The bright flowers of the calibrachoa (Calibrachoa x hybrida), also known as million bells, brighten gardens and hanging baskets. While grown as an annual in most climates, calibrachoa is actually a tender perennial and may overwinter outdoors in sheltered, frost-free gardens of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. While calibrachoa is normally propagated with cuttings, collecting the seeds is possible for an enthusiast of these South American natives.
Collecting the Seeds
Not every flower produces seed, but there are a lot of flowers on each of these 8- to 12-inch tall and 10- to 24-inch-wide trailing plants.
Things You'll Need
Shallow cardboard box
Envelopes or glass jars
Monitor the plants, watching for swelling under the flowers as they fade and die back. Flowers pollinated by bees, butterflies or hummingbirds may develop seed pods.
Snip the drying seed pods off at the stem as they turn brown but before they burst open. Drop the seed pods into a paper bag.
- When working in the garden, always wear gloves and safety glasses to protect your skin and eyes from scratches and flying debris. A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen help prevent sunburn.
- Whether pruning, deadheading or harvesting seed pods, sterilize your cutting tools with a solution of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water to prevent the spread of disease from one plant to the next.
Spread the seed pods in a single layer in a shallow cardboard box. Place the box in a warm, dry location where the pods can continue to dry for one to four weeks.
- Harvest more seeds than you need; calibrachoa are hybrids, so some seeds may not sprout. In addition, the seeds are unlikely to grow true to the parent plant, instead resembling one of the parent plants.
- Calibrachoa bloom from June until frost, so you can harvest seeds through the growing season.
Break open the seed pods over newspapers and shake out the tiny seeds. Crush the pods if necessary. Pick out the pods and debris, leaving small amounts of chaff and the seeds.
Pour the seeds into envelopes or small jars. Use a permanent marker to clearly label the containers with the flower name and date. Store in a cool, dry location until early spring.
Whether planting your own seeds or commercially purchased calibrachoa 'KaBloom' seeds, prepare the seed-starting trays four to six weeks before the last frost date. Leave the seeds on top of the moist mix, at a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds sprout in seven to 14 days. Keep the plants in bright filtered light and water regularly. Transplant outdoors two weeks after the last frost date.
Ruth de Jauregui
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.