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.

31 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

      • Lisa Jagodich on May 16, 2022 at 6:49 am

        Hello Jennifer,
        My name is Lisa. I have been reading your posts and am looking for this beautiful plant as well.
        My father gave me a piece of his plant and I loved watching it bloom every night myself.
        I sold my house in the month of February and could not get my plant from under so much snow. My father has since passed and I long to find this plant again. I went back to my old house and they have “weeded” it out.
        Breaks my heart to not have this now
        memory of my father in my garden at my new house.
        I live in Ontario Canada and would like to offer to buy some seeds from you if you are willing to sell me some.
        Please email me if you have any and would consider selling me some.
        Thank you kindly.
        Lisa

        • Janine on May 27, 2022 at 9:55 pm

          Hi Lisa. My name is Janine. I live in the USA, not too far from Niagara Falls.

          Like you, I had a wonderful Evening Primrose
          (Oenothera flava) from my father. Also like you, my father has passed, and my Evening Primrose didn’t survive the winter. I am heartbroken and searching for seeds or a plant to purchase. Did you find any?

          My father and I both loved how the flowers opened like magic after the sun went down. I’d be thrilled to get another one to keep in his memory.

          Thanks for your help!

    • Margaret on July 1, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      I wintered 2 over in a pot in our sunroom and planted a 3rd in same pot to fill ot out-doing fine so far.

  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.

    • Jennifer on August 21, 2019 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks for sharing your night blooming primrose story Betsy! These plants have quite a following. I will have to try your “trick”.

  5. Rose on August 27, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    I saved them quite by accident when we bought our house in 1985. The leaves just looked quite different from Dandelion ones. I was so excited to see them bloom at dusk. We also have had family groups to watch them bloom. I tried to give the whole plant to a friend but it did not work. They seem to transplant on their own and where they choose. This summer they landed in my flower bed and I just left them… and between my patio stones. They are just too thick… will try to replant them and also try saving the seeds. It seems they like sandy terrible soil. Thank you for the info.
    Rose

  6. walter synes on June 5, 2020 at 7:56 am

    I have a plant that is a lot like that plant BUT. the seed pod is big. I tried to find out what this plant is and the only one I could find was Oenothera Flava or mountain dandelion. but no one has shown me the seed pod I get. if i was able to add a pic i would. it is very big.

    • Judy Shelley on June 5, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      Interesting, won’t take a screen shot.

  7. Paul White on April 11, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you for this. we had 3 in garden came on some how.now con plant many more

  8. Elaine Jaques on May 18, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I’m in Ontario and would love some seeds. I’ve seen them from an apartment I used to rent I messaged the owner for the name even and they never replied. Are you supposed to pull off the spent flowers or do you have to leave that on for the seeds. What was your update on getting seeds? I would love any details on these beautiful flowers.

    • Liz on July 19, 2021 at 6:42 pm

      Elaine, whereabouts are you in Ontario? I have plants I can share.

      Liz

  9. wally on May 30, 2021 at 10:55 am

    I live in Niagara Falls, on and have some. people have called them mountain dandelions, Oenothera triloba. (couldn’t find any part that was tri)never could get anyone to give me a good name that I could follow. this one looks good. It is fun just to wait and wait then it cracks open and the bloom – blooms. it starts in the morning with the stem then the flower head and by the next morning, the flower is gone. it puts out a lot of energy in a short time. I don’t know of any other plant the flowers and seeds like this one does. I have been selling them for a few years and yes a husband thought they were bad and dug them out.

    • Lisa Jagodich on May 16, 2022 at 6:54 am

      Hi Wally,
      I read your post. Do you have any to sell?
      Plants and/or seeds?
      I live one hour from Niagara.
      Please let me know.
      Thanks!

  10. wally on June 2, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    I have found Night Blooming Primrose is very generic name. a lot of plants have that name. so that’s why I like mountain dandelions.

  11. Leslie on June 18, 2021 at 8:28 pm

    I had these years ago and then by chance a gentleman was selling some plants on our local Facebook marketplace and I bought a few off him. They are all throughout his gardens. I am so happy to have these again. I did a neat time lapse last week of one opening. FYI Latin name is Oenothera Flava. I really hope they spread around my gardens so I can give them away! I am in Orillia, Ontario btw.

    • Janice W on July 18, 2021 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Leslie – so glad to see others close by that have this plant. I was given one from a friend two years ago. No blooms last year but this year it came up and I’ve had about 3 flowers. I’m in Oro Medonte at Line 9 and Old Barrie Rd. If you have and seeds or even a plant you think you might move, I’d be delighted. I’ll be out in the garden tomorrow to see if I can find any seed pods developing!

  12. Danielle on June 28, 2021 at 8:16 am

    My Grandmother had these when I was little mine actually are from hers. I can remember sitting up and watching every night to count how many. My sons love to watch them as well we always thought they spread by they old heads thanks so much for the information.

  13. kathryn bishenden on July 9, 2021 at 8:19 am

    This sounds like a flower growing in my garden pale yellow really strange to see it close mid afternoon & then open up at dusk, can not remember where it came from but some have started to bloom the other side of rockery how long do they flower for,lovely looking plant,will try &save the seeds .as i would love more. What attention do they need pruning watering exct.Do they come in different colours apart from pale yellow.

  14. Liz on July 19, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    The flowers only bloom once and picking off the dead stems every day or so seems to help. No pruning and no other colours that I know of. Wouldn’t that be gorgeous in a garden though.

    • Linda Lister on August 9, 2021 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Liz. So happy to find this blog. Thank you for sharing. I have had these plants in my garden for at last 17 years but a few of my plants did not grow at all this year. I do have one small and one larger plant left and I will be trying to harvest the seeds. During the summer, I sit out in my garden and watch them almost every night but I have lost the one that was easily seen. I want to try to regrow. Do you have any more information on when it is best to harvest (i.e. September, October) and when best to plant? Thank you for your time.

      Linda

    • Linda Lister on August 9, 2021 at 7:02 pm

      Sorry Liz. Just realized that when I wrote earlier, I thought you had written the blog, my apologies. It does sound like you know how to get the seeds though so I’m hoping you can still answer my question about approximate time to harvest and plant. Thanks much!

      • Jennifer on August 9, 2021 at 8:26 pm

        Hi Linda, there is a post here on how to harvest the seeds: https://thefabulousgarden.com/blog/2018/08/10/saving-the-seeds-of-night-blooming-primrose/ As far as planting goes, I would start them about 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area in order to get good-sized plants to put out. They are perennials, so they can take the cold once they’re mature. Alternatively, you can just scatter the seeds on the soil and they will sprout when they’re ready next year.

        • Linda Lister on September 4, 2021 at 5:24 am

          Thank you very much Jennifer! One other question please. I have one large plant that has literally risen itself above the surrounding dirt. I am assuming it’s the roots of the plant that are now above ground. Do you know if I should leave it like that or should I try to bury the roots again once the leaves die off for the winter? I am in southern Ontario and we do get a lot of snow and frost.

          • Jennifer on September 13, 2021 at 8:59 pm

            Hmm, I’ve never seen that so I don’t really have an answer for you. Let us know next year what you did and whether it worked or not.



  15. kathryn bishenden on July 22, 2021 at 6:07 am

    Yes it would be lovely Liz,Do you think it could have anything to do with birds bringing them into garden because i dont remember planting them really facinating plant , i wish they bloomed longer in the afternoon but they close up about 3am then bloom again about 9am when it is getting to dusk?Regards. Kathryn

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