Seed Propagation

Course CodeBHT237
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow Seedlings

This course assumes general foundation knowledge of plant propagation. For those with industry or significant amateur experience, the course may contain some sections that are little more than revision, but for anyone with minimal or no knowledge of seed propagation, some additional reading may be required in parts in order to gain optimum benefit from the course.

Seed propagation isn't always straight forward! Some plants may germinate and grow with ease, but for others, the seed and seedlings must be handled in a very particular way to ensure not only germination, but also survival of the seedling. This is a course for:
  • Nursery Professionals and nursery workers
  • Seed company staff, plant breeders
  • Environmental or revegetation officers
  • Anyone else interested in developing a deeper understanding of seed propagation.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • scope
    • open ground propagation
    • controlled environment propagation
  2. Seed Botany
    • anatomy
    • physiology
    • pollination
    • hybridisation
    • genetic purity, etc.
  3. Seed Sources
    • selection
    • collection
    • timing
    • wild collecting
  4. Seed Storage
    • treatments
    • cleaning
    • drying
    • storage
    • disease control
    • germination testing
  5. Dormancy
    • breaking dormancy
  6. Germinating
    • annuals
    • perennials
    • vegetables
  7. Propagating selected Woody Species
  8. Direct Seeding
    • grasses
    • woody species
    • revegetation projects, etc.
  9. Seedling Management


  • Discuss the nature and scope of commercial seed propagation.
  • Explain the botanical characteristics of seed and the processes that occur when a seed germinates.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for harvesting different seeds in different situations.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for different types of seeds following harvest in order to sustain viability.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for breaking dormancy in order to initiate germination with a range of different seeds.
  • Determine how to sow and germinate seed of commonly grown herbaceous plants including vegetables, annuals and perennials.
  • Determine appropriate propagation techniques for a range of woody plants including trees, shrubs, ground covers and climbers.
  • Determine propagation and plant establishment strategies for developing a variety of different types of plantings through direct seeding onto sites where germinated plants will remain permanently in the position where the seed germinates.
  • Manage germinated seedlings as they develop in a way that will optimise the survival rate.

How to Collect Tree Seed for Propagation
Seed may be grown on "stock plants" on a nurseries own property, or may be collected from plants growing in gardens or the wild. Always seek permission before collecting seed from private or public land.
  • Find a site: this may be as simple as keeping your eyes open or by seeking advice from local forestry or conservation bodies or departments.
  • Take necessary equipment:  plastic bags; writing equipment, labels, or small cards to write collection details on. For larger scale collecting you might need handsaws, long handled loppers, tarpaulins, a step ladder and more.
  • For tall plants you are best to obtain seed from commercial collectors. They generally use equipment such as cherry pickers, climbing equipment, or even high-powered rifles to shoot down branches from high in trees.
  • Use gloves when harvesting. Many native plants have prickly or thorny foliage, and some can cause skin allergies, many will have resident populations of spiders, ants, etc. Use common sense when choosing which clothes you are going to wear. Long trousers, long sleeved shirts, and tough durable footwear are recommended. Safety helmets might be necessary if there is a risk of heavy limbs falling.
  • While many seed pods can be readily picked off the parent plant without damaging the plant some are a lot tougher to remove. Avoid pulling or ripping these off. Use sharp secateurs or similar hand tools. This will reduce the likelihood of damage to the parent plants.
  • Always use sharp, and sterilised (pest and disease free) hand tools. A small container of a disinfectant (eg. bleach, methylated spirits) can be carried to dip or wash tools in regularly.
  • Avoid harvesting seed pods when they are wet. This will reduce the likelihood of losses due to fungal problems.
  • Avoid damaging other plants. In your desire to get to a particular plant you could easily trample on, or break branches off other plants. Be observant, take your time, and carefully pick where you place your feet, and you will minimise the likelihood of causing damage to other plants.
  • Always label each batch of seed you collect, when you collect it. Information should include such things as the species collected, the date collected, who collected it, where it was collected. This will enable others who use the seed at a later date to be sure of what seed you have, how old it is, where to go if you want more, and who to ask if you want more information.

Selecting Plants to Collect From

  • Collect your seeds from healthy, vigorous trees of desirable form, or having desirable characteristics (eg. flower size and colour).
  • Where possible avoid collecting from isolated specimens, as self-pollination generally yields seed of low vigour, and a limited gene pool.
  • To promote biodiversity take roughly equal amounts of seed from a variety of well spaced, desirable plants. Ideally only harvest a little from each plant, particularly when there are lots of that particular species available. As a rough guide no more than 10 percent of available seed should be taken from each plant. This will ensure that plenty of seed is left on the plant to maximise the survival of the species locally, and helps ensure you have as wide a gene pool as possible in the seed you have collected.
  • If you are quite sure that all of the plants you have collected from in a particular location are from the same species then you can mix all of that seed together. If you are not sure then keep each batch of seed separate (and separately labelled).

Knowing when to harvest seed is one of the most difficult tasks you will face when collecting seeds. The time taken for seed to reach a harvestable stage from flowering will vary considerably from species to species, and can range from a month or two up to several years.

Experience plays a very important role.

You may choose to study this course so that you can propagate plants from seed; but it can be equally valuable for anyone who works, or hopes to work in the seed industry.
Seed suppliers can be small or large businesses.
Some of the largest seed supply companies employ many hundreds, if not thousands of people, breeding, growing, harvesting and marketing everything from lawn seed to flower and vegetable seeds. Many other seed suppliers are small family businesses, that collect, process and supply seeds, perhaps selling mail order, or maybe supplying bulk quantities of seed to larger companies.  
Some types of plant nurseries specialize in growing plants from seed; and this course is a great foundation for operating or working in that type of nursery. Other nurseries (eg. fruit tree nurseries), may grow lots of seedlings, but seed propagation might only be part of what they do. 



  • Nursery Professionals and nursery workers
  • Seed company staff, plant breeders
  • Environmental or revegetation officers
  • Anyone else interested in developing a deeper understanding of seed propagation.

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