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zen_man

It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 51

zen_man
March 16, 2019
last modified: March 16, 2019

Hello everyone,

Welcome to this ongoing series of message threads. The previous part of this continuing series, [It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 50[(https://www.houzz.com/discussions/it-can-be-fun-to-breed-your-own-zinnias-part-50-dsvw-vd~5487920?n=102) , has exceeded 100 messages, which could make the thread slow to load, so we are continuing the series here for yet another fresh start. The same guidelines apply here. Anything remotely related to zinnias is fine. (Or plant breeding in general, or feral cats or precocious cats or locusts or pet snails or chupacabras or book comments or whatever.)

Even though it is already Meteorological Spring, which starts March 1st, it is much too early here in rural east central Kansas to begin planting zinnias outside, because they are susceptible to freezing or frost, and zinnias prefer warm weather. So I am continuing my indoor zinnia project, by gardening on chrome plated steel wire shelves.


I have several shelving units devoted to my indoor gardening under T8 fluorescent lights.


T8 fluorescent lights are no longer the best technology for indoor gardening under lights, but I started this hobby back in 2004 when the main alternative was relatively expensive HID lights. Since then T5 fluorescents have become more efficient and cost effective than T8s, and LED lighting is now becoming practical for indoor gardening. But my original Philips T8 bulbs were rated for 20,000 hours of service, and many of my original bulbs are still in service. So I already have a working T8 lighting setup, and the easy thing for me is to simply continue using it, even though the newer alternatives are more efficient.

I continue planting a few new zinnias indoors almost daily, so I have zinnias at all stages: emerging seedlings, growing plants, blooming plants, and zinnias that have "gone to seed". My goal is to produce a good supply of seed of novel new varieties of zinnias for me to plant out in-ground when the weather warms up. I can grow zinnias in much greater numbers outdoors than indoors, and those sheer numbers of zinnias can be an effective way of finding better specimens.

As always, I look forward to your participation here if you are new to this series of message threads, or to your continued participation if you have been here before. Your comments, questions, and photos are welcome. More later.

ZM

Comments (74)

  • four

    The overview and the specifics that you gave here, including the photo, are perfect for wlhere I am in my thinking and readiness.

  • zen_man

    Hello four,

    When I find an exceptional zinnia in my garden, I want to save as many seeds from it as I can, and I can increase that seed yield by propagating the plant into several plants via the cuttings route. But you can only get so many cuttings from a parent plant until you "run out of plant." So growing zinnias from cuttings has its limitations.

    I have experimented some with propagating zinnias by tissue culture, so far unsuccessfully, but I plan to continue those experiments in the future. I know that zinnias can be propagated by tissue culture.

    ZM

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  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    Your zinnia seedlings do not have a normal upright growth posture. I am not sure yet why. The seedling you plan to plant deeper should tolerate the deeper placement you suggest. There is some disease present on the leaf in that last bigger picture. It looks like that container is in part shade. That could be making your zinnias spindly. Or possibly they are deficient in some nutrient. What is the growing medium in that container? It looks like coarse sand.

    ZM

  • four

    Photos on left and on right are of same container, zero shade from 8AM to 4PM; medium is calcined diatomaceous earth. Same habit in medium DE + commercial top soil; same habit in medium my compost (made from many kinds of plants). Occasional fertilizer Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro (9-3-6 + micros).

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    Well, there is something wrong with your zinnia's growing environment, because they aren't supposed to snake around on the ground. And their stems look rather thin or narrow, too. Zinnia stems are narrow when they first emerge, but they are supposed to thicken. This is a current picture of some of my indoor zinnia seedlings. Notice that the taller ones have thicker stems.

    All that said, your zinnias are succeeding in blooming, and looking reasonably good at doing that. Calcined diatomaceous earth is a rather unusual growing medium. Since you are growing your zinnias in a container, I suggest you try a commercial container medium. I use Premier's Pro-Mix. Or, try MiracleGro Potting Mix, which should be widely available, and is formulated to be suitable for use in pots and containers.

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • zen_man

    Hello everyone,

    Well, mainly I want to see if I can arrange two inline photo thumbnails side-by-side yet. This is one of my indoor zinnias with narrow tubular petals that I like.


