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Hybridizers: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 4, 1 by Zen_Man

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In reply to: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 4

Forum: Hybridizers

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Zen_Man wrote:

You might want to take a look at the "new" Zinnia Gem strain.

It has the "beehive" flower shape that you mentioned, they are described as "new", and they look pretty tidy. And Hazzard's has them in several separate colors, including my favorite, white. Incidentally, I plan to purchase some Giant Cactus White zinnia seeds from them. I like to cross white zinnias with other colors. But first I need to grow a bunch of whites and find a few really good ones.

"I guess a plant can self-pollinate pretty easily - maybe just by shaking? Or would I have to use a big brush to shmoosh pollen from male to female parts of each bloom?"

If a zinnia puts out a lot of pollen, it will do a fair job of pollinating itself, possibly with the aid of various bees. The pollen-bearing florets themselves can set floret seeds. The floret seeds look different from the petal seeds. But they can grow new plants just as well. The floret seeds are more likely to be selfed. For "scabi" type zinnias, I frequently save the petal seeds and the floret seeds separately for that reason.

Some of my zinnias, like the "dinosaur" zinnia in this picture, can put out a lot of pollen. However, if they don't put out much pollen, I help nature along by manually self pollinating as many stigmas as I can with the limited amount of pollen available. You can make the pollen go farther that way.

Incidentally, while I do frequently use an artist's brush to pollinate with indoors, for outdoor pollination I like to "pick" a floret with a favorite pair of forceps and just "brush" that floret on the stigmas that I wish to pollinate. The floret, itself, becomes the brush. (They do have a brush-like texture.) I am picking a pollen-bearing floret with my forceps in the attached picture. I crossed that dino zinnia with quite a few different "female" zinnias that weren't producing pollen at that time.

The locking forceps can be quite handy for pollinating and cross-pollinating zinnias outdoors. The locking feature keeps you from accidentally dropping the floret. (I used to do that quite a lot when using tweezers or twissors.) Forceps come in many sizes and styles. Hospitals use a lot of forceps, and the models for surgeons can be exotically expensive.

My personal favorite for zinnias is a 5-inch curved tip model. For me, it is a good compromise between having my hand too close to the stigmas for good visibility, and having my hand too far away for good control. I imagine that the size and configuration of your hand has a lot to do with the best choice of size and style of forceps. For me, everything seems to come down to some process of trial and error. I rarely do anything right the first time.

Amazon has a rich shopping ground for forceps. Their large selection of models and prices can be a bit daunting. I got all of mine from Amazon and their third party merchants, except for one large pair that I keep in my tackle box for removing hooks from fish. I think that pair came from a sporting goods store. Hobby stores usually have a few. I have one larger "specialty" pair of forceps for removing blister bugs from my zinnias. Apparently our Kansas blister bugs have a taste for zinnia pollen florets. I probably should just call the blister bug's bluff and use my fingers. Maybe I will do that next year. More later.

(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

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