It Can Be Fun To Breed Your Own Zinnias: Zinnia Hybridizing Hobby

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It Can Be Fun To Breed Your Own Zinnias

By ZenMan
April 6, 2015

As you already know, zinnias are easy to grow, and they come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and descriptions. But did you also know that zinnias offer you an easy entry into the hobby of plant breeding?

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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 6, 2015 4:42 PM CST
Hi, ZenMan! Good to see you in ATP.

Your trick that I admire most is getting two or more generations per year by growing one crop of Zinnias indoors, and also by using (if I understood correctly) immature embryos from very early (immature?) seeds.

I wish you had copied the picture of the Zinnia that I thought looked like an explosion in a paint factory!
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Apr 6, 2015 6:22 PM CST
I would love to see that one Rick and ZenMan. Sounds so interesting.
And I never thought about crossing zinnias.
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 6, 2015 7:21 PM CST
OK, Rick and Lynn,

Here is a picture of that "Explosion in a Paint Factory" zinnia. Remember, you can see a larger version of ATP pictures by clicking on them. And the F11 key will remove your browser's heading materials, giving you an "uncluttered" view of the image. After viewing, click the F11 key to get your browser heading material back.

Thumb of 2015-04-07/ZenMan/787d4c

That zinnia was produced from a hybrid between a Whirligig recombinant (which contributed the multiple colors per petal or petalloid) and a scabiosa flowered recombinant (which contributed the petalloids in the central portion of the bloom). I suppose at some time in the future I will return to that "recipe" to see what kind of weird strain of zinnias I can get. Come to think of it, any of you could combine the same "raw ingredients". No telling what you might get.

Rick, those frogs never cease to "crack me up". Hilarious!
Lynn, I'm afraid we're going to have to see your ID card. You may be below the minimum age. Rolling my eyes.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Apr 6, 2015 7:27 PM CST
Thanks, ZM. Every time, I love it. This time I see more speckles and texture than I did before.

And it always looks like the petals are filaments of paint shooting out of the explosion.

Glad you like the tree-frog / zinnia hybrid. Talk about transgenic DNA!


Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Apr 6, 2015 7:28 PM CST
I won't tell my mom that I was looking at this amazing and odd zinnia. Whistling
Wow, some of the colors look to be iridescent. Thank you for the photo ZM.

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fatimason
Apr 17, 2015 11:18 AM CST
Thank You! willing to try this idea

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fatimason
Apr 17, 2015 5:59 PM CST
Thank You! willing to try this idea
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 5, 2015 4:59 AM CST
So I have been growing a lot of zinnias but my saved seeds didn't germinate. I'm going to try again with different varieties. The most beautiful zinnias I have in my yard right now are zowie, which is a hybrid. I'm going to try saving seeds and see what I get. With several different varieties I may get some interesting crosses. Any tips for saving seeds?
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 5, 2015 12:59 PM CST
Hi Judy, Welcome!

Zowie zinnias are a great one for butterflies and hummingbirds, because they have so many pollen florets which bear the nectar that butterflies, hummingbirds and bees desire. I am personally not a fan of Zowie because it does have that tall central cone that bears the many pollen florets.

"With several different varieties I may get some interesting crosses."

You can guarantee interesting crosses if you "be the bee" and do the cross pollination yourself. It is quite easy to do and requires only a pair of tweezers, twissors, or forceps -- whatever you have and are comfortable with. Simply rub the fuzzy yellow starfish shaped pollen florets against the thin Y-shaped stigmas at the base of each petal, and you will get a hybrid seed at the base of that petal -- a hybrid of your own making.

"Any tips for saving seeds?"

Yes. You don't need to wait for the seed head to die and become brown. As an alternative, you can pluck petals that have live green seeds attached, and dry them for a week or two before storing them. That avoids the danger of seed-eating birds getting your seeds, and it also avoids the danger of pre-germination in the seed heads if there is a rainy period. It is also easier to distinguish viable embryo-containing seeds from "empty" seeds in the green seed stage. Click on the pictures for a bigger version. To get back here, find the little arrow at the lower right-hand corner of the picture and click it.

Thumb of 2015-07-05/ZenMan/7f75c7

Notice that the fat green seeds are attached to petals that still have color, and are not dead.

However, if you are dealing with a brown dead zinnia flowerhead that contains seeds, you can pick out the good seeds by tearing the head apart on a sheet of white paper and looking for good seeds. Some seeds will look good even though they don't contain a viable embryo. You can gently squeeze a seed between your thumb and forefinger and feel whether it is "fat" with an embryo or just an empty seed jacket. Another way to determine if a seed has an embryo is to gently try to bend it. If the jacket is empty, the seed will bend easily. If it has an embryo, it will resist bending. Don't bend too hard, you can break a good seed, which may make it unable to germinate. Occasionally a broken seed can germinate, but its seed leaves will be missing the outer halves. Even though it will be slowed in development at first, it can eventually develop into a normal plant. I package my zinnia seeds in Snack sized Ziploc bags, including a 3x5 card with notations about the seeds.

Thumb of 2015-07-05/ZenMan/62434d

If you have any questions about any of this, don't hesitate to ask.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
[Last edited by ZenMan - Jul 5, 2015 1:14 PM (+)]
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