dahlia seed pods

Saving Dahlia Seed

I've already written about why you would want to grow dahlias from seed but did you know you can also save your own seed?

Dahlia seed saving - and breeding - can be as simple or as complicated as you like. 

If you want to get into the nitty gritty details of genetics I'd recommend checking out the work of Kristine Albrecht of Santa Cruz Dahlias

Materials Needed:

  1. Mature dahlia seed pods
  2. Clean Snips
  3. Paper envelopes or small paper bags
  4. Pen or marker for labeling
  5. Storage container (e.g., glass jar)


1. Selecting Flowers:

  • Choose flowers that have qualities that you would like to see in the next generation. While dahlia genetics are complicated, and the results difficult to predict, this is an easy place to start. 
  • You might consider deadheading the patch before selecting the flowers you want to save seed from - and keeping any blooms you don't like from flowering. For example, I don't grow any singles in my patch, and I deadhead my now lone Cactus before my seed plants flower so they can't cross. 

2. Identifying Seed Pods:

  • After the dahlia flower has bloomed and begins to fade, you'll notice a pod start to form if pollination has been successful. 
  • Sometimes these pods are mistaken for buds. An easy way to tell the difference is that buds are usually round before they flower, pods are elongated or 'beak' like. 
These are seed pods that were harvested last season. They were maturing but not yet finished when they were brought inside. We were due to have a frost and I didn't want to risk them. I kept them in water for another week or two before sorting them. 

3. Harvesting Seeds:

  • It is best to allow the seeds to mature on the plant. That means stopping deadheading 6-8 weeks before your first frost. 
  • You will know they are almost ready if you gently squeeze the seed pod and no liquid comes out. They should feel papery and be turning yellow and brown. 
  • Snip the pod from the plant leaving a small stem. 
  • If you are concerned that the seed pod is not mature enough, and a frost is on the horizon, you can either protect the plant with a cover or - if it is maturing but still green - you can remove it from the plant and keep it in a vase inside to finish curing. 

4. Extracting Seeds:

  • If the pods are mature you can extract the seed right away. Otherwise allow the seed heads to continue to dry before taking this step.
  • Take the harvested seed pods and gently open them to reveal the seeds inside. I find it easiest to pull the back off, then rub through the chaff until I find the seeds. 
  • The chaff will feel papery or leathery. 
  • The seeds should be oblong-ish, dark, and plump. 
  • The seeds shouldn't bend easily (be gentle) or flake apart.
  • Smaller dahlias may produce smaller seed than larger dahlias.
A small pile of seed and chaff

7. Labeling:

  • Once the seeds are dry, place them in paper envelopes or small paper bags. Label each envelope or bag with the variety of dahlia, the date of collection, and any other information that you want to remember.

8. Storing Seeds:

  • Store the labeled seed envelopes, bags, or containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Ensure that the seeds are completely dry before sealing them in any containers to prevent mold, mildew, and rot.

Hopefully you'll be able to save some great seed and grow your own cultivar next year!

Other Guides and Resources


Kristine Albrecht

Swan Island Dahlias

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