensure that all or most of the seed leaves the broken capsule.
4 – Sift the seed to remove chaff
Using a common kitchen strainer or sieve, sift the seed to remove the chaff. This allows for more ‘clean’ storage.
To do this, just set a kitchen strainer over a bowl or plate. Then, pour the seed/chaff mixture through the strainer. Gently shake the strainer to separate most of the chaff from the seed.
4 – Storing the seed
If your seed is truly dry, you can store it for a year or two in a sealed plastic container. Otherwise you can also store it in a paper envelope. The seed should remain viable for at least a couple of years.
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.
Also – if you are new to seed saving, you should consider browsing are large guide on how to save flower seeds, as well as foraging for wild seed.
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 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.
Penstemon – general description
Penstemon is a genus of flower that has over 250 species. They are beloved by gardeners all over the world due to their beauty and hardiness. Plants of the Penstemon genus grow naturally in everything from deserts of the Southwest United States to alpine regions. Their tubular flowers and long bloom time make them very popular in gardens all over the world.
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