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Hybridizers: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias, 1 by Zen_Man

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In reply to: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Forum: Hybridizers

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Zen_Man wrote:

"Do you keep a record of all your crosses? Do you plan your crosses or are you just letting them be open pollinated?"

Yes, I do, in an approximate sort of way. I keep a garden journal, and record a lot of information in it. Each plant gets an identifying code. This year I designated my female "breeders" as B1, B2, B3, ... B70, B71, B72. Each code gets a brief description of the plant. There may be several male pollen donors, depending on my current breeding objectives and strategies. For example, one of my objectives is to get bicolored spider flowered zinnias. So bicolored breeders get pollinated with spider flowered zinnias or other good bicolors. Spider flowered zinnias get pollinated with bicolors. Sometimes, when it might not be "obvious", I make a note in the journal which male pollen donors were used. A female breeder can also be a pollen donor for one or more other female breeders.

"Do you plan your crosses or are you just letting them be open pollinated?"

I do plan my crosses and I prevent open pollination with the use of "hair nets", which I make from an open netting fabric that allows ready access to light and air flow, but blocks access to the flower by bees. Sometimes I will deliberately use a flower's pollen to self the flower when I think that is a good idea. The pollen donors also get protected by nets, because bees are greedy collectors of pollen.

"I have never tried to root a cutting of a zinna before. How do you do yours?"

The secret to rooting zinnia cuttings successfully is a product called Physan 20. The cuttings will usually rot from bacterial invasion without the Physan 20, because zinnia cuttings have soft tissue.

I also use a good rooting hormone like Dip 'n Grow, Hormex 3, or Rootone. All work well for me, although Hormex #1 is a bit weak, but Hormex #3 and Hormex #8 work fine. For treating a lot of cuttings at a time, Dip 'n Grow is a liquid that is convenient to dilute to the proper concentration. For treating just a few cuttings at a time, one of the dry powders is a bit more convenient. The diluted Dip 'n Grow should be used within 24 hours of dilution.

I use a sterile growing medium like Premier Pro Mix with added Perlite for better drainage. I root them under fluorescent lights. For the first week or so I keep the cuttings under a humidity dome. I usually use a 7-inch humidity dome for adequate clearance of the cuttings. After the roots begin to form, you can remove the humidity dome. I usually repot them for further growth into plants under the lights. I get close to a 100% success rate with my zinnia cuttings. If a cutting already has a bud on it, you should pinch off the bud. If it has leaves near the bottom of the stem, you should pull those leaves off.

I soak the cuttings for about 5 minutes in Physan 20, diluted 1 teaspoon per gallon, to sterilize them. I water the rooting mix with a nutrient mix diluted teaspoon of urea-free nutrients (I use Better-Gro Orchid Food from Lowes Home Store) per gallon and teaspoon Physan 20 per gallon. I usually prepare separate diluted solutions of nutrients and Physan 20 and then mix the two diluted solutions together. I saturate the rooting medium with that solution before inserting the cuttings. You usually don't have to add more solution until after you remove the humidity domes.

"Have a bunch of hybridized " surprise" zinnia seed that I plan on growing out this season."

Sounds like a plan. As they say on TV, "expect the unexpected".

As I said in the previous message, I like bicolored zinnia blooms. Most bicolors have a darker color at the base of the petal and a lighter color at the tip. But occasionally you can get the reverse situation, where the light color is at the base and the darker color is at the tip of the petal, like in this specimen.


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