Harvesting lettuce seeds is easy, fun, and frugal. In this post, I will tell you when and how to collect and save lettuce seeds from your garden, including step by step instructions.
Collecting lettuce seeds is a great way to save yourself some money, and keep your favorite varieties for years to come.
One of the most rewarding tasks in my garden is harvesting seeds to plant next year, and lettuce is one of my favorites.
If you get into the habit of gathering lettuce seeds every year, you’ll never need to buy them again. You’ll also be able to share with friends, or trade them for other seeds.
Harvesting Lettuce Seeds From Your Garden
If you want to try your hand at harvesting lettuce seeds, you’ll be thrilled to know that it’s very easy. Once you learn what to look for, the actual steps don’t take much time at all.
It doesn’t matter which variety you have either. You can get seeds from any type of lettuce plant, and the steps for saving them are the same.
Does Lettuce Have Seeds?
Yes, lettuce gets seeds. Most people never see them because they pull out the plant long before it has a chance to set seed.
One lettuce plant produces a ton of seeds. So you really only need to allow one or two from each of your favorite varieties to go to seed.
How Does Lettuce Produce Seeds
Before you will be able to harvest lettuce seeds, the plant must bolt (i.e.: flower). Many people are surprised to hear that lettuce plants bloom after bolting.
But don’t get too excited. The flowers don’t last very long, and they are very small (and really not that pretty, if you ask me).
When Does Lettuce Go To Seed
As many gardeners already know, heat is what triggers bolting. Once that starts to happen, it takes several weeks before lettuce seeds are mature enough to harvest.
I usually collect lettuce seeds sometime in late summer or early fall here in my Minnesota garden. But, it might happen earlier for you, depending on where you live.
Where Do Lettuce Seeds Come From?
They form inside of the flower heads. Once the blossoms start to fade, the heads will eventually turn yellow or brown.
Shortly after that, white puffs will form on top (similar to a dandelion). The seeds are located at the bottom of each of these white puffs.
How Many Seeds Does A Lettuce Plant Produce?
One lettuce plant can produce hundreds of seeds. To get the maximum number from each plant, be sure to check the pods daily and harvest them as they mature.
Otherwise they will blow away in the wind if you wait too long, which means you won’t be able to collect as many.
When To Harvest Lettuce Seeds
You’ll know it’s time to harvest lettuce seeds when the flower head turns yellow, or dries out, and the white cotton puffs come out around the top.
If you’re still unsure, gently tug at one of the white puffs. If they are ready, the seeds will come out with very little effort.
What Do The Seed Pods Look Like
Well, technically speaking, lettuce plants don’t really form seed pods. Instead, the seeds are located inside of the flower head.
Though, once they are filled with seeds, the dried flowers do look very much like oval-shaped pods.
What Do Lettuce Seeds Look Like
Lettuce seeds are small, flat, and oval shaped, with slightly pointy tips. They can vary in color anywhere from black, to dark grayish-brown, to almost white – depending on the variety.
What To Do With Lettuce Seeds After Collecting
Once you’re done collecting lettuce seeds from the garden, you need to separate them from the chaff and dry them before storage.
How To Separate Lettuce Seeds From Chaff
Once you get them inside, break apart the flower heads to remove the seeds inside. They will usually fall out easily, but you may need to use your fingernail to remove a few.
Regardless of how you harvested them, lettuce seeds tend to have a lot of chaff (i.e.: flower head pieces and other debris) mixed in. It can be difficult to get rid of all of it.
But don’t worry, a little bit of chaff won’t affect the ability to save or grow them. Pick out the largest pieces of debris, and do the best you can to separate the seeds from the smaller bits.
How To Dry Lettuce Seeds
It’s important to allow lettuce seeds to dry completely before saving them. That way, you will avoid any potential molding.
To do that, simply lay them out on a dry surface, where they will be protected from any type of wind. Let them air dry for at least a week, and you’re good.
Related Post: How To Grow Lettuce At Home
How To Save Lettuce Seeds For Next Year
You can plant your freshly harvested lettuce seeds right away, or save them for next year. There are lots of options for storing them.
Try organizing them in pocket sheets that you can keep in a 3-ring binder. Or seal them in small envelopes, and put them into a cute box.
You could even make your own DIY seed envelopes for keeping them organized, or sharing them with friends. Learn all about the right way to store seeds here.
How Long Do Lettuce Seeds Last?
If you keep them in a dark, cool location where they are protected from moisture, lettuce seeds can last 3-4 years. So you can save them for the long term.
However, I always recommend collecting lettuce seeds every 1-2 years in order to keep your stash fresh. That will give you the best results.
Harvesting lettuce seeds is incredibly simple once you know what to look for. Plus, it is so much fun to gather your own lettuce seeds each year. You’ll never have to rely on the garden center to buy them again.
If you want to learn all you need to know about how to easily grow any type of seed you want, then enroll in the Online Seed Starting Course today! It’s comprehensive, self-paced online course that will walk you through everything you need to be successful. Enroll and get started right away!
Otherwise, if you just want a quick-start intro, or need a quick refresher about how to start seeds indoors, then my Seed Starting Indoors eBook would be perfect for you!
Up Next: Learn how to grow lettuce from seed here.
More Posts About Saving Seeds
- How To Harvest & Save Radish Seeds
- How To Save Pea Seeds From Your Garden
- How To Harvest & Save Bean Seeds
Share your tips for harvesting lettuce seeds in the comments section below!
Irene B says
I haven’t seen many pollinators around in our area lately (Brisbane City, Australia) … so, do I need to hand pollinate my lettuce flowers with a fine paint brush – individually – or can lettuce flowers ‘self-pollinate’ simply by vibrating the flower stems, like is the case for tomato flowers? (I suppose what I’m really asking is whether lettuce flowers are ‘perfect flowers’ with both male and female parts)
Amy Andrychowicz says
Yes, lettuce is self pollinating.
Diane Uhls says
So do I need to wait till the yellow flowers turn white? They seem to be taking forever. I have a lot of yellow flowers and just got about 10 white flowers. It seems like a 4 month process.
Some of the yellow flowers are falling iff – so there is no seed to get from them ?
Amy Andrychowicz says
Yes, you need to wait until your lettuce flowers have white puffs on them, that means the seeds are mature and ready for picking. If they fall off, that means they weren’t pollinated, so there won’t be any seeds in those.
Stan de Riel says
Enjoy them as they try to bolt. They get bitter from production of compounds which, in addition to “milky” latex, include reportedly soporificants– they make you sleep well and calm you down. But don’t eat all the leaves, leave plenty to support the bloom and seed production. Also, mark your lettuces, and seed-save from those with desirable domestic leaf forms. Plants reverting to wild type (narrow leaves) — just eat them up. This assumes you have open-pollinated lettuce.