How to save seeds from Oenothera flava, Night Blooming Primrose

Saving the Seeds of Night Blooming Primrose

One of the most popular posts on my blog has been the profile I wrote of Night Blooming Primrose (latin: Oenothera flava).

Oenothera flava

It seems like a lot of people want this crazy plant that blooms before your eyes, but the plants and even seeds seem to be hard to find. Someone asked if I could share seeds from mine, and I had to admit that I had never actually even seen seeds on my plant. Of course I knew they must set seeds somehow, but the flower heads certainly don’t ripen and create seed heads like so many other flowers (including Nigella). Hmm, a plant mystery!

 

Once my plants bloomed this year I started watching them to figure out how they were reproducing. I discovered that there are seeds, but they form at the very base of the plant, instead of where the bloom was!

 

In the following two pictures you can see how the dried out stem from an old flower is connected to the top of the seed pod:

 

For best results, I believe the seed heads should remain on the plant until they fully ripen (i.e. get as big as possible and then dry out). However, in the interests of science, I picked a couple of them in their not quite ripe stage to dissect:

 

 

You can see the individual seeds lined up neatly inside the seed pods—I was surprised at their bright pink colour.

 

 

I’m going to continue to monitor the seed pods still on my plants so that I can pick them off once they ripen. I’ll update this post once I do so that you can see how they should look when it’s time to collect them if you want to save them to plant yourself or if you want to share these funky plants with your friends.

 

Once you’ve collected the ripe seeds they should be stored in a dry place until you’re ready to plant them.

7 Comments

  1. Esther Allen on August 10, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    This is so interesting, regarding “harvesting” the seed pods. I remember my mom giving us kids the “chore” of picking the spent blooms and stems off the plants the following day. I’m sure she didn’t realize that is where the seeds originated. However it never seemed to have been an issue as the plants grew like weeds in the garden. I remember in the spring we had to be ever so careful as to not pull them out while weeding thinking they we’re dandelions!!

    • Jennifer on June 27, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      They do look so much like dandelions! I’m always afraid that I’ll rip them all out by accident.

  2. Mary Beth on June 13, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    I would love to have some seeds if you are willing to share. I used to have these and they have vanished, i didn’t realized I could save the seeds.

    • Jennifer on June 27, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      Sorry, Mary Beth, but I’m in Canada and it looks like your IP address is in the U.S. It’s illegal to ship seeds across the Canada/U.S. border (unless you go through a big long process that’s impractical unless you’re in the seed selling business). There was someone from the U.S. who commented on the “Plant profile: night blooming primrose” post who was willing to share seeds last year. You might try replying to her comment on that post to see if she might also share some with you.

  3. Dorothy on August 8, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Oh, Hi Jennifer.
    Thank you for this info!!
    I had no idea where to look for seeds. (I have one plant that was scavenged from a lot where the house was being demolished!)
    I had no idea about the illegality of shipping seeds across the border (I had reached out to Terri). I live in Ontario. Does that mean that I might be able to trouble you for some seeds??
    If yes, please email me and I will send you my address in Toronto. (the form had me enter my email address).

    I’m so excited to have found others who love this plant as much as I do!
    Next: finding the soil/light/water requirements so I don’t kill it! (tip: don’t put them in pots! :((()

    cheers
    Dorothy

    • Jennifer on August 10, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Hi Dorothy, please check your email–I’ve just sent you a message. Jennifer

  4. Betsy on August 17, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve grown these plants for many years and never been able to find any information about them and their astounding habits so am very happy to have happened on this discussion.
    We’ve had many evening parties “watching the flowers bloom” and have shared many babies that pop up all by themselves in certain years. One of the most exciting “tricks” for me is pulling the pistil, ever so gently, after you have picked a flower down at the base. You can pull out a full length tube that connects the stigma (up top) to the ovaries (at the ground, where the seed pod develops). If you are really careful, with a good eye and steady hand, you can reinsert this tube and see it come out the bottom. Oh what excitement!!!
    Mine originally came from my mother’s cousin in Ontario and spent years in her Vancouver garden and shared among friends, then overwintered well in my garden in the Cariboo also shared with many friends who marked it well so as to not mistake it for a dandelion in the spring.

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