How Did You Get Started?

Downers Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

I lurk on this thread mostly for fun. I'm intrigued by the idea but have no idea where to start. Probably too much on my plate this year anyway. But I'm interested in hearing how some of you started? By accident? Did you have a goal from the beginning? How did you decide which genus/species? etc.

Louisville, KY

I am one that loses interest easily and at one point I had just about every plant on my list. The last few I was after seemed to be so rare not many people even knew of them. My interest was going fast as it had with most other hobbies.
One night I feel a sleep and had a dream of some amazing plants. You know your bad when you dream and their are plants in it! Well the wonderful and amazing plants in the dream were not like anything I had really seen before. I described the experience to a friend. He suggested I try to breed them. After some good mentors and suggestions I began breeding just about everything I could. I have to say that some of the stuff I am making now does remind me of the ones I saw in the dream, or at least some of them.

Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

My hobby began with me when I was simply curious what would happen if...and then what if...and then what if...

I wondered what was there unseen in a plant`s genes and while I could find information on the internet it wasn`t enough for me. I wanted to See it in real life and actually see it happen before my own eyes in my very own backyard. To me it is like creating a painting out of numerous ideas and being inspired by what you have to work with and being able to add some imagination given time and the possibilities of a blank canvas. Then I`ll never forget the feeling of amazement at the results of the work put into something that is just a hobby.


Downers Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

Do either of you have any background/formal education in the field or is this trial and error? bw, how cool to be living your dream so to speak!

Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

I have a high school and college education. I used to be a motel clerk, sales representative for a clothing store and a nurses assistant working in home health. Now, I`m a full time wife and mother homeschooling and assisting my husband with the tree business. I`m not a "professional hybridizer". I dabble in it. In time I could come up with some nice things other people may enjoy in their gardens. You never know. Really anybody even a kid can do this.

Requirements: You have to have time,patience, artistic ability, book keeping skills, good eye sight,steady hands,perseverance,ability to make up your mind to get yourself out in the garden each day and a strong back are some things that will help get you started. :)


Louisville, KY

It is a interesting thing breeding plants and I usually spend one hour a day breeding them during summer months. I am also sprouting seeds by the thousands. The hardest part for me in being a plant person is destroying anything that is not good enough to work with. The fact that room is limited and the standard for high quality is high makes for being very picky. I have to agree with Karen you have to have a good imagination and all the requirements she mentioned above to be a good breeder. It can be as easy or technical as you want.

South Hamilton, MA

DH was doing some iris hybridizing as a teaching aid for his high school biology students. Why don't you cross so & so with such & such I asked. Not interested in that cross. So the little red hen (really the little blonde hen, now the grey hen) did it herself. While we exchange ideas, we really work on our own projects, while looking at literature on the subject of irises. DH is a biologist, I was trained as a children's librarian, but we both can observe & think about what can be done.We used to raise cocker spaniels. With iris you don't have to think about finding a good home for them, just compost.

Pylesville, MD(Zone 6b)

LOL IrisMA and you only feed them once a year, twice if they are rebloomers and clean up only once or twice a year

Downers Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

I bought a couple of beginner books and am trying to choose a plant to start with. According to my book, glads are fairly easy to try so I may give that a spin next year. I was also thinking about japanese morning glories because they're so easy to grow.

Any thoughts or suggestions pro/con?

I have my next question for the group but will start another thread.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)


"How did you decide which genus/species?"

Zinnias have the advantage that they grow and bloom fast and you can see the results of your crosses or seed selections very quickly, much sooner than you can with most other flowers. Also, the mechanics of doing cross pollination is very simple with zinnias, and the pollen florets are big and easy to handle. Zinnia seed germinate in only a few days, while the seeds of many other ornamentals take weeks or longer to germinate.

Zinnias have a wide color range, a variety of flower forms, and plant habits ranging from 6 inches high up to four feet or more. There are many commercial varieties of zinnias that you can grow and cross. I chose zinnias because I wanted near "instant gratification" in my plant breeding hobby, and I wanted a plant that was easy to grow and had a lot of different colors, flower forms, and plant habits.

By starting zinnia seed early indoors under fluorescent lights, you can get two generations of zinnias in a year. That means that you can select your varieties to cross early in the year, send off your seed orders or buy from your local seed racks. Raise your zinnias to the flowering stage by late Spring, make your crosses, save seed and quickly plant those crosses in the Summer. I really like the anticipation of waiting for the blooms from my hand-pollinated zinnias to open, to see what I got. You can see the results of your cross pollinations in early Fall, select the best of your very own hybrids, and save seeds from them before a killing frost.

If you so choose, those seeds can be hybrids between hybrids, for some really interesting flowers the following year. Although people often advise against it because they don't "come true", growing seeds from F1 hybrid zinnias can produce some really interesting recombinations of genetic features, some of which can be entirely new. If you choose to grow your zinnias indoors under lights, you can get three and possibly four generations of zinnias in a year. Zinnia breeding can be fast and exciting.

For more information on breeding zinnias as a hobby, see my message thread titled "My zany hybrid zinnias" over in the Annuals forum. I also started a message thread titled "It can be fun to breed your own zinnias" over in the Annuals forum of the GardenWeb.


Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

I got started when I grew some flowers I liked and discovered they would make seeds that I could raise. Morning glories,cannas and sunflowers have been my subjects for little back yard experiments.

I suggest any beginner grow the plants for a while to make sure they are doing well for you with reasonable care before you go on with larger scale growing experiments. Karen

Pylesville, MD(Zone 6b)

I started because some one told me I could not grow Arilbred Iris in Maryland. So I got some arilbred seeds from SIGNA (Species Iris Group of North America) and from that got 3 worth introduction. Along with them came some species seeds and I was hooked. Started with collection my own bee pods and when a couple of those proved interesting I began to make my own crosses.

Here is one of this year's new seedling

Thumbnail by avmoran
Downers Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

Wow! That iris is beautiful!

I never thought about zinnias. I actually have about 5 different types growing in my yard right now. It's too late for this year. The bees have been quite busy and much has been pollinated. But it's certainly something to consider for next spring. I start many seeds under lights anyway so I might even be able to get in that extra generation. Thank you MaineMan - that's a great link too!

I might also give sunflowers a try. I have many kinds of those too. Got to figure out a way to get to the flowers on the 14 footers though LOL! Just kidding of course. Gardener2005, have you had any interesting results from your experimentation?

I'm a little intimidated by iris and daylily. Probably because I don't know much about them and don't have experience growing them. But I did just buy about 100 different iris to put in this fall. So I'll have some subjects ready in a year or so when I'm ready to take them on. I'll be adding some daylilies in the spring.

I'm also thinking about some of the ornamental grasses. Anybody try them? I have quite a few of those already too.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)


Since the bees have been busy crossing your zinnias for you, you might gather the seeds and plant them next year to see if those bees gave you anything interesting. I'm going to do that since I didn't have time to try proper crosses myself this year.


Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

Quote chatnoir:{I might also give sunflowers a try. I have many kinds of those too. Got to figure out a way to get to the flowers on the 14 footers though LOL! Just kidding of course. Gardener2005, have you had any interesting results from your experimentation?}

Yes, I have managed to get some flowers I will grow again and again every year. I plan on experimenting with some bagging this fall and even try rubbing the flower heads together like I read about somewhere else. Good luck!


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