Growing Buzz Button Seeds

Buzz buttons (Spilanthes spp.) are a unique group of edible flowers that impart a tingling, buzzing sensation when eaten. Also called toothache plants, these cheery annuals are easy to grow from seed and make an interesting addition to any herb or flower garden. Read on for a complete overview on successfully growing buzz buttons from seed.

Buzz Buttons

Buzz buttons belong to the Spilanthes genus of plants in the Asteraceae (daisy) family. Several species within this genus are commonly referred to as buzz buttons, including Spilanthes acmella, Spilanthes oleracea, and Spilanthes americana. These plants are native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

The most commonly grown buzz button is Spilanthes acmella, which is native to the Amazon region of South America. This species produces yellow cone-shaped flowers with red or bronze centers. The leaves and flowers of S. acmella impart a strong tingling, numbing, and saliva-inducing sensation when eaten.

Other buzz button species like Spilanthes oleracea and Spilanthes americana offer similar sensory effects to S. acmella, just to a lesser degree. These species have more ornamental flowers in shades of yellow, gold, white, and red.

Unique Sensory Effects

The tingling buzz produced by buzz buttons is caused by bioactive alkaloids like spilanthol and acmellonate. These compounds interact with sensory receptors in the mouth to temporarily numb tissues and induce saliva production.

Eating too many buzz button flowers can overwhelm the senses, leading to tongue numbness, headaches, nausea, and excessive salivation. It’s best to start with just a flower or two to test your tolerance.

In small doses, the buzzing sensation can be quite pleasant and enjoyable. The effect only lasts for a minute or two before fading away. Some people liken it to carbonation or Pop Rocks candy.

Medicinal Uses

In addition to their unique sensory properties, buzz buttons also have a long history of medicinal use in their native regions. Traditional uses include:

  • Pain relief – especially for toothache and mouth pain
  • Cold sore treatment
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Insect repellent

Preliminary research has validated some of these traditional uses. Studies show buzz button extracts exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and insecticidal activities. The plant may also help relieve anxiety and stress.

Ornamental Value

With their compact size and cheery flowers, buzz buttons make a great ornamental addition to flower beds, borders, container gardens, and indoor plantings. They add pops of color and visual interest.

As edible flowers, they can also be used to garnish salads, desserts, and cocktails. Just be sure to remove the bitter green calyx before using the petals. A little bit goes a long way flavor-wise.

Now that you’re familiar with buzz buttons, let’s look at how to successfully grow them from seed.

Growing Conditions for Buzz Buttons

Buzz buttons thrive in warm weather and full sun. They are considered tender annuals in most regions, needing temperatures above 70°F to flourish. Here are the key conditions buzz buttons require:

  • Hardiness Zones – Perennial in zones 9-11. Grown as annuals in zones 8 and below.
  • Sun – Full sun is best, at least 6 hours per day.
  • Soil – Well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0-7.5. Loam, sandy loam, or sand.
  • Temperature – Above 70°F, ideally 75-85°F during the day. Do not tolerate frost.
  • Water – Keep soil moist but not waterlogged. Allow soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Fertilizer – Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. Go easy on nitrogen to prevent excessive leaf growth.
  • Pruning – Pinch off flowers to prolong harvest. Deadhead spent blooms.

Buzz buttons make great container plants. Choose at least a 12-inch diameter container with drainage holes using a quality potting mix. Bring containers indoors before first frost.

How to Grow Buzz Buttons from Seed

One of the easiest ways to grow buzz buttons is starting from seed. Here are some step-by-step tips:

1. Find Fresh Buzz Button Seeds

Purchase buzz button seeds from a reputable source. Recommended companies include:

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Strictly Medicinal Seeds
  • High Mowing Organic Seeds
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Look for fresh seeds packaged for the current year. Properly stored seeds remain viable for 1-3 years.

Popular varieties include Spilanthes oleracea, Spilanthes acmella (such as the cultivar ‘Toothache Plant’), and Spilanthes americana.

2. Start Seeds Indoors or Direct Sow

You can start buzz button seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last expected frost date. Or direct sow them into the garden after danger of frost has passed.

Starting indoors gives plants a head start on the growing season. Just make sure to harden off seedlings before transplanting them outside.

Use small pots or cell packs with seed starting mix. Sow 1-2 seeds per cell at a depth of 1⁄4 inch. Maintain a temperature around 70°F until sprouted.