    It would look a little better if I could arrange those two inline photo thumbs side-by-side. But still can't do it. Oh, well. Houzz may be catering to people with phones instead of computers.

    ZM

  • four

    Trying to trick us by placing photos of a sea anemone.

    I like those petals very much.

    My thing is nectar for butterflies, and I see that a few of my blooms never make the usual nectar-providing structures

    They have many more petals than all the others.

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    One of the best zinnias for feeding butterflies is Zowie! Yellow Flame zinnia.

    It produces a good supply of pollen florets every morning, and those bear nectar for butterflies. As an F1 hybrid, its seed are relatively expensive, but the butterflies think they are worth it. And don't forget to save seeds from your F1 Zowies. They will have some F2 variation, but many of them will also be good for butterflies. And a few might even be better than the original. You could very easily breed your own butterfly-friendly zinnia strains.

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • four

    breed my own..... breed my own..... the notion is luring me in..

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    A few years ago I noticed a few butterflies feeding on my hummingbird feeders. They were having a hard time of it, because the hummingbirds can be aggressive. I didn't see a butterfly get killed, but they were definitely treated roughly. That started me to thinking, if there could be bird feeders and hummingbird feeders, why couldn't there be butterfly feeders? It turns out, there are available quite a few butterfly feeders..

    I purchased a couple and installed them at the edge of my garden. Butterflies did feed on the feeders, although with a few thousand zinnias nearby, they spent most of their time on the zinnias. The occasional hummingbird sampled the butterfly nectar, but they also preferred to flit about on the zinnias.

    However, I can see that if you didn't have a lot of zinnia competition, the butterfly feeders could be a good thing. The instructions suggested putting a few slices of banana on the feeders as an added inducement, and that did seem to help. I don't know how scientifically optimized the commercial butterfly food is, but it does seem to be suitable for butterflies. I don't know how popular butterfly feeders are, but they are something to keep in mind.

    ZM (not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

  • four

    Update on the cuttings section of this thread : I rooted an experimental one outdoors in calcinated DE. Very nice roots.

    Now I will try from the plant that I want. I was about to compost its removed flower

    , thinking it useless. However, first I should check the thought with you.

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,


    If you shred that flower apart, you might find some usable green seeds in the central part.


    ZM

  • four

    Ok, now that I have read a bit about it, I ask whether there is any benefit to be had from freshness, in this case by leaving flower intact until I am prepared to use its green seeds.

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    It's probably better to pull the flower apart to get the green seeds as soon as you remove it from the plant, because as soon as you pick the flower it starts loosing moisture content, including moisture from the green seeds. Also that informs you sooner about how many good seeds, if any, you have.

    But that is not critical, because unless I plan to plant the green seeds immediately, I want them to dry so I can store them without fear of them striking roots in storage. For some large blooms I pull individual petals to get their attached green seeds for immediate planting. These are a couple of photos of some of my green seeds from breeder zinnias. That graph paper is ruled 10 per inch.


    Sometimes if you are wondering if a green seed is "good" or not, you can squeeze it gently between your thumb and forefinger to feel whether it is empty or contains a developed embryo. The really important part of a zinnia seed, green or brown, is the embryo inside.

    ZM

  • four

    First one is a hit.


    In a different thread you wrote: " I have on occasions planted flats of zinnia embryos instead of seeds." My guess is that you do not always do it because of the extra time required, together with equal performance of breached coats.

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    That is a live embryo, and you could plant it.

    " In a different thread you wrote: " I have on occasions planted flats of zinnia embryos instead of seeds." My guess is that you do not always do it because of the extra time required, together with equal performance of breached coats. "

    You are right on both counts. There doesn't seem to be any great advantage to planting embryos versus planting breached green seeds.


    There is an interesting question, regarding "is an extracted embryo already germinated?" It does take a day or two for an extracted embryo to emerge, so I guess you could say there is a germination time involved, namely the wait time for the plantlet to appear above ground. The embryo exercise does give you a better understanding of zinnia seeds themselves, and their germination. Keep us informed of your activities. That is a fantastic photo of the zinnia embryo on a plucked zinnia petal. Great close-up.

