Seeds forum: zinnia seeds question

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Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
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carolem
Feb 25, 2018 7:57 PM CST
starting pulling apart dried flowers for seed collection. Now I'm confused if all is viable seed or not? Snapshots using 1/2"grid paper.

First image I suspect are the ideal sowing seeds.

Thumb of 2018-02-26/carolem/306c82


Are these also potential successful seeds? So much tinier than those seeming more matured seeds on the ends of the petals.

Thumb of 2018-02-26/carolem/f18015

Thanks for your comments.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Feb 25, 2018 11:23 PM CST
carolem said:...starting pulling apart dried flowers for seed collection. Now I'm confused if all is viable seed or not? Snapshots using 1/2"grid paper.

Hello Carole, Welcome!
I don't see any things that are good seeds for certain in that first photo. You can actually save zinnia seeds as green seeds, while the bloom is still developing. That lets you minimize the chance that seed eating birds will eat the seeds and avoid your seeds sprouting in the zinnia heads during an extended rainy season.

These are some green seeds that I saved a few days ago from my ongoing indoor zinnia project, and an earlier photo showing some zinnia petals with good green seeds and empty green seeds. Notice that the petals still have color and are still alive.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/872b37 Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/a71f6a
When saving green seeds, make sure that the seed contains an embryo. Seeds that contain an embryo will be kind of fat. If the seed does not contain an embryo, it will be empty and it will not be a viable seed.

Dried good zinnia seeds are also visibly fat, and if you gently pinch them between your thumb and forefinger you can feel that the seed is thick enough to contain a dried embryo.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/9a4206
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
Image

Incidentally, my graph paper is ruled at 10 per inch.
carolem said:Are these also potential successful seeds? So much tinier than those seeming more matured seeds on the ends of the petals.

No, that second photo shows just some "Chaffy Scales", which are not seeds. Do you have any other zinnia blooms that might have seeds?

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
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carolem
Feb 26, 2018 1:44 AM CST
@ZenMan glad you came by; knew this was one you would answer effectively with your huge knowledge base and experiences with Zinnias.

Well I'm kind of flattened Smiling ! To find that the spear-heads at the base of the dried petals weren't viable seeds at all. Hadn't heard of chaffy-scales, understand now all that is left-overs.

Had no idea green-seed can be saved, though here I don't have small seed-eating birds.

Yes I've plenty of zinnia blooms --- I was just cutting off the spent flower-heads and popping them into a paper-bag to dry out. Perhaps I should try for some green-seed. You are hand-pollinating your zinnias that are indoors for this viable seed then?

Not sure if the extreme summer conditions might've put paid to pollination opportunities? I have plenty of bees go to the blue-bedding salvias constantly. The zinnias though aren't planted near those. Also strong windy conditions often.

Appreciate your time to explain, and your photos too ZM.


If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
[Last edited by carolem - Feb 26, 2018 2:03 AM (+)]
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Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Feb 26, 2018 8:14 AM CST
Carole, thanks for starting this thread and ZenMan, thanks for answering her question. My sister gave me some saved Zinnia seeds to put in my vegetable garden this year, they were some that she saved. I'm headed to take a look at them and see if they're viable or not. Great information!!!! Thanks again, to the both of you!

Ed
South Alabama - 8a/8b
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
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ZenMan
Feb 26, 2018 4:53 PM CST
carolem said:Yes I've plenty of zinnia blooms --- I was just cutting off the spent flower-heads and popping them into a paper-bag to dry out. Perhaps I should try for some green-seed. You are hand-pollinating your zinnias that are indoors for this viable seed then?


Hi Carole,

You definitely should look for some green-seeds in your zinnia flower heads. Also, the lack of bee pollination won't keep you from having some viable zinnia seed in those heads. Zinnia pollen florets can set seeds in the absence of bee activity. The floret seeds look somewhat different from the petal seeds, but they can produce a plant, and it will almost always be a self of the zinnia plant that produced it. Selfs are usually similar to the plant that produced the floret seed, but recombinations can produce some surprises.

It is important that you be able to recognize floret seeds, as well as the petal seeds. This photo contains a good representation of each. Click on the photo for a better view.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/15317b
Notice that the floret seeds have a concave attachment point, whereas the petal seeds have part of the petal root at the attachment.

There weren't any of the unusual floret seeds in that photo, but be aware that some pollen floret zinnia seeds can be decidedly un-zinnia like. Some floret seeds can look like grains of wheat, while others can look like mouse pellets, including the black color.

Since you have a good supply of zinnia heads, you have a good chance of finding some usable green seeds, or some semi-green ones. Don't forget the pinch test to distinguish empty seeds from embryo-containing ones.

