Seed Heads Have Advantages and Disadvantages
This article was first published on 26 Feb 2019.
Allium seed head
Photo by the Otago Daily Times
To seed, or not to seed: that is the question. As flowers fade and plants produce seed it can be considered a blessing, or a curse. Whether you remove them, and at which stage of their development is a matter of both choice and good management.
Seed heads can be extremely ornamental such as fluffy Pulsatilla, soldier-like Cardiocrinum, and the large Allium balls in the photograph. Often as beautiful and interesting as the flower itself, seed heads can prolong the display.
Producing seed requires a lot of energy. Removing spent flowers can help the plant to stay healthy and strong. Dead heading can also extend the flowering season - Arctotis responds well to this practise.
Seed is of course a means of reproducing. You may wish to save the seed to sow or give away to other enthusiasts. In this case you usually need to wait until the seed matures before harvesting.
Another method of increasing the plant’s population is by allowing it to self-seed and germinate in situ. This can be a great time saver - no collecting, sowing, potting on and planting required. This is excellent for small short-lived annuals and perennials such as Aurinia and Primula.
The flip side is when you don’t want seedlings invading yours and your neighbours gardens. Dierama looks absolutely stunning - its arching wands dripping with seed pods – until dead heading is left too late and you are severely punished by having to remove thousands of seedlings.
To seed – or not to seed?