I have harvested seeds from Zinnia elegans and Dahlia variabilis and I don't know how to easily separate the seeds from the chaff. I have put them in a bag and shaked it hoping that the seeds will fall at the bottom, but only a few did.

What else can I try?

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  • 1
    I just pick up a few and rub them briskly between the palms of my hands, making sure my hands are completely dry beforehand. Bit messy, but providing the husks are dry enough, it works - I do it over a plate or something and then pick out the seeds. If the husks aren't completely dry and papery feeling, it won't work. Not very useful for plants with tiny, tiny seeds though!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:16
  • Good idea. The seeds are very dry, so it should work. Fortunately, small seeds like Celosia fall at the bottom.
    – Alina
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


Personally I would start by picking out the large debris with my hand. From there, I've seen people take the seeds and place them in a shallow dish, tilt the dish, and gentle blow the chaff away - this is called winnowing. There are also commercial seed sives that can the separating for you purchase, but I believe they are expensive. The are usually a series of mesh screens with openings decreasing in size. enter image description here

  • 1
    You can make these: window screen in a frame for the small ones 1gallon plastic buckets with 600 or so holes drilled in them for intermediate sizes. 1/4" screen mesh works as well. If seeds are round, yours' are not, they' roll down an inclined plane, while chaff will not. Seeds sometimes sink, while chaff usually floats. Chaff is usually less sturdy, so a food proc with a plastic bag can often turn it to dust without harming seeds. Pouring the mix onto a sheet and tossing it into the air repeatedly, letting the less dense chaff blow away has a long history for wheat chaff etc. separation. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:22

I'll post this as an answer because it is more of an answer than an update.

The easiest way of separating the seeds was rubbing them when dry in order to grind the chaff (as Bamboo says in her comment), then winnowing (as in Ben's answer that I will mark as accepted). For more round-ish seeds it worked well by improvising a sive from window screen (as in Wayfaring Stranger's comment).

The result looks like this:

enter image description here

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