May 15th, 2007
Collecting Bluebonnet Seeds

Zanthan Gardens bluebonnet seeds
Brown hard seeds are ripe. Mushy green seeds are not ripe yet.

Several people have asked me how to propagate bluebonnets…how to tell if the seeds are ready. It’s easy. Don’t cut back the bluebonnets or mow until the seed cases are brown and you can hear the seeds ratttling inside. If you tap the seed case and it pops open, you know they’re ready.

Zanthan Gardens bluebonnet seeds
To release their seeds, bluebonnets pop open with a little twist.

You can let the seeds reseed on their own (a bunch will anyway, as long as you don’t mow). With this method, some will be lost to birds, fire ants, and hot weather. Or you can collect the seeds, store them in a cool dry place, and sow them where you want them in August before the fall rains. If we have a rainy early summer, some bluebonnets will sprout now but, unless you baby them through the long, hot summer, they probably won’t survive until fall.

Bluebonnets naturally sprout in the fall, grow all winter, and flower the following spring.

You’ll find all sorts of advice for nicking the hard seed coats or rubbing them with sandpaper. This might be necessary with old dry seeds that you buy. I never do it because my own seed is fresh. Sometimes I soak them overnight or until they plump up. I did this the first couple of years to get started but now I have more sprouts than I can deal with an so I don’t need to go to any extra trouble. I let them sprout and transplant them where I want them.

Bluebonnets have hard coats so that they don’t sprout all at once if it rains. In Texas, it might rain and some sprout, and then die off in a long dry spell. But since they don’t all sprout at the same time, some are kept in reserve until more favorable conditions present themselves.

by M Sinclair Stevens

3 Responses to post “Collecting Bluebonnet Seeds”

  1. From bill:

    very timely post. I was just looking at bluebonnets yesterday and wondering about harvesting seeds.

    I am only going to collect those where they have come up that I don’t like. they seem to like my gravel driveway better than any other place

  2. From debbie ross:

    I just collected the seed pods from the front yard over the weekend. Some of them were already busted open, but there were plenty that were not. It makes perfect sense now why they haven’t spread more. We don’t mow the front 2 acres or so in order to keep the wildflowers. As a result we have all manner of baby everything out there right now from all kinds of birds and bugs to rabbits and raccoons.

    I’ll keep them inside until October or so and let you know when I actually plant them. August is really too early here (Navasota,TX) it’s still very dry and hot then. I was planning to plant some of the seeds around the banks of a little pond we have out back. We use the pond to water the cows but my understanding is that the cows won’t eat bluebonnets because they are poisionous to the calfs. I’ve seen a few pastures with bluebonnets and cows (not eating them) but usually don’t see the 2 together. Any input on that.

    Thanks so much for the advice. I have high hopes for next spring!! I’ll try to send photos of the areas I’m talking about.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. I hope it will be a success. It’s okay to plant the bluebonnets seeds in August. The idea is to plant them before the fall rains. Some will sprout in August and some will sprout later because of the different thicknesses of the seed coats. If you plant them too late, then some won’t sprout until the following year…unless you nick the coats or sand paper them lightly. — mss

  3. From Angelina (Oregon):

    Bluebonnets are so pretty. I haven’t seen any growing around here.

    I love how nature plans things so well, ensuring that she doesn’t spend herself all at once.