It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 2

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hello all,

As the original "It can be fun to breed your own zinnias" message thread approached 100 messages, it was probably getting slow to load for some participants, particularly for any readers with dial-up connections. So we are continuing that message thread here. You can access the original thread through this link: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/929238/

As I have mentioned previously, many of my zinnia crosses include the use of the Scabiosa Flowered zinnias, because their central florets are colored, rather than the usual fuzzy yellow stars. It is my hope to emphasize those petal-colored florets by making them larger -- much larger -- so that they can become the main part of the flower, or even the entire flower. I haven't achieved that objective yet, but this picture of an opening hybrid zinnia from last year can give you some idea of the role that I want those big florets to play.

MM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

MM..Thanks for the new thread.

That sure is pretty. I have no doubt that eventually you wil hit your goal and actually waitign to see what you creat this year for our viewing pleasure. : )

(Clint) Medina, TN(Zone 7b)

This is fascinating. What plant has similar bloom form to what you are trying to achieve?

(Clint) Medina, TN(Zone 7b)

It's good that you have a goal. It is obvious that you are making progress. Keep it up! I'm still working with Echinacea. It's frustrating because you have to wait so long for blooms.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

EM,

I'm impatient to see quick results. That's why I work with zinnias. I'm attaching a picture of some of my current hand-crossed seedlings, which are forming flower buds now. I may make some more crosses with them this Winter and plant those newly hybridized seeds this Spring. That should make for an interesting Summer and some more new crosses. Green seeds from those crosses could be blooming this Fall. You can do a lot with zinnias in a relatively short time.

MM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

MM.. Lovely babies!!!!!!!! Can't wait to see what ya get.

How do you start your seed that you have a nice full lookign little seedlign going on there?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"Can't wait to see what ya get."

I can't wait either. The suspense of waiting for a new hybrid zinnia to bloom is one of the high points of the hobby.

"How do you start your seed that you have a nice full looking little seedling going on there?"

I have been starting zinnia seedlings indoors under fluorescent lights for three years now, and I continue to learn more about doing it each time. I start them in a sterile growing medium in little 2-inch square pots, one seed per pot. As they get their second true leaves I repot them in larger 3-inch pots and as they get their third or fourth true leaves I repot them in 5-inch pots (the ones in the picture above).

I water them with a dilute solution of a "complete" soluble nutrient formula that includes micronutrients (iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, etc.) and supplement that with a dilute solution of calcium nitrate, because the "complete" soluble nutrient products that I use don't contain calcium and calcium is vital to plant health. The solutions that I apply are basically the same you would use in a hydroponic setup. The product I use is called Better-Gro Orchid Plus water soluble orchid food 20-14-13 PLUS essential minor elements. I got mine at Lowe's Home Store garden center.

Because the sterile growing mediums that I use don't contain soil microbes, I use urea-free nutrients, because urea requires soil microbes to convert the urea to usable nitrates and ammonium ions and, if the urea is not converted, it could build up to toxic levels in the growing medium.

I use a timer to keep the fluorescent lights on for about 16 hours a day. I have begun experimenting with feeding my zinnias some silicon in the form of dilute potassium silicate, contained in a product called Pro-TeKt. Plants can grow without silicon, but it is useful for them and, if it is available, they take up quite a bit of it and use it to strengthen their cell walls, stems, and such. It is said that the silicon can increase their resistance to disease and insects.

For more information on silicon for plants, go to this link http://www.wormsway.com/detail.asp?sku=PRO405# and click on the Pro-TeKt Sell Sheet red link under Product Documentation. I think you need to access the info that way, because a direct link to the document seems to expire after a period of time.

MM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

As an alternate approach to creating mammoth scabiosa florets, the opportunity exists to select for tubular main petals. The attached photo shows another example of a bloom from last year that had several tubular petals.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This pinkish specimen also had several tubular petals.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

The tubular petal mutation is fairly common. This orange specimen was also a breeder chosen because of its tubular petals.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Ya changed your name and had me all confused LOL . really love the rich color in the first one and I love broken colors and mutations.

