Annuals forum: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias.

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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Mar 28, 2015 9:29 PM CST
Hello everyone,

I have grown zinnias off and on, at one time or the other, pretty much all of my life. I think I was in the sixth grade when I grew my first little zinnia garden, as a kid on a farm in northwest Oklahoma. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

But it wasn't until 2005 when "the spirit moved me" to cross a scabiosa flowered zinnia with a cactus flowered zinnia, just out of curiosity about what I might get. I wasn't expecting anything much -- the scabiosa flowered blooms were only a little more than an inch across, and the cactus flowered parents were rather run-of-the-mill cactus zinnias. But to my surprise, I got some pretty unusual results.



The quality of that picture leaves something to be desired. In my defense, in 2005 I did not have a digital camera but I did have a Sony Digital 8 camcorder, so in order to take still pictures I would take a few seconds of video and then look through it for a reasonably good frame to use as my still picture. I used software to convert from video to still with as much quality as possible. This was another scabi-cactus hybrid that I really liked. Its enormous crested center reminded me of a sunflower.

Thumb of 2015-03-29/ZenMan/9a92e2

This was another result of that cross. Its flower form reminded me of a marigold.

Thumb of 2015-03-29/ZenMan/5e1012

Those three zinnias, and a few other of my scabiosa x cactus hybrids, were totally unlike any zinnia I had seen before, and I was pretty sure you couldn't buy anything like them in a seed packet. I was amazed that I had some zinnias unlike anything that was available. I was hooked on breeding zinnias by that. That Winter I ordered a lot of zinnia seeds to make more crosses. I realized I would never be able to make all of the possible crosses. But I was committed to the hobby.

In subsequent messages here in this message thread I will bring you up to date on how my zinnia hobby has progressed in the intervening years. And where I am trying to go with it. And I will attempt to answer any questions you may have, and offer advice about zinnias in general.

I also welcome your comments on any subject remotely related to zinnias. More later.

ZM
Name: Pat Barlow
Apple Valley, California (Zone 8b)
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dragonfetti
Mar 29, 2015 7:28 PM CST
Love them! Hurray! I always loved zinnias although I usually have a hard time growing them. My Mom used to have a bed on the edge of the driveway of the plain daisy like ones but in a multitude of colors and I always thought how pretty they looked. I started several kinds this year and I am looking forward to them filling the flower beds this summer. I'll be keeping watch for your pictures and posts!
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Mar 30, 2015 9:58 AM CST
Hi Pat, Welcome!

I'm glad you like zinnias. We are just getting started here in this message thread, so I will start off with a semi-random subject. I have liked the idea of zinnias that have two or more colors on each petal for many years, but years ago there weren't any really good ones in that category. I grew the Navajo strain, and by the time I decided to breed zinnias there were a couple of bicolor/tricolor strains, Merry-Go-Round and Carousel. Some people said they were just the same strain being sold under different names and that may have been technically true.

But I have found that even the same strain produced by different growers, or even the same grower with seed fields in different locations, produce different results. Each zinnia field is a separate source, with the bees pollinating and inter-pollinating the zinnia specimens in that field. We don't really count on it, but a certain percentage of the zinnias in a mixed color seed packet are F1 hybrids, courtesy of the bees.

Of course, many of those F1 hybrids may not be very exciting with, say, a yellow zinnia crossed with a different yellow zinnia. In your garden you just see a yellow zinnia and, if you like it and decide to save seeds from it, you might not be aware that you are saving seeds from an F1 hybrid.

I mentioned the Merry-Go-Rounds and Carousels, but in that beginning phase of my zinnia hobby I also grew a bicolor/tricolor Canadian strain of zinnias called Zig Zag. This is a picture of one of my favorite Zig Zags. (You can see a bigger version of all of the pictures shown here in All Things Plants by just clicking on the picture. You can return to normal by clicking the little arrow in the lower righthand corner of the big picture. You can view a less cluttered version of the big picture by clicking your F11 key, and you can click it again to undo its effect.)
Thumb of 2015-03-30/ZenMan/298532
That zinnia was unusual in that it had wide spoon-shaped petals very similar to the California Giants strain of zinnias. Unfortunately the Zig Zag strain of zinnias was discontinued only a very few years after that picture was taken. But the Whirligig strain was introduced, and it was in my opinion the best yet of the bicolor/tricolor zinnias. I'll talk about the Whirligigs in a subsequent message. More later. If you have any questions or comments, I will be glad to respond.

ZM
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Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Mar 31, 2015 4:45 PM CST
I grow the Whirlygig every year! Love it!
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
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ZenMan
Apr 1, 2015 10:15 AM CST
Hi Arlene, Welcome!