I am doing a lot of cross pollination and some self pollination of selected specimens of my indoor zinnias. I am immediately planting green seeds to get a second generation of indoor zinnias. In order to accelerate the germination of my green seeds, I "breach" them. There are several ways to do that.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/dae466
That exposes the embryo to moisture. I do that because the green seed coat is still alive and impervious to water. Unbreached green seeds will germinate, but only after the green seedcoat has died and become pervious. That can add a week or more to their germination time.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.



[Last edited by ZenMan - Feb 26, 2018 5:03 PM (+)]
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Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
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carolem
Feb 27, 2018 5:19 AM CST
@ZenMan you've certainly added some very interesting facts and advice. I will be back and forth to your posts to be sure I start collecting viable green-seeds and/or floret seeds also after the flower-head is finished. I enjoy seeing the colourful flowers in the garden as long as they hold up. Appreciate your helpful tips.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
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mom2goldens
Mar 1, 2018 8:23 PM CST

Moderator

ZenMan said:
Hello Carole, Welcome!
I don't see any things that are good seeds for certain in that first photo. You can actually save zinnia seeds as green seeds, while the bloom is still developing. That lets you minimize the chance that seed eating birds will eat the seeds and avoid your seeds sprouting in the zinnia heads during an extended rainy season.

These are some green seeds that I saved a few days ago from my ongoing indoor zinnia project, and an earlier photo showing some zinnia petals with good green seeds and empty green seeds. Notice that the petals still have color and are still alive.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/872b37 Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/a71f6a
When saving green seeds, make sure that the seed contains an embryo. Seeds that contain an embryo will be kind of fat. If the seed does not contain an embryo, it will be empty and it will not be a viable seed.

This was a really nice tutorial on saving zinnia seeds. Thank you so much for sharing.
Dried good zinnia seeds are also visibly fat, and if you gently pinch them between your thumb and forefinger you can feel that the seed is thick enough to contain a dried embryo.
Thumb of 2018-02-26/ZenMan/9a4206
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
Image

Incidentally, my graph paper is ruled at 10 per inch.

No, that second photo shows just some "Chaffy Scales", which are not seeds. Do you have any other zinnia blooms that might have seeds?

ZM
I tip my hat to you.


Name: Allison
NJ (Zone 6a)
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Onewish1
Mar 8, 2018 3:36 AM CST

Moderator

Fabby lesson.. thank you
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Mar 8, 2018 9:28 AM CST
Onewish1 said:Fabby lesson.. thank you


Thank you, Thank You!
ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
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carolem
Mar 8, 2018 3:19 PM CST
Felt I should leave a message/update for you @ZenMan. You'd gone to such lengths to explain things clearly re successful zinnia seeds.

"make sure that the seed contains an embryo" This is the part I don't seem to be having much luck with. I did try for green seed like you suggested but on close inspection they all appeared to be empty. I'd never realized that success rate with viable seeds could be so minimalistic! Smiling This has been a real learning curve for me in that respect.

I've still plenty of zinnias growing so I keep hoping - it's no bother of course to just go buy a new packet of seed whenever, but this is intruiging and challenging enough to keep me checking for some home-grown seeds. Have also sown some new (packet) seeds of the same variety - it could be too late in the season to get much flowering; can only try and see what happens.



If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Mar 8, 2018 3:41 PM CST
Thanks, Zenman. Good lesson, assuming I understood it. Pictures always help.

I recently got some 'mixed zinnias' at a seed swap. I'm beginning to think that none of them are viable. Will take a picture later and see if you agree.

Thanks!
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
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ZenMan
Mar 9, 2018 10:05 AM CST
carolem said:
I've still plenty of zinnias growing so I keep hoping - it's no bother of course to just go buy a new packet of seed whenever, but this is intriguing and challenging enough to keep me checking for some home-grown seeds. Have also sown some new (packet) seeds of the same variety - it could be too late in the season to get much flowering; can only try and see what happens.

Hello Carole,

Are there any natural pollinators, like bumblebees, carpenter bees or, of course, honeybees, currently pollinating your zinnias? If not, this is your opportunity to "be the bee" and do some pollinations on your own. Even if there are bees at work, you can do a much better job of pollinating than they do.

And, depending on which pollen you use, and where you put it, you can have an important influence on the zinnia seeds you produce.

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
Mar 9, 2018 10:32 AM CST
tx_flower_child said:I recently got some 'mixed zinnias' at a seed swap. I'm beginning to think that none of them are viable. Will take a picture later and see if you agree.


Hello TX flower child,

It's a definite possibility that none of those zinnia seeds are viable, but I will have to look at the picture. Unfortunately, I can't do a "pinch test" on any of them, but you can do that yourself. If you gently pinch a zinnia seed between your thumb and forefinger, you can feel whether the seed is thick enough to contain an embryo.

