Hybridizing is fun….
Sometimes too fun.
Since beginning this fun, but sometimes time consuming activity, I have come up with a lot of new daylilies, some that will hopefully be introduced before too long.
Besides those few select beauties a hybridizer also finds themself with a few problems; too many seeds and too many plants. A person can only take care of so many.
Some hybridizers simply throw them away and others, like me, can’t bear to ditch (literally) their babies. For this reason I have begun to sell them. Since doing this I am often asked; “What’s the best way to start a daylily seed?” In this post I hope to answer that question.
That said; there are many different ways to do things and some will recommend different methods. This is what works for me.
I will cover how to make the seeds in another post, and then there will probably have to be a post about the biggest job in hybridizing. How to keep track of what is what. Today I’m just talking about what to do with the seed.
So, you have your beautiful pods that ripen in fall. Let them dry almost all the way on the plant. The pod will turn brown but in some cases will still be slightly green when it starts to crack open. When it starts to open a little and you can begin to see the seeds, that is when you want to collect them.
Next you want to dry your seeds for storage. Don’t put them in a plastic bag as soon as you collect them. They will rot. I store them in envelopes (labeled of course) and I leave the tops open so that they can dry.
It doesn’t really matter that much when you start them. I generally do it when I have time, which is in the winter. When you start out your seeds will look like little shriveled raisins.
Choose what ever type of containers you like, but you want something where you can keep each variety separate. If you are getting one of my mixed color seed packs you can mix them all together. I use jelly jars just because the glass is easier to
keep clean. You want separate containers. I tried using a muffin tin once and they were hard to rinse.
You want to soak them in water until you see a little sprout coming out the end. After soaking for a little while you will see that the seeds begin to plump up and start to get pointy on one end.
I put a little squirt of hydrogen peroxide in each jar. I read about this in a magazine back in the 70s and have used this technique ever since. It is supposed to increase the oxygen in the water and prevent mold.
If the water becomes cloudy change it and rinse the seeds. I use a little kitchen strainer for this. Put in a little more peroxide when you refill it.
If a seed becomes moldy feel it. Sometimes you can just wipe the mold off with your fingers, if it is firm it is still good. Give it a gentle squeeze. If it pops it is done for.
Some seeds will sprout after a couple weeks and some will still sprout after months. It’s hard to stay interested in them for that long but if you do you will be rewarded with a higher percentage of germination. Your little sprouted seeds will look like this.
At this point you can take them out of the the soil and plant them. I usually plant “siblings” (seeds from the same pod) in the same 4 inch pot (labeled of course). Not all of the little plants will emerge. You didn’t do anything wrong. I use toothpicks so that I know how many seeds I put in each pot.
Some seedlings will do better than others. It’s natural selection. You should note that I hybridize both miniature/dwarf daylilies that are diploids as well as great big tetraploids. For this reason some plants will be way bigger than others. The little ones are good too. They will probably turn into a miniature daylily. You will see that some seeds are bigger than others for this reason, too.
Take care of your seedlings in the pots for a while. If they get too big you can separate them into their own pots (labeling of course).
When you plant them in the ground depends on what kind of a gardener you are. If your garden is fairly weed free (especially grass, because they look like grass) and if you are good at remembering things then go ahead and plant them that first year. They are perfectly hardy. If you tend to have weeds and grass in your garden and have too many things to take care of, then consider wintering them over in the pots that first year. You will of course have to water them regularly for that year.
Not all seedlings will survive living in the pots. Again, you didn’t do anything wrong. The strongest, best seedlings will survive and will also do better in your garden than if you planted all the weak ones. This one was planted in my garden last year. As you can see, even nice plants can try to move in on your seedlings.
Good luck! I hope you enjoy the process as well as the beautiful one of a kind plants that you will grow.