Just a coupel more days and be free to get to work with my zinnia seeds. Can't wait.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

zen_man,

Those are great as usual!! Didn't want to be KanMan, huh? Nah, I would have gone with zen_man, too.

Karen

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

zen-man, do you have any seeds to share? hostajim1

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

Wow! I didn't realize the name change would be retroactive. But that may be for the best. I am no longer MaineMan.

HostaJim, I'm sorry, but I don't have any seeds to share at the present time. It will probably be several years before I have a surplus of reasonably stable strains. I might consider trading some "breeder" zinnia seeds with other zinnia breeders before that time, provided that both parties have some spare "breeder" zinnia seeds that would be of interest to the other.

Today I spent some time re-potting some more of my zinnia plants from 3-inch pots into 5-inch pots. I have a bunch of zinnia plants with buds now, but none in bloom yet. I also need to mix up another batch of plant growth regulator and apply it, to keep my zinnias from getting too tall. Last Winter I failed to keep my zinnias under control, and they quickly grew too tall for my 3-shelf plant stands, which caused a lot of problems. I hope my Winter indoor zinnia project will be more controlled this year.

ZM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

One advantage that marigold flowered zinnias have over actual marigolds is that marigold flowered zinnias can have a much wider color range. This plum colored marigold flowered zinnia was as a hybrid between a scabiosa flowered zinnia and a cactus flowered zinnia in 2007 in my Maine garden. The picture is a bit fuzzy because it was a frame grab from a video camera. A New Year's resolution was to buy my own digital SLR camera in 2009.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

ZM.. One thing I wonder about. You work towards stability in yoru cultivars. How are they getting stability in things like say Peppermenit Candy and Limelight. Surely they are just growing out one crop and a small crop of the other to pollinate with. Are the growers just gettign oen they liek the looks of and marketing it and hoping it does well for the seed buyer/grower. ?

You have so many beautiful ones, that you should be marketing. They need to high you to determine their crosses, You got it going on when it comes to Zinnias like nobody I ever did see before.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"How are they getting stability in things like, say, Peppermint Candy and Limelight? Surely they are just growing out one crop and a small crop of the other to pollinate with."

I think the only time they grow a separate crop to pollinate with is in the case of F1 hybrids. For F1 hybrids, the seed growers do maintain carefully selected separate female and male strains. They treat those strains as proprietary. Many seed companies today are not seed growers, but instead they shop around the world for growers with seed strains that they want to offer in their catalogs. Check your seed packets for the country of origin. Some seed companies still grow some of their own seeds.

"Are the growers just getting one they like the looks of and marketing it and hoping it does well for the seed buyer/grower?"

Cheap seeds may be produced like that. Let's face it, if you get a packet of about 50 zinnia seeds for a dime or even a dollar, they didn't spend a lot of money to put quality into that packet.

To produce quality open pollinated seeds, they have to hire workers to go into the fields and remove any off-type plants. If it is a field of white zinnias, obviously any flower that isn't pure white should be removed. Really quality seeds require more thorough standards, like flower form and plant habit. Sometimes that is called rogueing the field, because any off-type plant is considered to be a "rogue".

For an example, the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company is frequently criticized for the high prices of their zinnia seeds. I, myself, personally wish they had quantity discounts. But I have found that most of their zinnia seeds have been rogued to quality standards, and are worth the higher price. One possible exception, in my opinion, is their newly re-invented Burpeeana Giants. I think it was a mistake when Burpee discontinued them years ago without preserving a supply of seed stock. Although they have made good progress toward re-selecting the strain out of their zinnia hybrid fields, I don't think they have achieved the uniformity of compact plant habit that the original strain had. The original strain also came in separate colors. I was a bit disappointed this year when some separate colors of Burpeeanas did not appear in the Burpee catalog. Despite their relatively high price, I still purchase and grow a few Burpeeana Giants from Burpee every year, and discard the ones with an off-type plant habit.

"You work towards stability in your cultivars."

Stability is a long term goal for me, but I am still primarily trying to develop new forms that are worth the effort of selecting and re-selecting them for stability. Right now, here in Wellsville, I don't have the space to grow the large number of plants needed to select several strains for stability. Currently many of my nice hybrids produce less than 5% of offspring that are even close to "on type." That is why I refer to them as "recombinants". They are hybrids of hybrids of hybrids with complex lineage and a very high degree of heterozygosity.

