Fact Checked

What is Seed Propagation?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

To propagate means to multiply or to breed naturally. Seed propagation is not a technique whose primary goal is to produce more seeds, although this will happen if efforts are successful. The aim of seed propagation is usually to produce more plants. There are other methods of plant breeding such as the use of plant cuttings or root cuttings, but the use of seeds tends to be the most common.

Seed propagation can be used to produce flowers, vegetables, and grasses. The first step in this process is obtaining the seeds. There are two common ways this is done. Many people buy seeds in the same manner that they buy other gardening supplies. However, some people collect the seeds they want to propagate from existing plants.

The goal of seed propagation is to produce more plants.
The goal of seed propagation is to produce more plants.

The condition of the seeds is very important because unhealthy seeds can produce unhealthy plants or they may not grow at all. For this reason it is necessary to make sure the seeds obtained are not diseased or outdated. There are other factors that can have a negative effect on such efforts. One example is foreign origin of the seeds. Some seeds from one country may not be able to be grown in certain other countries.

Not every seed will grow into a plant.
Not every seed will grow into a plant.

Another factor that plays a major role in seed propagation is the soil conditions. In order to be successful, the seeds generally need to be placed in soil that is well aerated. They need to be placed at a depth that is conducive to their growth. Furthermore, the soil usually needs a certain amount of moisture.

Propagation can take place either indoors or outdoors. One of the factors that determines the best option is, of course, the type of plant being grown, but both options have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, indoor growing may require the purchase of special lighting or the regular maneuver of plant containers to sunny areas. Outdoor seed propagation offers the benefit of free natural light, but a disadvantage is that weather can determine what is grown at a given time.

Seed propagation may be used to produce vegetables.
Seed propagation may be used to produce vegetables.

Despite all of the conditions, it is rare for seed propagation to have a 100 percent success rate. This means that every seed will not become a plant. Seed propagation is a technique used all over the world. There are some plants that can only be reproduced this way. On the contrary, there are some plants that cannot be reproduced by this method.

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Discussion Comments


I have always enjoyed gathering seeds to store over the winter and plant in the spring. I have done this with many different types of flowers, but some that have always given me good results are snapdragons, celosia and cosmos.

The most important thing to remember when propagating seeds is to make sure they are completely dry before storing. I always make sure mine dry in a singer layer and will stir them around every couple of days during this drying process.

Another thing I learned the hard way, is to be vigilant about labeling them. You may think you will remember which dried seeds are for which flower, but if you have a lot of them, this can be confusing.

I will plant these propagated seeds in pots and directly in the soil. It always takes longer when you sow them directly in the ground, but that also means you will have beautiful blooms late summer and in to fall.


One of my favorite plants to propagate is the wave petunia. I have always loved this flower, and one plant can cover a big area, and I like to have a lot of them.

Once I discovered I could propagate the seeds, I figured this would be pretty economical to try. In the fall when the plants are done blooming I will choose two of them to put in a pot and bring inside for the winter.

I may water them once in a while during the winter, but I put a white sheet under the pots and the seeds will naturally fall off the plant on to the sheet.

This can be a little messy and if I didn't have the room for it, I probably wouldn't go to the trouble. But in the spring I have hundreds of wave petunia seeds that I can plant.

When you propagate this way, you never know for sure what color of bloom you are going to have. I am not picky about this, so always look forward to all the different shades of color I will have.


Every fall I go through my flower gardens and collect seeds from the plants I want to propagate. Because I have some fairly large areas of flowers, this saves me a lot of money.

After gathering the seeds, I have trays in the garage where I keep them until they are completely dry. Once they are dry, I label them and store them in plastic bags until spring.

I used to start many seeds indoors in March or April, but don't do that as much any more. I will sow the seeds I propagated as soon as I can in the spring.

Sometimes it seems like a long time before that last frost warning is past, but I have found if I rush it, I am sorry every time. In my area, I have to wait until Mothers Day or May 10th until I can safely sow the seeds.


I propagate nasturtium from seed. This seed looks like a hard, round, somewhat shriveled peanut. It’s one of the larger flower seed out there, and it needs to be soaked before sowing.

I soak the seed for about an hour before planting it. I keep the area watered well. Nasturtium plants are edible, and many people use them in salads for their peppery taste. I plant nasturtium in my miniature pumpkin garden, because it is supposed to repel squash beetles, which eat the pumpkin vines.

I also propagate the pumpkin seed from the previous year. I always have plenty of little white seeds to use, because at the end of the season after the pumpkins have shriveled, I break them open and scoop out the seed to dry.


My dad plants watermelon from seed every year. He saves the seed from the previous year’s crop and sows it in late spring. The watermelons have been consistently good, so the original crop must have been from good stock.

What’s funny is that my dogs love to eat watermelon. Unintentionally, they help him propagate the seed. Since dogs can’t digest watermelon seed, it comes out in their feces. So, we have watermelon plants springing up in random places throughout the yard! We don’t eat those, though. We save them for the dogs.

If a watermelon in his garden starts to spoil before he can pick it, he just leaves it there to rot. Birds come and take the seeds, and they also help propagate the watermelons in far away places.


@Perdido - I grow zinnias from seed also, but I have found that using the seeds from previous flowers does not yield the same range of colors. The first year I planted zinnias, I bought a seed packet, and I ended up with yellow, orange, pink, white, peppermint striped, and deep purple blooms. When I saved the seed and planted it the following year, most of the blooms turned out pink and purple.

Because I like a wide variety, I just buy a new seed packet every year. It costs under $2, so I don’t mind doing it. That way, I can keep a very colorful flower garden.


I use seed propagation to grow zinnias every year. Sometimes I collect the seeds from the plants in the fall, after the petals have died, and sometimes I buy seed packets. Either way, I know how to spot a good seed and a bad one.

Good seeds are either green or greenish-brown. They have the most chance of sprouting new plants. Bad seed are beige or nearly white, and they appear very dried out. These will not be able to produce new growth.

I plant the seeds in the second week of April. Seedlings will emerge within two weeks, and the danger of frost will have passed by then. I sow the seed about half an inch deep and keep the ground moist until the little plants surface.

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    • The goal of seed propagation is to produce more plants.
      By: GIS
      The goal of seed propagation is to produce more plants.
    • Not every seed will grow into a plant.
      By: Chepko Danil
      Not every seed will grow into a plant.
    • Seed propagation may be used to produce vegetables.
      By: monticellllo
      Seed propagation may be used to produce vegetables.