If you just save seeds from your favorite Whirligigs, you will be well on your way to a better Whirligig display, and that gives you a very easy entry into breeding your own zinnias.

I think that Whirligigs are an effective component of any zinnia breeding program, because the strain has so much natural variation due to its interspecific hybrid origins. Seed packet pictures, or catalog pictures, usually just show 5 or 6 different samples, but Whirligigs are capable of hundreds of different looks. There are many variations on the "white tips on red petals" look.
Thumb of 2015-04-01/ZenMan/9b5d36
This is yet another example.
Thumb of 2015-04-01/ZenMan/f8864e
And yet another white-on-red Whirligig.
Thumb of 2015-04-01/ZenMan/9ab403
Notice the "toothy" petal tips on that one. Since Whirligigs can involve all of the zinnia colors, they can show many color combinations. Whirligigs can be crossed with other zinnias to yield some really interesting results. More later. I am planting some zinnias indoors today to set outside after the danger of frost is over.

ZM
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Name: Nancy
West Central Wisconsin on the (Zone 5a)
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lilyfan
Apr 11, 2015 10:08 AM CST
ZenMan..your zinnias are awesome! I think I need to try this! I have been breeding daylilies for about 15 yrs now and so enjoy seeing what the beautiful results will be. Question: do you ever get any 'dogs'..I am thinking you must and that you just cull them..correct?

I just started this thread so not sure if you showed any photos of how you actually go about breeding them...if not, can you post some photos or directions about when to breed etc. ?
Thanks much!
Lilyfan
PS..here's a photo of my daylily field with the hybrids I have had a hand in creating...
Thumb of 2015-04-11/lilyfan/95b67d


Thumb of 2015-04-11/lilyfan/8c9ebd

Enjoying God's creation, one leaf at a time

blog: [url=www.gardensandcastles.blogspot.com]www.gardensandcastles.blogspot.com[/url]
Name: carol
lockwood missouri (Zone 6b)
Region: Missouri Irises
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wheresmy70cuda
Apr 12, 2015 12:01 AM CST
Hi ZenMan,
I grow zinnias every year and i would love to know how and when to breed them. It sounds great to be able to do this and see what happens, could be very interesting.
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Apr 13, 2015 4:33 PM CST
Hi Nancy, Welcome!

lilyfan said: Question: do you ever get any 'dogs'..I am thinking you must and that you just cull them..correct?


Yes, I get plenty of "dogs" and lots more that are just run-of-the-mill. In order to make reasonably fast progress, I cull very heavily. Sometimes as many as 90% to 95% of a bed will be pulled up or snipped off at ground level. That leaves more space for the "good" specimens, and makes room for planting some new seeds.

My outdoor zinnia garden is laid out like a trial garden, with many rather smallish 6' x 30' beds, separated by 4'-wide paths for easy accessibility. Each bed contains 4 rows of zinnias, spaced 16 inches apart. The trial garden layout is suitable for me, because essentially all of my zinnias are "on trial".

lilyfan said: I just started this thread so not sure if you showed any photos of how you actually go about breeding them...if not, can you post some photos or directions about when to breed etc. ?


I haven't showed any photos about zinnia breeding techniques in this thread yet, but I will in subsequent messages. (I did cover the cross-pollination techniques somewhat in the "My encounter with a "star-tipped" mutant zinnia" thread. ) Incidentally, you have done some great work with lilies.

Compared to breeding lilies (or iris or daylilies or other perennials), zinnia breeding goes much faster. Their seedlings bloom in only 6 to 7 weeks from planting, and set growable seeds in only 3 to 4 weeks. "Fat" green zinnia seeds contain a fully developed embryo, and can be planted immediately. If you are really in a hurry, you can remove the embryos from the seeds and just plant the embryos. I and other hobbyists have done that. So if you have a reasonably long growing season, you can get two generations of zinnias outdoors in a single year.

I also grow some zinnias indoors during the Winter, which gives me another two generations. Indoor zinnia growing has its challenges, so I don't recommend it for the casual hobbyist.

But even a casual approach to the hobby can produce 2 generations in each year, which is much faster than with most ornamentals. I can't really address your question adequately in a single message, but I will cover some details in subsequent messages.

The first step in breeding zinnias is to purchase a selection of commercial zinnias and start them. There is a wide variety of zinnias available commercially, and if you have some general goals in mind, that can serve as a guide in selecting which zinnia cultivars to start with. More later. And I welcome more questions from you.