That's why there is a lot of anticipation and uncertainty in waiting for each new bud to bloom out. It might be something really new and unique and good. But it is more probable that it won't be exceptionally good. Just new and unique frequently isn't "good enough." In a few subsequent messages I will show a few pictures of a few odd recombinant specimens that didn't meet my breeding objectives, but were still interesting.

ZM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

This recombinant zinnia looked like it was poised to grab any bee that landed in the center. Those strange petals curved inward with incurved tips to give it a carnivorous appearance. It kind of made me wonder what prehistoric zinnias might have looked like, and if there were any prehistoric holdovers in the DNA codes of my zinnias.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This odd looking zinnia made me wonder if I should reconsider my "no singles" breeding policy. I wonder if that fat aphid was a zinnia aphid. Probably was.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

I didn't have any trouble enforcing my "no singles" policy on this recombinant.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

I wondered whether the uneven development of the bloom on this specimen was genetic or not. I decided to keep it and be on the watch for future asymmetric blooms.

Incidentally, I continue to wonder what are those little white dots on the edges of zinnia leaves? They show up in several of my pictures, and seem to be fairly evenly spaced. I wonder if they perform some function for the zinnia.

MM

This message was edited Jan 12, 2009 1:25 PM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

ZM... Laughing over your prehistoric zinnia discription. Who knwos maybe. They had to develop from something, somewhere in time through the ages.

The second pic. I would have kept, because it looks like it has some splotching ang speckling going on. Would be interestign to see what else it brought out. Ya might eventually get a swirl. : )

Ya think I would have turned my nose up at three too. Definately not a pretty face, but who knwos if she got good genes hidden somewhere.

I see the little white dots, but can't see the leaves good, so not sure what it might be. Since ya doign so many cross, all I cna think of is maybe a gene shuttign off somewhere. Wonder if it was where the leaves were tryignto open and stuck together. Hummmmm be interestign to see what ya eventually figure out.


South Hamilton, MA

Would white dots, if genetic, lead to variegated foliage? I like the 'marigold shaped' zinnia. that type of plantin different colors would be great.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

I agree with you. I probably should have kept the second one, even though it was mostly single. The petals looked pretty good, as did the overall effect of the plant. Oh well. Maybe an even better one will pop up this year.

"Wonder if it was where the leaves were trying to open and stuck together."

I didn't notice any of the leaves being stuck together or having difficulty opening. Maybe I will find an explanation of the white dots in a botany book sometime.

ZM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

"Would white dots, if genetic, lead to variegated foliage?"

Possibly. However, I personally am not a fan of variegated foliage and I won't use any variegated specimens as breeders. I have seen a lot of the white dots on seemingly normal zinnia foliage, so I suspect they are some normal component of the zinnia leaves. But I am curious as to why they are there.

ZM

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

ZM. Do you happen to have a close up pic of the white spots on the leaves? Now ya got me curious.

I don't think I woudl liek to see a varigated foliaged Zinnia either. Think the foligae would distract too much from the bloom . Wanna se that eye candy. LOL

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"Do you happen to have a close up pic of the white spots on the leaves?"

Not really. The point-and-shoot digital camera that I borrow doesn't have macro capabilities. And I usually focus on the flowers, so that in-focus leaves are an accident. The picture immediately above in this message thread is probably the best example of the white dots that I have. There are a few white dots in the upper right portion of this attached picture:

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

There are a few white dots, visible up a little closer, in this attached pic. But they are still just white dots, and you can't really tell much about their structure. I think you would need a microscope to really study these things. Some day, I hope to get a digital microscope or a microscope that lets you attach a digital SLR, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon. I guess, for now, the white dots are just a mystery. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is something about them in a botany book somewhere, but finding that info could be quite a challenge.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Incidentally, that last picture was not taken to document the white dots. It was taken to document disease-like symptoms on zinnias that are caused by insects. That picture shows a lot of cosmetic flaws on the white zinnia petals that were very likely caused by the Japanese Beetle in the picture. Its feet have sharp claws and, in just walking around, the beetle can leave claw marks on the petals. And it stops every now and then to take a taste.

