Shop Products
Houzz Logo Print
zen_man

It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 58

4 months ago
last modified: 4 months ago

Hello everyone,

Welcome to this ongoing series of message threads about the zinnia hobby. The previous part of this continuing series, It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 57 has gone far beyond 100 messages, and that could make that thread slow to load for some readers, even though photos now appear in these Houzz messages as only inline large thumbnails (that can be clicked on to see larger versions), 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, feral cats, precocious cats, locusts, pet snails, chupacabras, book comments, or whatever.)

I now live in an in-town apartment with my son and have continued my zinnia hobby by growing a few zinnias indoors this Winter. Zinnias are not houseplants, so growing them indoors does present various problems. I will discuss various aspects of this experience in subsequent messages here. I am still learning about the challenges of growing zinnias indoors, which is part of the fun of doing this. There are some advantages to growing zinnias indoors. I can sit in a comfortable rolling chair while doing cross-pollination. And the timers on my lights let me control the photoperiod of my zinnias. I welcome your participation in this message thread.

Comments (23)

  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    I will continue our discussion here in this new message part, with comments on your last message.

    "Yes, this plant produced loads of disc florets. Many of the other plants nearby had plenty of pollen in their disk florets, but this plant had anthers that (to appearances) were empty of pollen."

    Yikes! An anther without pollen is a serious thing. Without rubbing it to verify that there were no pollen grains, that would be a bit iffy from just looking at the thing. But if the anthers didn't have any pollen, then their containing florets would be non-functional, and probably not develop a seed at their base. I'm not sure you would want seeds from a zinnia like that. Its attractive coloration was probably due to a white parent and the resulting "snowflake" structural visual appearance (with no white pigment involved) that gives a zinnia bloom a unique appearance like this example of mine. You can probably re-capture the effect it had that you liked by further crossing with white zinnias. Find a good white, like a selection from Benary's Giants.

    " In your experience, is there normally a strong correlation between a withered stigma and successful embryo development? If you make 18 pollinations, and you see all 18 of the stigmas wither in the next day or two, would you expect to have 18 good embryos in a few weeks?"

    Yes, although I probably wouldn't go to the trouble to count them.

    All is not lost on your "breeder quality" zinnia. It does have nice straight petals, that give it a good look. But don't depend on it exclusively. You can do better (in my opinion). Look for some breeder-quality white zinnias to cross stuff with. Scabiosa flowered zinnias can have some good variations. I particularly liked a "Water Lily" zinnia look.

    This new message string Part should make this thread easier to load. Always glad to hear from you.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hello again, Weston,

    " So another thought...

    As the seeds were developing, I would occasionally pull back slightly on a petal to observe the developing achene and see if there were embryos forming. The motion was very gentle and it didn't dislodge the developing achene in any way. However, I wonder if this motion would have caused the developing embryo to abort. I should experiment more with this. "

    Only if you broke the connection at the base of the developing seed (achene). I have never done exactly what you describe, but I have done plenty of disturbance "picking" green seeds for an early-start immediate planting. And I didn't notice any harm to the parent bloom from doing that.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago

    Fascinating. Eager to keep experimenting.

  • 4 months ago

    If this happens again I should inspect the anthers more closely under a microscope to see exactly what's going on.


  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    The microscope sounds like a good idea. In the past, I have depended strongly on finding self-ed seeds at the base of anthers. Can you set up to take photos through the microscope? Some microscope photography would really "class this place up." I am thinking about getting a microscope, and if I do, it will be one I can take photos through—maybe even video. I have been meaning to learn about video. And video through a microscope would really be something. I just now noticed there is a button for posting the video here.

    Incidentally, insects could be a factor with the anthers.

    More later.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago

    We are currently using a compound microscope that can magnify up to 400x. It has a mount for a camera, but we do not currently have a camera.


    Am I correct that you are finding selfed seed even on indoor zinnias that have had no pollinator visits?


    Thank you so much,

    Weston

  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    "Am I correct that you are finding selfed seed even on indoor zinnias that have had no pollinator visits?"

