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 species||Common name||Seed type||Colour when ripe||Collection 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.
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.
- Rub sand in with the seeds to separate them – making them easier to sow.
- For example, Pittosporums.
- Cover with boiling water and let cool – this softens the hard exterior and aids germination.
- For example, Kowhai.
- 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.
- Fill seed tray almost to the top with commercial seed raising mix (no weed seeds).
- Flatten the surface of the soil.
- Sow seeds onto the flattened surface.
- Cover with a layer of pea gravel – holds the seed down and helps retain moisture.
- Label with species name and date.
- Water the trays.
- Place in a protected area outside – protected from disturbance from cats, mice, etc.
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.