ZM
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Apr 13, 2015 4:57 PM CST
Hi Carol, Welcome!

wheresmy70cuda said: I grow zinnias every year and i would love to know how and when to breed them. It sounds great to be able to do this and see what happens, could be very interesting.


I hope to lay out the essentials of breeding zinnias for fun in subsequent messages in this thread. Since you already grow zinnias, you can start breeding them now, by deciding on what you would like to see in the zinnias that you breed. For a comprehensive selection of zinnia varieties, check out the Hazzards online listing.

http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Scr...

Just enter the word "zinnia" (without the quote marks) in the Search box at the upper right-hand corner of their web page. That will bring up the first of many pages of zinnia offerings.

If you are like me, you will change your mind from time to time, depending on what you see in the zinnias that you grow. But that can be fun, too.

ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Apr 29, 2015 9:21 AM CST
Are you the same member on daves garden with the zinnia breeding thread? Anyway, amazing work, but how do you keep up with the breeding and keeping the pollen pure and saving seed it must be a lot of work, do you have help, or a greenhouse?
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Apr 30, 2015 12:24 PM CST
Hi Keith, Welcome!

I am the same member on Dave's Garden with a zinnia breeding thread in the Hybridizing forum. I also have such a zinnia breeding thread in Garden Web's Annuals forum.

I don't have a greenhouse, but I have an indoor growing setup in the utility room in our basement. I am just now transitioning to outdoor growing. Day before yesterday I planted a bed of Whirligigs in our south garden. I will be working on a second bed today.

Zinnia pollen keeps for only an hour or so after you pick it, and it lasts about half a day on the zinnia bloom. So I usually use the zinnia pollen within a few minutes of when I pick it. So keeping the pollen pure is not an issue. Outdoors, getting to the pollen before the bees get to it is an issue. So I do most of my outdoor pollination in early, mid, or late morning. Occasionally a little in early afternoon. I very rarely put a "hair net" on a zinnia bloom to keep the bees off of it. It has to be a very special bloom to warrant that attention.

Saving seed is not a lot of work, but shucking the seedheads and manually picking out the good seeds is a bit tedious. But I rather enjoy doing it. Occasionally you will see some really strange looking zinnia seeds, and sometimes they produce some unusual zinnia plants.

Well, I am off to work on that zinnia seed bed.

ZM
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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Region: United States of America Winter Sowing Plays in the sandbox Birds Native Plants and Wildflowers Tomato Heads
Vegetable Grower Garden Photography Hybridizer Spiders! Annuals Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
keithp2012
May 26, 2015 9:17 AM CST
Did you create a Variegated leaf cultivar yet?
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
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ZenMan
May 27, 2015 10:51 AM CST
Hi Keith,

No, I haven't, and that is not one of my goals. To tell the truth, I am not a fan of variegated leaved anything. To me, the absence of chlorophyll in a leaf is a defect. I do like the color patterns of coleus, though.

ZM
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Jul 26, 2015 9:33 PM CST
Hi all,

It is hot and humid here in east central Kansas. I think my zinnias like this weather better than I do. I am growing a number of commercial zinnia varieties to add to my genetic mix. I am growing Whirligigs and Burpeeanas from Stokes Seeds, and those seeds were produced by a grower in Tanzania. I am also growing Giants of California from Eden Seeds and Benary's Giants (I got those from Johnny's Selected Seeds). I intend to make crosses between selected specimens from those commercial varieties and some of my selected recombinant.

I grew some zinnias indoors during the winter, and this is an indoor zinnia that I referred to as "Bed Head" because of the tousled look of its petal arrangement. As always, you can see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, and for a somewhat larger version still, hit your F11 key to hide your browser's heading material. You can get your browser headings back by hitting the F11 key again. Scroll to lower righthand corner of the big picture and click on the arrow there to close the picture and return you to normal viewing.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/cb4c36

This is a recombinant specimen growing in my zinnia patch now, that has a similar tousled petal arrangement.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/d01489

I have been trying to cross my Razzle Dazzle strain of zinnias with larger zinnias, with the goal of increasing the size of the Razzle Dazzles. This is one of my current Razzle Dazzle zinnias.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/d2f5cd

My crosses between "regular" big zinnias and Razzle Dazzles don't yield hybrids that look like they might have something like a Razzle Dazzle as a parent. Instead the RD genes cause odd variations to the flower form of the big zinnia, like the Bed Head look. Sometimes the effect is rather extreme, like this example.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/6ce67d

And sometimes the effect is quite subtle, like in this recombinant.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/314ffc

I rather like the colors and flower form of that specimen. It reminds me somewhat of the flower form of my zinnias that I refer to as "Aster Flowered". This was one of my Aster Flowered zinnias in a previous year.