    Yes indeed. And I have growing seedlings from those obligatory selfed anther seeds. I planted them as green seeds to speed things up. I did not wait for the seeds to mature to the normal brown stage. I have successfully grown zinnias from green seeds for many years. Their parents had tubular petals, so I think at least some of them will have tubular petals when they bloom in a month or two.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago

    OK. Glad your still having some progress at your new place!

  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    I have a comment about your recent breeder zinnia, and how to treat future situations like that. Obviously, with any breeder zinnia, you want to get as many seeds as possible. The following strategy might be useful. I hope that the failure of anthers to set seeds problem can be resolved. I will have comments about that problem in a future message.

    It would be desirable to use the pollen to self the petal stigmas and also to set anther seeds, sort of like the old saying of "having your cake and eating it too".

    By the time the pollen is pushed out of the anther (disk floret), the anther is probably already pollinated, and you could dip the tip of an artist's brush into that pollen to pollinate the petal (ray floret) stigmas. From your photo, it looked like you had a lot of pollen-bearing disk florets, which could have supplied pollen to pollinate the stigmas of the ray florets (petals). An artist's brush might be an ideal tool to use that excess pollen. Using that technique, you might get a lot of seeds from a breeder-quality bloom, and it could be all the better if you got several blooms per plant.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago

    Good morning. Thanks so much for the additional thoughts.


    I've got some cloned specimens of that breeder just starting to bloom now. So, I should be able to get another round of experimentation. I've also got some other zinnias coming into bloom, so I'd like to make more careful observations regarding seed set percentage success rate.


    I hope you are getting a taste of spring weather! We had a little bit last week.


    Weston





  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    I have had indoor zinnias in bloom for over a month, and some second-generation seedlings are coming up now. I have gotten some interesting flower forms here in the apartment.

    That bloom was chock-full of anther seeds and had very few petal (ray) seeds. I have been wondering if your experiences with the anther (disk) seed set might have something to do with some unusual trace element deficiency.

    There are several possibilities, but one that occurred to me as a special case is Nickel. Nickel is an absolute requirement for plant growth. Still, it is almost never included in nutrient formulas, even those that include a lot of trace elements, because soils almost always have enough Nickel. Years ago, I bought some Nickel Nitrate from an online chemical house that sells to amateur chemists as an alternative to dropping a nickel into every pot. Any Nickel form, Sulfate, Chloride, or even Chelate, should be effective. Even just the coins might work.

    But if you are using something besides ordinary garden soil in your greenhouse, your greenhouse plants may not get enough Nickel. There are a couple of books that I think are worth having for anyone involved in growing plants in other than an outdoor in-soil environment.

    Handbook of Plant Nutrition, First Edition, edited by Allen V. Barker and David J. Pilbeam, CRC

    Handbook of Plant Nutrition, Second Edition, edited Allen V. Barker and David J. Pilbeam, CRC

    Both editions are worth having because many of their articles had different writers from the first to the second edition. I think the first edition is still relevant. I would have included links to Amazon, but apparently, Houzz does not allow links to Amazon. Both editions are available on Amazon; at least, they were the last time I looked. Both books have a section for Essential Elements: Macronutrients and Essential Elements: Micronutrients. Both editions also have a section for Beneficial Elements, such as Aluminum, Cobalt, Selenium, Silicon, Sodium, Vanadium, and Lanthanides in the second edition. Wow! Who knew?? I actually supplied some Silicon in the form of Waterglass (Sodium Silicate) for stronger plants and stiffer stems. Silicon is also available in the form of the commercial product Pro-Tekt, which I am now using instead of the Water Glass, which I ran out of on the farm.

    The details of plant nutrition are fascinating, and I will "keep my eye out" for a third edition.

    Whether your anther seed set problem has anything to do with nutrition remains to be seen.

    I need to order some more chemicals, including some chelates.

    More later.