Another test you can do on a zinnia seed is to gently try to fold it in half. If it is empty, that can happen easily. If there is an embryo inside, the embryo will provide resistance to folding. Be gentle doing this. You can break a viable seed if you try too hard.

There are visual cues as well, but they are much more subtle and less reliable. They involve surface texture and subtle coloring differences, but are harder to explain. Visual cues can quickly tell you which seeds should be pinched or bent tested and which seeds are empty or too juvenile to have a developed embryo. If you examine a lot of zinnia seeds, you will eventually learn the visual cues.

Of course, detecting an embryo won't tell you if the embryo is alive or not, but the best way to do that is just plant the seed. However, there is no point in planting empty seeds.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
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carolem
Mar 9, 2018 4:29 PM CST
@ZenMan yes there are honey-bees; though perhaps not as plentiful on that part of the garden; while there's lots where I have blue-bedding-salvias flowering. No doubt the bees get around still when I'm not looking Smiling

Do you have photos to place here, about the male/female flowers - pollen placing? I did actually take a fine brush out yesterday morning, and again this morning, but can't say I see pollen-laden parts to work with.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
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 9, 2018 8:24 PM CST
carolem said:Do you have photos to place here, about the male/female flowers - pollen placing? I did actually take a fine brush out yesterday morning, and again this morning, but can't say I see pollen-laden parts to work with.

Hi Carole,

I do have several pictures that might help. The pollen florets (fuzzy yellow starfish) have the pollen, and the stigmas (Y-shaped tendrils) receive the pollen. (Click on these pictures to see larger versions of them.)
Thumb of 2018-03-10/ZenMan/4caeba
You mentioned a fine brush. You can touch a brush to a pollen floret to pick up some pollen on the brush. Then simply touch the brush to the stigmas to pollinate them.
Thumb of 2018-03-10/ZenMan/af059b Thumb of 2018-03-10/ZenMan/b5d2a0
You can do the same thing with tweezers or a pair of forceps. You can "pick" a pollen floret and then use it as a brush to brush pollen on stigmas.
Thumb of 2018-03-10/ZenMan/f21e9e Thumb of 2018-03-10/ZenMan/a52113
I also use that same technique when using tweezers instead of forceps. The artist's brush technique is probably gentler on the plants, but I like to pick pollen florets and use them as brushes to apply their pollen. The pollen florets are expendable, anyway. They become useless a few hours after they open. New florets emerge every morning.

The best time to do this is in the morning just after a new set of pollen florets has emerged and opened. I carry a lightweight chair or bench around with me so I can remain seated during a lot of my pollination activities. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Mar 9, 2018 10:03 PM CST
I tried taking some pictures late last night and think using a light touch would be better. Someone gave me the seeds so I don't mind if I smush a few. Think I might learn a little more that way. But before I do, I'll try to see if I can take some better pictures.
Name: Mary
Glendale, Arizona (Zone 9b)
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Azgarden
Mar 9, 2018 10:29 PM CST
@ZenMan. Nice illustration and beautiful pictures. Thank you!
Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
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carolem
Mar 9, 2018 11:19 PM CST
@ZenMan that's exactly the lesson I needed. Super! Now I know which is which. Much appreciated. Hopefully better successes follow with viable seed gathering.

How long is the process approximately, between pollination and harvesting hopefully viable, green seed?

Appreciate your generosity, sharing the tips.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough
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 10, 2018 10:10 AM CST
carolem said:How long is the process approximately, between pollination and harvesting hopefully viable, green seed?

Hi Carole,

It usually takes about three weeks, from the day a stigma is fertilized to when a green seed is well developed enough to pick.

Incidentally, a stigma will shrivel and die in a day or two after it is successfully fertilized. If a stigma is not fertilized, it can remain yellow and "perky" for two weeks or more, so you have several opportunities to get a stigma fertilized.

A single grain of pollen can fertilize a stigma. If you are persistent, you can get a high percentage of stigmas in a zinnia bloom fertilized and get a hundred or more seeds from just one bloom.

If you plan to store the green seeds for use at a later time, be sure to dry them out before you store them. Otherwise you might get some germination in storage, and that would not be a good thing. Just spread them out on some surface (sometimes I use an old newspaper page) and let them dry for a week or so at room conditions. Good luck.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Carole
Lake Macquarie, Australia
Butterflies Bookworm Region: Australia Birds Bee Lover Dragonflies
Garden Photography Salvias Seed Starter Enjoys or suffers hot summers Native Plants and Wildflowers Annuals
Image
carolem
Mar 10, 2018 4:14 PM CST
@ZenMan all good information to know for the uninitiated. Seems the obstacle will be finding pollen before the bees do.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gough

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