    ZM

  • four

    Germination is a process of development, and we, outside of the chemistry lab, get to see visible RESULTS of some of the chemical subprocesses. Although the visible point at which the process is complete can be a matter of opinion, the production of a root is fundamental in the concept of germination. A given individual embryo already has root at time of extraction? Fine, someone reasonably could assert "germinated" for that individual. Otherwise not.

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    I agree with everything you said there. For a zinnia embryo to be said to have germinated, it must have changed visibly, and a growing root would be a logical criterion.

    I am in the early stages of my outdoor zinnia project.

    I have some zinnias planted in a low tunnel, and I am using our 3-wheeled wheelbarrow to move sand to new seedbeds. It has been raining here off-and-on for about 20 hours now. Flooding for the locals is a distinct possibility. Fortunately we are located "on high ground". More later.

    ZM

  • four

    "cutting from a zinnia and stick it in a glass of water... will simply rot"

    Thought I'd try it anyway. Both photos today of same cutting :

    (Flower is from bud that was on cutting at start.)

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    That is very interesting. Just out of curiosity, what species of zinnia are you growing? I notice your zinnia blooms are rather small.

    This sequence of photos is how I start with a zinnia branch and get three cuttings from it.





    Since I started with just a branch from the donor plant, the donor plant continues to grow and develop, and I could get more cuttings from it. But when you try to get as many cuttings as possible from a zinnia plant, you do "run out of plant" before getting an extreme number of cuttings from it. All of my zinnias are now technically Zinnia hybrida, because they include interspecies hybrids between Z.elegans and Z. haageana in their ancestry (Carrousel and Whirligig). My zinnia plants are structurally very similar to Zinnia elegans (Zinnia violacea in academic circles), but significantly different from your zinnias.

    ZM

  • four

    "Pumila Semi Dwarf". One package; bloom sizes and formations have varied.

    Thanks for the triple-cut photos. If my plants enlarge and branch, then I will do as shown.

  • zen_man

    Hello everyone,

    North central Kansas had several tornadoes last evening, but here in east central Kansas we just had rain and some impressive lightning. So it is a bit wet out there right now. I am in the process of starting my outdoor zinnia gardening. I started some zinnias in a low tunnel and I am using our three-wheeled "Wheelz-barrow" to transport sand to new seed beds of zinnias.


    I will do some indoor zinnia "seed shucking" while waiting for things to dry off a bit outside. More later.

    Namaste.

    ZM

  • four

    Question about seed sprouts, anywhere from emergence to when seedlings really should be moved from initial medium : Are there any stages/sizes when they are likely to fail if taken out their crib earlier than an optimal point?

  • zen_man

    Hi Four,

    I wait for the pot to become a little bit root-bound before re-potting it to a larger pot. By waiting until the root-bound stage, the roots hold the potting medium together, and the medium comes out of the pot as a coherent pot-shaped unit which can be placed in a larger pot with medium filled around it. That technique avoids disturbing the roots in any way. Even the delicate root hairs are not disturbed.

    ZM

  • zen_man

    Hello everyone,

    I am still in the in-between stage between finishing up my indoor zinnia project and starting my outdoor zinnia project. This is an indoor specimen that is actually a form of scabious bloom.


    If I could, I would arrange those embedded photo thumbnails side-by-side, but that is apparently still not a capability here. Oh well, not a biggie. More later. It's wet here and the rivers and streams are out of their banks.

    ZM

  • four

    As we enter any applicable content into Houzz' comment form, HTML code is generated for the display of it in the page after the form is committed (Submit).

    The code that Houzz generates for an uploaded image places the image reference into a new content division element that is exclusive to that image. Divisions (whatever their content) are rendered in vertical succession; think of paragraphs in a book.

  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    " The code that Houzz generates for an uploaded image places the image reference into a new content division element that is exclusive to that image. Divisions (whatever their content) are rendered in vertical succession; think of paragraphs in a book. "

    That is a good description of what Houzz is doing currently, but that vertical arrangement of small photos is not even a good arrangement for a book. It wastes space and doesn't look good. The arrangement of inline photo "thumbnails" looks better when you use the available space to place them in, and that includes both horizontal placement as well as vertical placement. Other websites do what I am describing with their HTML. For example, see this recent forum post of mine at the National Gardening Association.