It is good to understand this situation, because it doesn't do any good to spray a plant for disease prevention when the actual cause is cosmetic damage by insects. Japanese Beetles were a problem in Maine, but I just hand-picked them rather than spray insecticides.

The attached picture shows a plant bug on a zinnia and a "freckle" on the petal nearby. I didn't see the plant bug do it, but I strongly suspect the freckle was caused by the plant bug and not by a foliage disease starting on the zinnia petals. Spraying that zinnia to treat a non-existent foliage disease wouldn't be a good idea, unless it was part of an ongoing preventive program.

Incidentally, zinnia petals are relatively delicate compared to zinnia leaves and any spray that will get on the petals should be one-half-strength or one-quarter-strength as compared to what you might use on the foliage or in foliar feeding. Otherwise, you could damage the petals. I have inadvertently been guilty of that on more than one occasion, and now I try to be more careful in my foliar feeding and disease prevention spraying.

ZM

This message was edited Jan 13, 2009 3:30 PM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

This is a picture that I took a few hours ago of one of my current breeders growing indoors under fluorescent lights. I like its pink color and picotee edge effect on the petals. So far I have been crossing it with itself, but in the next few days I may apply some pollen from some other likely specimens.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Morning Z. Beautiful seedling! Like the color too. Think the picottee edge gives it a bit of sparkle. : )

been gatherign my Zinan seeds up and foudn soem of them, just gotta find the rest.

Here what I got so far.

Magellan.. Cherry
Ivory
Pink
Coral
Orange
Yellow
Park's cutting Blend Pastel Shades
California Giant Mix
Candy Cane
Polar Bear
Profusion White
Orange
Cherry
hyrbridized seed of 'Fire'
coupel other colors can't find off hand

I bought this package of seed the other day from the store. It by Ferry Morse and it called English Daisy double mixed colors. Don't know if I cna work them with the Zinnias or not.

So what ya think would be good to try and hybridize together. Which ones good ya think would be a waste of time.

This also a dumb question, but hwo do you keep yoru Zinnia blooming more than once. I have problems with most of them bloom and then die out on me. Do they need pinched or something. I know i doing somethign wrong cuz I cna drive aroudn and see folks with big busy plants and tons of bloom all season.

South Hamilton, MA

English daisy is a biennial so might have a different growth pattern.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Wouldn't it be neat if ya could get a Zinnia with a perennial or biennial growth habit.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"...how do you keep your Zinnias blooming more than once?"

If you are not trying to save hybrid seeds quickly, pinch out the central bud to encourage branching and pinch out subsequent buds or deadhead them. Most zinnias will keep putting out new branches in an attempt to set seeds in their flowers. If you keep pinching out the flower buds, your zinnias can become very branched.

I am impatient to cross my zinnias and get the seeds from those crosses, so I usually violate those principles for having good looking zinnias in the landscape in order to speed up the process of raising my own cross-pollinated hybrids.

"So what do ya think would be good to try and hybridize together?"

I think you might get some good results crossing the Magellans with the taller zinnias like the Park's Cutting Blend Pastel Shades and the California Giant Mix. I have been meaning to try that, myself. The taller zinnias can have sprawling branches and the Magellans are really too short and compact for their own good, so crosses between the low growing Magellans and the taller zinnias could create a "happy medium" with well-branched plants with a good intermediate height.

"Which ones do ya think would be a waste of time?"

The Profusions will probably be difficult to work with. You might succeed in crossing them with each other, but it would be a big gamble trying to cross them with your other zinnias. Also, I agree with Lucy (irisMA) that it is highly unlikely that the English Daisies will cross successfully with any of your zinnias. However, no harm in trying the "impossible" because, if it succeeded, your results could be very interesting. As a kid I tried repeatedly to cross marigolds and zinnias with no luck.

