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1.9.10

How to Collect Allium Seeds

Alliums are among one of my favorite plants in the garden. You plant the bulbs in the fall and the following spring you're rewarded with showy flowers. These decorative members of the onion family can be added to the garden to provide height and interest. My appreciation of them is compounded by the fact that pollinators, like bees, love to visit their blooms in my garden. Purchasing them as mature flowering bulbs isn't really expensive with many big box garden centers offering them in boxed packages.

How to collect Allium seeds


Each bulb produced a single stem at the top of which is a "flower" that is actually composed of several small flowers.

Allium seed pods forming.

After the bees have done their job you'll notice the green center of each of these tiny flowers begin to swell as the seeds begin to develop inside the seed pod.

Allium seed pods, how to save Allium seeds

The petals wither away leaving only the seed pods that turn from green to an olive color as the seeds grow inside the little pods. Inside each pod you'll find between two and three seeds forming. If you're worried about your Allium seeds being eaten by birds or falling off you can cut the stem and bring it indoors once you see the first signs of the pods splitting open and revealing the seeds inside.

How to save Allium Seeds in the garden

Leaving the pods to mature further in the garden will lower the number of seeds you can collect from your Alliums but with each "flower" producing dozens of seeds this isn't really much of a problem. Even if you leave a stalk in the garden during the whole season by the end you may still find one or two seeds hanging on.

Collecting Allium Seeds Garden Video




If you're worried that the seeds will fall off you can cut the dry flower stalks and place them upside down in a paper bag to dry. As the seed pods dry they will crack open release the seeds inside the paper bag.

Once you know how to collect Allium seeds in the garden you'll have to do it twice every garden season. In the late spring you can collect seeds from Alliums like 'Mount Everest,' 'Purple Sensations,' 'Gladiator' and in the late summer and early fall you'll be have to save seeds from nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum). The seeds look identical in most of them so make sure to label them to keep track of them. Although, I find that nodding Alliums seem to have shinier seeds than the others. When you sow Alliums seeds you will only get seedlings the first year and it can take a couple of years before your Alliums mature enough to bloom.

See my post on How to Save Seeds. In it you'll find tips for the beginner gardener who would like to save seeds.

21 comments:

  1. WHAT? I thought these reproduced like Hosta! You know, knotty, bulby roots. I've always left the flower on the stalk until its dried out, If birds didn't get the seeds then they must've fallen to the ground for next year.
    But next year I'll be collecting them earlier. Thanks Mr. BT

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  2. Hi Debbie,

    Alliums do reproduce by making offsets around the bulb but you can also start them from seed, as well as scaling the bulb I believe.

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  3. I planted some alliums last fall - love them! Saved some seeds, but haven't planted any yet. I wouldn't mind having them all over the garden.

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  4. Great ideas! I love allium, they add height and whimsy to the garden. Not to mention the bees! Whats not to love?

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  5. cool. I love allium and I think you can never have too many! I never thought about collecting seeds, but may give it a try. I still have some globe allium or two hidden under the summer perennials.

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  6. I love posts about collecting seeds - that's just plain smart!

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  7. I've got some leeks from last year that I've let go to seed (without a clue what I was looking for). Now I know! Thanks.

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  8. wish I had seen this earlier. My alliums have been mowed down; I'll have to remember for next year.

    Great info and pictures as always. You never disappoint.

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  9. I do this with leeks, but never even considered doing it with the alliums in the front garden, even though the seed pods look exactly the same. Duh! I'm going to try this next spring, for sure.

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  10. Your posts are always interesting, and your photos superb! We had an extra cold year in the garden last year and I lost several perennials and a couple of roses. My Alliums also did not return. :-(
    Since Alliums are in the onion family, I wonder if the seed is only good for one year, like onion seed?

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  11. Hello everyone, Thanks for commenting.

    @Connie, sorry to hear about your plants. I noticed that in my garden Allium schubertii will not return. Shame too since it one of my favorites.

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  12. Hi MBT,

    Instead of saving the allium for seed I am saving the dried alliums, Purple Sensation and Schubertii for decor, not sure yet how I am going to use them. Some people spray them.

    Eileen

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  13. Does one then start the seeds indoors in the Spring?

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    Replies
    1. Jonathan, you can start allium seeds indoors in the spring, but it is a lot easier to just direct sow the seeds in the garden and let nature do the work. That way you don't have to worry about dealing with seed scarification and stratification. See my tab on "seed saving" on this blog for more info on that if you are not familiar.

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    2. When do I plant seeds? I have some saved.

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  14. I have some allium schuberti that i planted from bulb. This is the first year they have bloomed and now all the seed heads have developed. So here's the thing - today is june 6 2014. I will be moving by the end of july. If the seed heads haven't completely matured, can i cut them, keep them in water and have the seeds still develop? I would love to plant these at my new home.

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    Replies
    1. Jessica,

      Yes, you can cut the stem and keep the seed heads in water and see if they've matured. I've been experimenting with this this year because of people like you asking about it. So far my stems have died, but the pods seem to still be developing. However, I think that waiting until the last possible minute to cut them will help you out. Alternately, you can dig the bulbs up and take them with you to your new garden when you move.

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  15. Anonymous3:27 PM

    I just had to cut most of my alliums down from severe storm. The seeds heads are still green--are they viable ? Can I dry them to use ? Or are they a loss ?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, See my comment above to Jessica. It's possible, to keep the seed heads growing after cutting them off, but you should wait until the last possible moment so that the allium seeds are really matured.

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  16. Anonymous3:32 PM

    One of my giant alliums was actually the size of a salad plate !! It was planted from the same bag of giants. Woo hoo LOVED IT ! I love drying & collecting seeds and then planting them again. One problem I do have is cosmos. So many people don't like them but I do as a late summer addition of color for my gardens. When I plant them from collected seeds from the previous year, they are very very small. Any ideas why ?I only seem to have really good luck with their size if I buy them already in full bloom from garden stores. If I plant from packaged seeds, I only get real small flowers too.

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    Replies
    1. It could be a lot of different reasons that have to do with the sunlight and the quality of your soil. The seeds you're saving could also be smaller because you are collecting seeds from a hybrid plant. All of my home-grown cosmos are taller than the ones at the garden center.

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