    I have requested that Houzz do the same or equivalent arrangement of inline photo thumbnails here, but so far Houzz has not chosen to do so. Hopefully Houzz will change their mind on this, but this is their website, and it will have whatever appearance they choose. So, as that old saying goes, "A word to the wise is sufficient."

    ZM

  • four

    This is about pruning, not propagation. I always have removed flowers at A because plants were short and without branches. This first brancher

    prompts me to ask what the plant is likely to do in response to removal at B. Develop something there? Keep middle empty?

  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    Zinnias usually have a leaf or pair of leaves on the flower stem, but usually there is no node associated with them, so they are not going to develop any branches from that point. I usually remove the flower stem at B just to get a longer stem for a vase, but I take care not to damage the node, because it will usually put out a couple of branches. Yours already has two branches at B. If you think the plant will look better if you remove the stem at A, then remove it there.

    I am in the process of improving my zinnia plants, to get longer, narrower, more pointed leaves.


    Some commercial zinnia breeders have the same zinnia plant improvement objective.

    ZM

  • four

    "leaves on the flower stem, but usually there is no node associated with them, so they are not going to develop any branches from that point" -- That is fascinating. Now I am at a loss to know what to expect, i.e. whether/where a branch will start on any given plant.

    I like the look of your leaves. Is some leaf area not sacrificed?

  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    " Now I am at a loss to know what to expect, i.e. whether/where a branch will start on any given plant. "

    The branches always emerge from nodes, and the nodes are always at the base of a leaf attachment. You can encourage branching by pinching the main bud when it first appears. I don't do that, because I am always in a hurry to see what my latest hybridizations have produced. And I usually cull my zinnias at first bloom.

    " Is some leaf area not sacrificed? "

    The long narrow leaves do indeed have a lot less individual leaf area.


    But a well nourished zinnia plant is continually growing and adding new branches with new leaves, so that the total leaf area if always increasing. My zinnia plant improvement goal is an ongoing thing, like my quest for better blooms.

    ZM

  • four

    "leaves on the flower stem, but usually there is no node associated with them" ___ "nodes are always at the base of a leaf attachment " ___ I guess you can tell that I need clarification.

  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    " I guess you can tell that I need clarification. "

    OK, we will use your picture of your first branched zinnia as a reference.

    Counting the small beginning branch down at the bottom of the picture, you have three branches on that zinnia. Each of those three branches is connected to the main stem at the same place that a leaf is connected to the stem. Those places are called nodes.

    The leaf attached to the bloom stem at the place you have labelled "A" is the exception in zinnias. Those leaves provide extra nourishment for the development of seeds in the bloom, but a branch will never form at their base. So their attachment point is not a node.

    Incidentally, when I am taking cuttings from a zinnia, I always include a part of a node at the bottom end of the cutting. Not only do nodes favor the growth of new branches, they also favor the growth of roots from a cutting. The new roots start growing from the node. The plant cells in the nodes are "special". If you plan to do tissue culture of a zinnia, you want to use a small piece of node to start with.

    ZM

  • four

    That rule too my zinnias disobey :


  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    That is some impressive photo-graphics. However, your zinnias are not disobeying any rule or rules. Zinnia leaf pairs arise at nodes, and those nodes usually produce one or two branches., whether or not you cut the stem off above the leaf pair/node. Cutting the stem off probably accelerates the appearance of branches, if they are not already present.

    ZM

  • four

    Silly of me not to know about the nodes at positions A which is where zinnias have no nodes.

  • zen_man

    Positions A are nodes. Leaf pairs and all.

  • zen_man

    Hello everyone,

    I took this photo today in my North Garden.

    Whirligig ancestry contributes bi-colors. I don't know where it got the petal tips--could be from several sources. A lot of my zinnias are in zinnia cages, which are like tomato cages, but for zinnias. More later.

    ZM

  • zen_man

    Hello everyone,

    I took this photo yesterday in my North Garden. I like the petals on this one.

