Saving Plume Celosia Seed

Plume celosia, one of my most favorite crops to grow, seems to be having its moment of favor in the flower world.

We’ve been selecting and saving our own seed for about 15 years, thanks to encouragement from Frank and Pamela Arnosky. We now have some of the best colors and strongest strains that work great for our climate and clientele. Our plume patch is regularly as tall as me, with huge fluffy heads. We do both transplants and direct seeded, with a total of 12 successions. Transplants do better early when the soil is cool; direct seeded plantings are stronger once the soil is warm.

You can also easily save your own plume seed, and now is the time to be doing it! While “free seed” is a clear benefit, the greater one is that you can choose what colors and forms work best for your market. Since we do supermarkets, we love bold colors and bright, huge heads. Design clients may prefer softer colors and more wheat-type forms. Our original seed stocks were ‘Pampas Plume’, ‘Forest Fire’, and the Sunday series.

Here is our easy process:
1. Flag the best and strongest plants in your planting. We use neon flagging tape to wrap around the flower head.
2. Resist the very strong urge to harvest these stems all season. Warning: it can become rather painful to pass by these beauties every single harvest day, but just keep reminding yourself that next year you will be cutting hundreds of that beautiful color and form.

3. After the head matures and you can see the black seeds at least halfway up the head, harvest it into a paper bag, turning the head upside down. Label the bags with descriptors of your variety, but you can put similar heads together in one bag. Give them whatever name helps you differentiate. We have orange, yellow, bright pink, magenta, crazy crested sorbet shades, crested burgundy, and a few others. It’s important to harvest the seed when there is still enough color on the flower head to be able to label it. Plus, if you wait too long, all the seeds will start dropping on the ground.
4. Hang all your paper bags somewhere to continue drying. Anywhere you hang dried flowers is fine for this, a hot barn, for example.
5. On a cold day in fall, clean all the seed. We start by shaking the heads into the paper bag, and then combing the heads with our fingers. A few wire strainers, a flour sifter, and a box fan all help separate the chaff from the fine black seeds.
6. We store all our seed in paper envelopes, because we don’t always get them 100% dry. If you are able to guarantee no moisture, you could also use plastic bags. Label with year and name.
7. I do find that viability is not as high as commercial seed. When we seed these, we either do a 3-4 x seeding in a flat or do a “pinch” in each direct-seeded hole. The beauty of saving your own seed is that you can very quickly have hundreds of thousands of seeds. You can afford to be generous when seeding to compensate for reduced viability.

Wishing you great luck as you develop the best celosia seed money cannot buy!

Michelle Elston

Roots Cut Flower Farm

Contact her at [email protected]