For direct sowing, plant seeds 1⁄4 inch deep in prepared garden beds after the soil has warmed up to at least 65°F. Space seeds 12 inches apart.

3. Provide Warmth for Germination

Buzz button seeds germinate best at warm temperatures between 70-75°F. It takes 7-14 days for seedlings to emerge.

Use a heat mat or grow lights to maintain optimal germination temperatures if needed. Bottom heat works very well.

Keep seeds moist but not saturated during the germination period. As soon as sprouts appear, provide ample light and ventilation.

4. Help Seedlings Thrive

Once buzz button sprouts emerge, give them plenty of light and space. Supplement natural light with grow lights, keeping fixtures 2-4 inches above the plants.

Water regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not muddy. Let the surface dry out slightly between waterings.

When seedlings have 2-3 true leaves, thin them to the strongest plant per cell or pot. Transplant into larger containers as needed before moving outdoors.

Feed weekly with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. Monitor for pests like aphids or fungus gnats and treat any issues promptly.

5. Transplant Outdoors After Frost

Buzz buttons can be transplanted into the garden once nighttime temperatures stay above 50°F.

Give them full sun exposure and fertile, fast-draining soil enhanced with compost. Space plants 12-18 inches apart.

Water transplants frequently for the first week or two until they establish roots. Add an organic mulch to help retain moisture and stifle weeds.

6. Adjust Care for Growing Conditions

As the weather warms, your buzz buttons will start expanding quickly. Make sure to provide adequate water, nutrients, and space.

Pinch off any flowers at first to encourage leafy growth. The plants will bloom heavily later on.

Install stakes or trellising if needed to support the lush foliage and prevent plants from falling over.

In very hot, dry conditions provide afternoon shade and more frequent irrigation as needed. Grow in partial shade if temperatures exceed 85°F.

7. Harvest Flowers for Use

You can begin harvesting buzz button flowers about 2 months after sowing seeds.

Pick individual flowers or snip off entire flowering stems. Use scissors for clean cuts.

The fresh or dried flowers and leaves can be used for their sensory effects. Remove the green calyx before using as an edible garnish.

Time your harvests in the morning when sensory compounds are most concentrated. However, handle the plants as little as possible since the effects can be absorbed through skin contact.

That covers the basics of successfully growing buzz buttons from seed! Now let’s go over some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Buzz Buttons

Here are answers to some common buzz button growing questions:

How long do buzz buttons take to bloom from seed?

Expect flowers around 2 months (60 days) after sowing seed. Blooms will appear sooner if plants are started indoors.

What’s the best way to collect buzz button seeds?

Allow flowers to fade on the plant after blooming. Then harvest entire seed heads and place them in paper bags. When fully dry, rub the heads to separate the seeds.

Can you grow buzz buttons in partial shade?

While they prefer full sun, buzz buttons can tolerate partial shade of 4-6 hours per day. Just expect reduced flowering.

Is it better to start buzz buttons from seed or buy transplants?

Seeds are most economical and give you the widest variety options. But transplants are great if you get a late start on the growing season.

How tall do buzz buttons grow?

Most species reach 1-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Compact types like Spilanthes americana stay under 12 inches tall.

Should buzz buttons be mulched?

Yes, mulch helps retain soil moisture and reduces weeds. Use 2-3 inches of organic materials like grass clippings, straw, or shredded leaves.

Can buzz buttons be overwintered indoors?

Potted buzz buttons can be overwintered indoors in a sunny window. Provide grow lights to supplement natural light. Keep temperatures above 60°F.

Are buzz buttons deer resistant?

Deer tend to avoid these plants, making them a good option for gardens troubled by deer. Their strong sensory effects provide natural deterrence.

What causes leggy or stunted buzz button growth?

Insufficient light, excessive nitrogen fertilizer, overcrowding, and temperature extremes can all contribute to poor growth.

Enjoy Growing This Unique Plant

Add a new dimension to your herb and flower gardens by growing buzz buttons! These plants are easy to grow from seed and deliver novel sensory effects.

With a long history of ornamental and medicinal use, buzz buttons are definitely worth a spot in the garden. Just be conservative with how much you consume until you know your personal tolerance.

What other plants impart interesting sensations when eaten? Share your experiences growing and using buzz buttons and other fun edibles. The tingly, buzzing qualities of these flowers provide garden-fresh flair.