Growing from seed is the easiest and most commonly used method of propagating native trees and shrubs. It’s the best way to produce large numbers of plants. Find out more about what different seeds look like, seed collection, and check out our tips for growing from seed.

What you’ll need

To grow your own native plants from seed you’ll need the following:

  • Seeds – collected locally
  • Seed trays
  • Seed raising mix
  • Labels and pens (permanent)
  • Pea gravel
  • Protective frame with a shade cloth
  • Watering can.

Know your seeds

Before you can start collecting seeds, you need to know what to look for. Examples of different types of seeds are:

  • Fluffy seed – for example, clematis.
  • Hard-coated seed – for example, kowhai.
  • Fruit-covered seed (berries) – for example, coprosma, cabbage tree, wineberry.
  • Sticky seed – for example, kohuhu.
  • Seeds in pods – for example, manuka and rata.
  • Dry seeds – for example, grasses and tussock.

When to collect your seeds

Most seeds are ready to collect from late summer to early winter (February to June). Berries will usually change from green (unripe) to red, white, black or blue when ripe. Check fruiting trees regularly over late summer – autumn to observe changes in fruit colour. This way you’ll be ready to harvest the berries (and the seeds they contain) before the birds do! Birds love to eat ripe berries so you’ll have to be quick.

See the table below for seed collecting times for native plants in Southland:

Plant speciesCommon nameSeed typeColour when ripeCollection time
Aristotelia serrata wineberry, makomako Fleshy fruit black February
Astelia fragrans bush lily Fleshy fruit orange February - April
Carex secta pedicelled sedge Small nut February
Carex virgata wetland sedge Small nut February
Carpodetus serratus marbleleaf, putaputaweta Fleshy fruit black June
Chionochloa rubra red tussock Dry seed February
Coprosma propinqua mingimingi Fleshy fruit blue (ranging from pale to dark blue) March - April
Cordyline australis cabbage tree Fleshy fruit white May
Cortaderia richardii toetoe Dry seed February
Clematis paniculata clematis Dry seed April
Dacrycarpus dacrydioides kahikatea Fleshy fruit orange/red April
Ficinia spiralis pingao, golden sand sedge Small nut March - April
Elaeocarpus hookerianus pokaka Fleshy fruit purple May
Fuchsia excorticata fuchsia Fleshy fruit black February
Griselinia littoralis broadleaf Fleshy fruit blue/black February - May
Hebe elliptica coastal hebe Dry seed February - April
Hebe salicifolia koromiko Dry seed February - April
Hoheria angustifolia lacebark Dry seed April - May
Leptospermum scoparium manuka Dry seed July
Melicytus lanceolatus narrow-leaved mahoe Fleshy fruit dark purple/black February - April
Metrosideros umbellata southern rata Dry seed March - May
Myrsine australis Red mapou Fleshy fruit black February
Myrsine divaricata Weeping mapou Fleshy fruit dark purple February - May
Nothofagus menziesii Silver beech Dry seed March
Pennantia corymbosa Kaikomako Fleshy fruit black February - April
Phormium tenax flax/harakeke Dry seed April
Pittosporum eugenioides lemonwood/tarata Sticky seed All year
Pittosporum tenuifolium kohuhu Sticky seed All year
Plagianthus regius Lowland ribbonwood Dry seed February - March
Podocarpus hallii Thin-barked totara, Hall’s totara Fleshy fruit red May
Prumnopitys ferruginea miro Fleshy fruit Red – but may be covered in a bluish ‘bloom’ April - May
Prumnopitys taxifolia matai Fleshy fruit Purple – with bluish ‘bloom’ April - May
Pseudowintera colorata pepperwood/horopito Fleshy fruit Reddish black to black February - April
Schefflera digitata Pate, sevenfinger Fleshy fruit purple April
Sophora microphylla kowhai Dry seed in pod All year
Weinmannia recemosa kamahi Dry seed May

When collecting seeds, remember to write down the species you collected the seed from and the date of collection.

Seed preparation

Different seed types need to be prepared differently before sowing:

Dry seed, fluffy seed and seed from pods

  • Keep dry in paper bags until you are ready to sow.
  • Keep them warm and dry to prevent fungal problems.

Sticky seed

  • Rub sand in with the seeds to separate them – making them easier to sow.
  • For example, Pittosporums.

Hard-coated seed

  • Cover with boiling water and let cool – this softens the hard exterior and aids germination.
  • For example, Kowhai.

Fruit-covered seed

  • Remove the fruit from the seed by pushing through a fine sieve.
  • Lie the seed onto paper towel and blot off remaining fruit.
  • For example, Coprosma.

Note: there is no need to cold treat (stratify) seeds in Southland.

Sowing seeds

  1. Fill seed tray almost to the top with commercial seed raising mix (no weed seeds).
  2. Flatten the surface of the soil.
  3. Sow seeds onto the flattened surface.
  4. Cover with a layer of pea gravel – holds the seed down and helps retain moisture.
  5. Label with species name and date.
  6. Water the trays.
  7. Place in a protected area outside – protected from disturbance from cats, mice, etc.

Seed germination

Seeds will usually germinate in spring (September to October). Some large seeds, like miro, can take two seasons to germinate.

You can use heating to get seeds to germinate sooner. However, you’ll need a heated tunnelhouse to raise the seedlings in before the weather warms up. It’s best to follow nature and pot up your seedlings in spring.

Find out more

Contact us to find out more.