UNITED STATES—Deadheading conserves resources that would otherwise sustain production of seed. For species that bloom more than once, it promotes continued bloom. For others, it promotes healthier vegetative growth. Also, it inhibits proliferation of potentially invasive seed. It is neater anyway. However, several species might forego deadheading for seed collection.
Flowers that bloom only once for a brief season generate all their seed at the same time. Flowers that bloom for an extensive season generate seed for a more extensive season. Some seed is obtainable from ripe fruit. Some is obtainable from unharvested vegetable plants that go to seed. Seed collection involves various sources during various seasons.
Regardless of its season and source, most seed is too abundant for complete collection. A single fruiting vegetable, such as a true to type chile, provides more than enough seed. A few stalks of naked lady might provide more seed than one garden can accommodate. Wildflowers are an exception. Their seed collection is rarely too excessive to broadcast.
Seed collection is contrary to breeding.
Many species do not reliably generate viable seed, however. Some require pollination by a very specific pollinator that does not live here. Yuccas that are from Central America rely on moths that live only in Central America. Some bamboos generate seed only once in a century or so. Most hybrids are too genetically dysfunctional to produce any viable seed.
Hybrids that can generate viable seed are very unlikely true to type. In other words, their progeny will be very different from them. Such progeny tends to revert to a simpler or more primitive form. The same applies to progeny of cultivars of extensive breeding within one species. Genetic aberration, such as variegation, is likewise unlikely inheritable by seed.
To complicate seed collection, some species begin life with juvenile growth. Some might take several years to mature. Avocado seedlings initially grow very fast, and tall, without blooming. By the time they mature, bloom and produce fruit, such fruit can be too high to harvest. Trees from nurseries are fruitful lower only because of grafting with adult growth.
Highlight: Naked Lady
They can be quite a surprise when they bloom for late summer. The tops of their dormant bulbs previously seemed to be dead at the surface of the soil. Then, suddenly, their bare floral stems emerge to bloom without foliage. That is why Amaryllis belladonna is naked lady. Foliage grows a bit later in summer or autumn. It shrivels during late spring warmth.
Naked lady flowers stand about two feet tall, on simple green or brown stalks. Their mild fragrance is easy to miss. A profusion of bloom is only slightly fragrant during humid and warm weather. Their vividly pink color more than compensates. Fleshy seed that mature now that flowers are deteriorating are perishable. They prefer almost immediate sowing.
After naked lady flowers imitate lily flowers, their leaves will imitate lily of the Nile leaves. Naked lady and lily of the Nile are related, but neither are related to lily. The strap leaves of naked lady are more fragile than those of lily of the Nile. If damaged, they can lay flat for quite a while. After defoliation during spring, dormant bulbs are conducive to division. It might delay bloom for that year.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.