    It was a cloudy day, so the lighting could have been better. Grin. I should have used a faster lens aperture to throw some of those little weeds out-of-focus. More later.

    Namaste.

    ZM

  • four

    That flower is great. I would not be surprised if hummingbirds were to try the petals a few times.

  • zen_man

    Hi four,

    Hummingbirds do visit my zinnias, but as far as I can tell they only get nectar from the pollen florets (the fuzzy yellow starfish). We also have a couple of commercial hummingbird feeders up. This is another current outdoor zinnia.

    I don't know what caused that foliage damage. Those zinnia cages can't protect my zinnias from everything.

    ZM

  • samhain10 - 5a

    Hi ZM,

    Been gone for a bit, I know. Trying to get the garden in, and finished day before yesterday, just in time for a nice day-long rain. Raining off and on today also, plus more on the way. Everything is loving all the water.


    I saved one 3 ft x 15 ft bed for my zinnia hybrids. Generally, these are saved seed of self-crosses, though I did manage a handful of crosses last summer between my favorites. I imagine I'll get some pretties regardless. I had several I really loved last year.


    I've decided I won't try and keep a record of the zinnia crosses now, but will simply go with those that most appeal, making a few crosses here and there as fancy strikes me. At least the seeds will be labeled as to what flower they came from - appearance and whatnot - so i'll know what I want to plant next year. And I'll be posting pics, of course, which is always fun. :)


    Just thought I'd stop by to say "Hey!", and let you know i'm still around.


    Namaste,

    Alex



  • zen_man

    Hi Alex,

    Glad to hear from you again. I have been busy planting zinnias outside. Still transplanting a few "stragglers" from my indoor project. This is a current outdoor bloom.

    That one has a lot of "Woolly" genetics. The Woollies have the primary advantage of being "different" as opposed to being highly ornamental. They are tubulars with internal anther bundles, and that is a good thing. More later. We had a light rain last night.

    Namaste.

    ZM

  • samhain10 - 5a

    ZM - that woolly seems to be sporting 2 different colors: the outside purple/watermelon shade and the inner "mango" shade. Does that indicate a whirligig background?

    Been raining on and off here today as well. Rather cool temps, and more rain on the way, but hopefully the warmer temps later this week will bring on germination of my zinnias. Been sort of unusual weather, I think. Later.

    Namaste,

    Alex

  • zen_man

    Hi Alex,

    Yes, that Woolly definitely has some Whirligig genes. Actually, I think the vast majority of my zinnias have some Whirligig or Carousel or Merry-Go-Round or other Z. haageana inter-species ancestry.

    We got a very light rain yesterday and today was full sun. This is one of my current blooms.

    I think that is some kind of katydid. I am under the impression that all katydids are "good", based on them being carnivores, instead of herbivores like grasshoppers. More later.

    Namaste.

    ZM

  • samhain10 - 5a

    Can't see the critter well enough, but if that snout is as pointed as it looks, then I think it is a form of assassin bug. As they prey on other bugs, then it should be OK where it is; but they DO bite.

    Alex


  • zen_man

    Hi Alex,

    This photo shows the "critter" a bit clearer.

    I think it is probably a "nymph", that is, a "not-mature" individual. I am guessing that, as an adult, it would have wings. I suppose that, as a youth, it could be an assassin bug. But those grasshopper-like hind legs make me think "katydid".

    Namaste.

    ZM

  • samhain10 - 5a

    ZM - I see what you mean about the legs - they do look more like a katydid nymph. The assassin bug nymph has a less rounded body as well. Though that head still makes me think more along the lines of the pale green assassin bug nymph. Still, I believe you are probably right.


    Still raining here. Getting very soggy. :) If it will ever heat up with a little sun, I might start to see some seeds germinating out in the zinnia patch. Crossing my fingers.


    Namaste,

    Alex


  • zen_man

    Hi Alex,

    Those Whirligig bi-color genes can have a good effect on some of my exotic tubular flower forms, like with this current outdoor breeder.

    It occurs to me that I should start doing some pollinating and cross pollinating. I planted a row of Razzle Dazzles from 2015 today. Pop-up showers are predicted here for tonight. More later.

    Namaste.

    ZM

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