How to save Lettuce Seeds | Simple Guide to Collecting Seeds

Last updated:10/30/21

Have you always wanted to know how to save lettuce seeds?  Did you just harvest romaine lettuce from your garden?  Do you want to continue to grow the lettuce that you just picked?  It is so easy to collect and save lettuce seeds that you will be amazed that you didn’t start sooner.

The summer days are much longer like the days of June & July creep in.  All of a sudden the leaves start to taste a little bitter & the lettuce plant may bolt.  Well, it is time for the lettuce plant to start reproducing itself.

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The steps on how to save lettuce seeds could not be any easier.  You need to first look for the seed heads to form.  There will be a long stalk that will extend up from the plant.  It will start to flower after it has formed.  

The flower heads will soon start to form white fluffy chaff much like you see dandelion flowers.  This is when you want to look for signs that the lettuce flower head is starting to dry out.  You can pick the heads once they have dried. 

You will rub each flower head until it crumbles.  The seeds will be small long pods that you can separate from the chaff using various methods.  You can plant these now or store them for next season.

You are in luck because this guide will share with you how to save lettuce seeds.  We will take you through all the steps so you can harvest and store lettuce seeds for next year or season.  This will help you save money, so you don’t have to purchase another packet of lettuce seeds. (Well..we all know what happens when the seed catalogs come in..)

Benefits of saving lettuce seeds for next year or season:

You might be thinking why would anyone want to save lettuce seeds? Here are a few reasons why saving lettuce seeds:

  • You save some green money at the store for your lettuce greens.  Sure, lettuce prices are not exactly crazy high.  You may spend anywhere from $3-$4 for each lettuce head ora small package of greens.  Surprisingly though, check out the organic selections.  They can be sometimes as high as $5.  It is not complicated to grow lettuce organically.  Seed packets start at $1-$2 for lettuce seeds.  The savings adds up after that.
  • Nutrition is all about color and variety.  Saving lettuce seeds will allow you to make your own blend of the best green for your plate.  You can make your own salad blend and add to it each year.  It couldn’t be any easier to save lettuce seeds for this reason alone.
  • Survival of the seed varieties is paramount these days.  Science has come a long way to make better producing, disease resistant plants.
saving lettuce seeds

Saving open-pollinated and heirloom varieties of lettuce seeds will ensure that we keep our heritage alive and can pass these on to our future generations.  A legacy of lettuce leaves has a nice ring to it.

  • Assemble a catalog of lettuce seeds.  Wouldn’t it be cool to come out to your porch and look at the different pots of lettuce plants and say.. “Hmm, which kind of lettuce do I want with my steak today?”  One plant can produce quite a bit of lettuce plants that can be saved each time very easily.
  • You do your part for the earth.  Hear me out on this as this sounds a little far fetched.  You are much better as using your resources than some large scale agriculture farms.  Sure, Big ag does their best, but when you scale up any operation there will still be a waste of resources.  You may water your plants with rain barrels or use your grass and leave clippings as compost.  You use fewer resources bringing from the farm to the table.  All of these add up in using our resources wisely.
  • Successful plantings will produce much better offspring.  This means the seeds can slowly develop resistance to local diseases and insects over time.

Some things to be aware of prior collecting and saving lettuce seeds

  • You want to make sure you are growing heirloom or open-pollinated lettuce seeds.  This ensures that you won’t get some hybrid pollination.  you may be able to still collect seeds and grow them, but the chances of it being the pure breed lettuce variety you started with is low.  Here is a good example of an open pollinated variety: Parris Island Romaine Lettuce Seeds
  • There may be some cross-pollination if you have several different varieties of lettuce located close to each.  The bees and other hairy pollinators can distribute different lettuce plant pollen.  oh..that means Buttercrunch Romaine Lettuce.
  • You can go about planting lettuce in a way that will produce the best offspring.  Trust me it is not that hard.  Lettuce plants are one of those plants that can flourish without much care, unlike some other vegetables.
  • The only thing you may want to do is keep the different varieties separated if you want to save them that way.   Most of the head lettuce varieties are best to be grown this way, but the leaf salad bowl varieties are best grown in a mix.
  • Keep in mind that you can always let a few plants go to seeds by not harvesting them.  Experiment with different ways of growing these and see how each plant forms heads.

When is it time to harvest lettuce seeds

This depends on the variety of lettuce.  Some varieties of lettuce will be less heat tolerant meaning they will start to flower as soon as it gets warmer in the summer months.  Really, it is due to the lengthening of the days which coincides with the warmer summer months in the northern hemisphere.

Lettuce seeds packets may highlight the lettuce varieties that are slow to bolt

 This means that they will stick around a little longer than some plants.  It is good to have a variety of lettuce plants in your garden for this very reason.

There will be a point that the lettuce plant will start to send up a long stalk from the center of the plant.  

The lettuce leaves may start to taste a little bitter because of the plants energy shifts from producing leaves to forming its offspring.

There are some head lettuce varieties that may need some help to form the stalk by slitting the top of the head, so do your research on the particular variety you for more details.

The flower head will begin to flower.  

lettuce seed saving

They typically form in heads of 10-25 individual florets with each seeds being encapsulated in one floret.  Usually, they all open at the same time in the morning hours for the pollinators.

Steps on how to save lettuce seeds:

  1. Look for the lettuce flowers that are white and look nice and fluffy.  (think of the dandelion weeds you may see on lawns). It is ideal to select the lettuce flower heads that are really dry.
  2. Next, you want to pull the actual lettuce flower pods off.  The lettuce flower heads are ready if just the pod comes off and not the stalk.  This means they are ready to store.  Pull them off and put in a bag or some container for the next steps.
  3. Crush and or roll the collection of seeds pods in a bag.  This will separate the seeds from the pods.
  4. Put all the seeds on a plate of some kind.  It helps if you have a dark plate so you can see the seeds much better.
  5. Gently blow the chaff or the seed pod remains.  You can vibrate the plate to help the chaff get airborne while you blow.  You could also use a fan on low setting and put your plate in front of it.  The viable lettuce seeds should remain on the plate and any dead seeds and lettuce pod chaff should blow off.  You are left with lettuce seeds that can be planted right away or stored for future plantings next year.

Here is a video that shows you the exact steps of how to save lettuce seeds:

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, learning how to save lettuce seeds is a simple and easy process.  You can learn to save lettuce seeds with your next batch of lettuce plants.  You may want to start collecting and saving other vegetable seeds if you found this easy to do.  Check out our lettuce mega guide found here.

Green Thumb Gardener
saving seeds for lettuce
Jeremy Starke

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