If you want to "branch out" in your zinnia project, you might want to try a packet or two of Burpee's Burpeeana Giant zinnias. Also, the scabiosa flowered zinnias can add a new dimension to your zinnia breeding, because their pollen florets (disk florets) are colored and last for many days, unlike the conventional fuzzy yellow disk florets, which usually fade and wither within a day or two.

I still like to make crosses involving the scabiosa flowered zinnias, despite the high number of single "daisy flowered" zinnias that they produce in my recombinants. This attached picture is a current bloom in what I refer to as "Echinacea flowered zinnias". They can result from a cross between a scabiosa flowered parent and a larger flowered zinnia. Or the scabiosa flowered crosses can produce "marigold flowered" zinnias and occasionally "sunflower flowered" zinnias.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This is one of my colorful, but single, recombinants. When you mix scabiosa flowered zinnias into your gene pool, you get a lot of single zinnias in your "grandchildren".

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

Singles & multiple plants in the garden add interest. Thompson & Morgan lists seeds for the smaller zinnias. We have never had much luck with T & M seeds, but might try them. After all I like the dwarf iris plants the best. Can't expect me to change size just because I am changing plants. :)

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Thanks Zman.

I would liek to get more than a couple blooms so that I can try and hybridize more blooms with sevral differnt type sof pollen on each plant if possible.

When you pinch out the buds do you pinch just the bud alone or do you pinch a little bit of stem below it too.

Apprciate it, think I will work with the Magellans and the pastels first. I lvoe the flower on the Magellens but like ya said it short. that part of the reason why I wondered about pinching. Wondere d if that would make the Magellens branch out more and give out more flowers.

I've never grown the English Daisies so shoudl be interesting. Will give it atry, if it don't work then wil just have some flowers for a vase. : )

I think I better start out with just the Magellans and pastels to start with til I get a feel for doign Zinnias and try and get a bit of seed success under my belt, but love the scabiosa forms, but afraid I might take on too much all at once with everythign else I got going on.

I buy seed from T&M all the time and have nevr had a problem with it.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"I would like to get more than a couple of blooms [on each plant] so that I can try and hybridize more blooms with several different types of pollen on each plant if possible."

That is a good motive for pinching the central bud to encourage more branching and more different blooms on each plant to put pollen on. Since it is your intention to cross different zinnias onto each of the separate blooms, you might want to tag or label the stem of each bloom so that you can record in your journal which pollen was put onto which bloom.

"When you pinch out the buds do you pinch just the bud alone or do you pinch a little bit of stem below it too."

I try to get just the little bud, but sometimes a couple of tiny leaves are so close to the bud that I accidentally get them too. Ideally, you would get just the bud, and at as early a stage as you can.

"I love the flower on the Magellans but like ya said it is short. That is part of the reason why I wondered about pinching. Wondered if that would make the Magellans branch out more and give out more flowers."

I've never done it, but I am reasonably certain that pinching would make the Magellans even more branched. And it might make the plants a bit bigger and taller, too. Pinching would give them more time to "make plant" before the "make seeds" stage starts.

"I buy seed from T&M all the time and have never had a problem with it."

Thompson & Morgan aren't my main source of seeds, but I do buy a few things from them. I also purchase from ValueSeeds, who are a discount outlet for T&M seeds. ValueSeeds seem to sell T&M overstock and possibly some of last year's seeds. http://www.valueseeds.com/ The ValueSeeds seed packets are very crude, but the seeds are cheap, and I have gotten decent germination from them. A bunch of my original 2006 Scabiosa Flowered zinnias were from ValueSeeds.

ZM

South Hamilton, MA

My dwarf iris may have 3 buds per stem. I tag all crosses now as I once had just a couple flowers tagged & got an extra pod. Top & bottom pods were correct, but was not sure of the middle 2 so mixed them together. When the blooms came, I could see that some of the plants were like those from the other 2 so moved them together & kept the unknown separate. Of course the best plants were from the partly unknown.

ZM Handy that you could do some indoor crossing. Must winter indoor iris seeds in moss in a refridgerator & not willing to do that, so the seeds are outdoors under the snow.

I am enjoying your results with the zinnias--Maine has lots of snow now, Does Kansas have ice? Looked at Value first page--will take awhile to get to Z on page 8.

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