Lilies forum: Newbie Question

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Name: Jill
Weatherby, Missouri (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Birds Pollen collector Plant and/or Seed Trader Farmer Daylilies
Irises Region: Missouri Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Dayjillymo
Nov 14, 2013 12:05 PM CST
I have lily seeds that I collected this summer - and I don't know quite how to tell if they are viable or not. I read on here someplace that a bright light will help show an embryo - and it would appear that maybe 30% or fewer show any shadows inside. Is that common?

These are primarily Oriental lilies, and the pods were just bee pods - nothing deliberately hybridized. I've been reading the thread about starting lilies from seeds, but you folks didn't start with the basics! Whistling How do I "candle" the seeds (what do you really call that process?) and how would I plant them - depth, numbers of seeds, timing, etc.

I told you I was a newbie! Smiling
Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Lilies Seed Starter Pollen collector Bee Lover Region: Wisconsin
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Roosterlorn
Nov 14, 2013 10:16 PM CST
I see you hybridize daylilies so I'm going to assume you're already know all the basics of seed harvesting and care. But I want to stress with lily seeds the time interval from when you pick them until you store them is critical. Lilium seed loses viability rapidly at room temperature but will last for many years frozen, or until ready to use. So they should be frozen as soon as they are sorted by 'candling'. Yes, that's what sorting seeds with the aid of a light source is called. With lilium, we're looking for a somewhat comma shaped and somewhat transparent embryo for the seed to be good. Sometimes a cross pollination will result varying degrees of fertilization, resulting in a lot of chafe with no embro which can be easily sorted out with light. Sometimes cross pollination will result in seeds with embryos but they are black and dead. And sometimes certain crosses may produce embryos that are very hard to detect. So, with all the possible variations that might occur within even the same pod, the aid of a light source is invaluable. And that sorting process is called candling.

Lily seeders usually like to plant the seeds in late January through February to obtain as much bulb growth as possible the first season called 'n'. That may sound a bit early, but by doing so, it is possible to get a flower by (n +2). The container commonly used is a quart size freezer bag filled about two thirds full of a media mix made up of two thirds potting soil and one third coarse sand with some ground (raw) sphagnum moss mixed in.The media base potting soil and sand should be pasteurized at a mix temperature a little above 140'F for 30 minutes. A few holes should be poked in bottom of the baggie (tooth pick works great). The media should be damp. Usually about 15 seeds can be planted in a baggie, and to make it easy, the bag can be held open by inserting a couple wooden skewers along the sides. Once the seeds are placed, gently hand sift about three sixteenths to a quarter inch of the same media mix to cover the seeds. Remove the skewers and gently fold but do not seal the top of the bag. Place in a dark room where temperature is a fairly constant 65 to 70' F. Germination usually will occur within 15 to 30 days for most common lilies. Most common lilies are epigeal germination type meaning Immediate.

Once sprouted and 'up' and resemble a bobby pin, the wooden skewers can be reinserted to hold the baggies open and placed under a grow light inside until it's warm enough to placed outside to harden up. Watering and feeding is usually done from the bottom. Plastic shoe boxes work great because they can hold up to 3 baggies. Lilies are grown in the baggies the first summer, then in the fall the bag is cut down the sides and the clump is then planted into a larger container--usually a pot about 6 inches deep. These new seedlings will need a little extra protection the first winter. Storing them in an unheated garage works great but burying the pot sideways in the soil outside with some coarse mulch will also work. In the Spring they can be brought out as soon as the danger of frost is past. Generally these seedlings are allowed to grow in the pots a second season, called (n +1) at which time the bulbs will be about the size of a golf ball and considered safe to set out that fall in October. However it should be noted that many seeders will set their seedlings out the first spring successfully as well.

Edit Added: A good example of a light source for candling would be a tracing light box. A kids tracing box found in hobby shops will work for most applications.

I hope this helps some. I'm sure you'll have more questions, so don't hesitate to ask. I know that Seeding Thread is long, but there's a lot of good info in there, including pictures of seed with embryos and so on.

[Last edited by Roosterlorn - Nov 15, 2013 8:12 AM (+)]
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Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Lilies Seed Starter Pollen collector Bee Lover Region: Wisconsin
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Roosterlorn
Nov 14, 2013 10:56 PM CST
Here's the tracing light box I use for candling.


Thumb of 2013-11-15/Roosterlorn/246cda



Thumb of 2013-11-15/Roosterlorn/eef539



Thumb of 2013-11-15/Roosterlorn/8d1822

Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 14, 2013 11:15 PM CST
Good explanations, Lorn, but I don't agree that Lilium seed loses viability rapidly. No doubt there could be exceptions, but in general, in my opinion, as long as the seed is completely dry and not exposed to high humidity, 1-3 years at room temp should still yield satisfactory germination. In addition, many times I have IE species seed coming up in the second, third and fourth season.

Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
Image
Leftwood
Nov 14, 2013 11:17 PM CST
My toy tracer is vintage, circa 1965.

Thumb of 2013-11-15/Leftwood/1266c7

Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Lilies Seed Starter Pollen collector Bee Lover Region: Wisconsin
Image
Roosterlorn
Nov 15, 2013 7:13 AM CST
Hi Rick: regarding the seed viability, I think you're speaking from the position of a well seasoned seeder with extensive hands on experience. I think the general rule of thumb of 30 days maximum and that's what I use around here if nothing else, the sake of method consistency and to avoid sloppiness on my behalf Rolling on the floor laughing It's a pretty safe rule of thumb, too; certainly not a harmful one. As beginning seeders progress, they'll learn how to apply flexibility to the general guidelines. I agree that many lily seeds will remain viable for quite some time when properly harvested and stored in a cool, dark location with a pretty constant humidity of 40% or so. But, to be honest, I just didn't feel comfortable about passing that information out to a 'newbie' seeder. Not yet. Smiling
Name: Jill
Weatherby, Missouri (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Birds Pollen collector Plant and/or Seed Trader Farmer Daylilies
Irises Region: Missouri Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Image
Dayjillymo
Nov 15, 2013 8:48 AM CST
Thank you both for the great information - and the photos! I'm pushing the 30 day window for my collected seeds, so I'll try to candle and freeze this weekend. Yes, I do hybridize daylilies, so it feels like a natural progression to work with Lilium varieties too. I am at the "pretty face" stage, so I have lots to learn, but it will be enjoyable for sure.

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