The Aster Flowered zinnias are characterized by long somewhat narrow petals, somewhat loosely spaced. They arose from crosses between cactus flowered zinnias and Whirligigs. I named my Razzle Dazzle strain after the Gaillardia strain by the same name, which has similar looking blooms. This is a picture of one of my zinnias, but it could just as well be a picture of a Razzle Dazzle Gaillardia.

Thumb of 2015-07-27/ZenMan/f24d42

Well, I just wanted to reestablish communications about my zinnia breeding project. I would be having a lot more fun with it if it weren't so hot and humid. More later.

ZM
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Name: Judy
Simpsonville SC (Zone 7b)
Plant and/or Seed Trader Peonies Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I helped beta test the first seed swap
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SCButtercup
Jul 31, 2015 9:21 PM CST
Had great luck with zahara sunburst, a low growing zinnia with tons of flowers. Is it worth growing the seeds even tho this is a hybrid?

[Last edited by SCButtercup - Jul 31, 2015 9:22 PM (+)]
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Aug 1, 2015 12:21 PM CST
Hi Judy,

" Is it worth growing the seeds even tho this is a hybrid? "

Definitely. The variety was created by hybridization, but its seeds are now commercially produced by open pollination. So I think you will be very pleased with the results of using seeds saved from your Zahara Sunburst. They should be the same as your originals. Even if you have other Zaharas around and bees do some cross pollination for you, the results should be very similar, and you might not even notice the accidental hybrids.

ZM
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Name: Judy
Simpsonville SC (Zone 7b)
Plant and/or Seed Trader Peonies Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I helped beta test the first seed swap
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SCButtercup
Aug 3, 2015 10:03 AM CST
Since I can rely on no frost until Halloween do you think I could start some seedlings and get them to flower as a test? If I do today that would be three months. I'm so impatient!
[Last edited by SCButtercup - Aug 3, 2015 10:07 AM (+)]
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Aug 3, 2015 12:29 PM CST
Hi Judy,

" Since I can rely on no frost until Halloween do you think I could start some seedlings and get them to flower as a test? "

Yes, go for it. And you can actually speed up their development by "babying" them with plenty of soluble nutrients and enough spacing between plants that they aren't acting as weeds toward each other. The closer to optimal growing conditions you can provide, the sooner you will get good flowering. I'm not growing Zaharas, but my Zinnia elegans ("regular zinnias") show at least two weeks between well nourished and watered and rather neglected.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Oct 7, 2015 9:17 PM CST
Hello everyone,

October is the "endgame" for my outdoor zinnias, because we can get a frost almost any time in October, with the probability getting higher later in the month. I will upload a few photos of current breeder zinnias. This is a photo of one of the progeny of a zinnia I designated as I29.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/9a894f
I29 grew indoors this spring, and it had interesting extremely uprolled petals. This is a photo of I29.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/27b033
I29 had almost no pollen, so I was forced to pollinate it with other contemporary indoor zinnias that were producing pollen to get seeds from I29. This is another bloom on I29.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/4b0b61
And this is yet another I29 bloom. All of its blooms had very slender uprolled petals.

This is another outdoor child of I29.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/92b005
This is another child of I29
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/5a8c09
And yet another child of I29.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/1d4fcd
Non of the children of I29 had those unusual uprolled petals, but the children are of necessity F1 hybrids between I29 and other indoor breeder zinnias. I am saving seeds from I29's children, and since they are F2's, I can expect a lot of recombination of genetics in the F2 generation. Hopefully some of those specimens will inherit the uprolled petals from I29. I will grow a few of those F2 seeds indoors this Winter. I am very curious about whether the uprolled petals will reappear.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.

Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Oct 7, 2015 9:49 PM CST
Hello again,

One of the unique zinnia strains I am working on closely resembles the Razzle Dazzle strain of Gaillardias, so I am also calling my zinnia strain Razzle Dazzles. This is a recent photo.

I already have Razzle Dazzles in several colors and some have combinations of two or more colors.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/872f69
Another current Razzle Dazzle.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/9bc2ee
And yet another Razzle Dazzle.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/c7ca3d
A Skipper is getting nectar from this Razzle Dazzle.

Some Razzle Dazzles are very "filled in".
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/7f7e89
And some have some "air" in their blooms.
Thumb of 2015-10-08/ZenMan/9ed3c9
I am crossing Razzle Dazzles with several other kinds of zinnias in an attempt to improve and diversify them.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.

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