    ZM

  • 4 months ago

    Yes. This makes sense. One way to test this would be to grow some clones outdoors this summer. If we get full fertility outdoors, then we've got an environmental factor of some kind at play with the indoor specimen(s).


    How do you plan to save seed from the zinnia in the photograph? If you were to rely on disc floret seed for many generations, the line would eventually become inbred, and it also seems like this practice would select for singles rather than double blooms.


    It seems like I've gotten much better seed set in the blooms I've pollinated in the past month or two (from other plants). I'm doing a small-scale experiment currently to help establish an expected success rate for controlled pollinations. Having a benchmark will be helpful as I gauge the fertility of different lines--and even different ploidy levels and interspecific hybrids.


    Sincerely,

    Weston

  • 4 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    Hi Weston,

    "How do you plan to save seed from the zinnia in the photograph?"

    I sort of pushed the green seeds out of the flowerhead with my thumbnail. I plant the green seeds as they are (still green) or dry them for later planting. As a standard practice, I nick the green seeds to allow water transfer more quickly. I do some "surgery" to pollinate or cross-pollinate tubular petalled zinnias.

    Some of the petal tubes snap off like green beans, and others need a sharp knife to encourage them.

    "If you were to rely on disc floret seed for many generations, the line would eventually become inbred, and it also seems like this practice would select for singles rather than double blooms."

    I think there are successful obligate "selfers" in the trade. Aren't Sweet Peas obligate selfers ? And Sweet Pea blooms, like some Daisies, are "singles" with no one complaining. Some people complain that Burpee apparently discontinued their single "Forecast" zinnia. Forecast was on the cover of their catalog a few years ago. Although people don't seem to be complaining that their zinnias should look like this.

    "Having a benchmark will be helpful as I gauge the fertility of different lines--and even different ploidy levels and interspecific hybrids."

    I agree. More later.

    ZM

  • 3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Hello again, Weston,

    I'm going to feed a little Nickel to a few of my indoor zinnia seedlings to see if there is a noticeable effect. I purchased a small sample of Nickel sulfate from Amazon, and will make up a dilute stock solution of weak Nickel and apply it to a few of my indoor zinnias to see if there is a noticeable effect. I would have gotten some Nickel nitrate from a different source, but the shipping cost was going to exceed the cost of the chemical itself. I am also feeding my zinnia seedlings a little Potassium silicate along with other standard nutrients. I still prefer tubular petalled zinnias.

    More later. It feels Spring-like, but I think some cool weather is coming.

    ZM

  • 3 months ago

    Wow, I'm eager to hear how the plants respond to added Nickel. Thanks for the update.

  • 3 months ago

    Hi zen_man! I appreciated the update as to where you are now growing zinnias and will check in to get tips on growing zinnias indoors. Glad to see you are continuing the zinnia series.


    I don't see many varieties for sale in my area and started 4 varieties in my greenhouse in late Feb and early March. (Preciosa White, Zydeco White, Short Stuff Orange, Zinderalla Peach). Last frost is hopefully mid April and I hope to plant them out in 3-4 weeks. So far, they are doing well and some are at the point where I'd like to pinch them, but the third and fourth set of true leaves are too close for me to separate cleanly. In the picture below, the fourth set is inside the third set. I'd appreciate your input on pinching and assume I just need to be patient.





    I'd also appreciate any suggestions on feeding/care. They are started in Pro-Mix BX and I have not fed them anything yet. I'm trying to water only in the morning and when necessary. Lights are on a timer, on at 6:15 AM off around 7:30 PM.




    Extraneous dahlia shot - I thought zinnia's were the fastest growing. This dahlia is towering over the zinnias.







  • 3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Hello oldbat2be,

    Welcome, welcome. These are good-looking zinnia seedlings. I have never grown dahlias from seed (probably my loss), so I don't have any experience with them. Dahlia blooms can easily exceed a foot in diameter, so they far exceed zinnias in that regard. And dahlias are perennial, while zinnias are annual, so they are different in that regard as well. Their color range is similar (no true blue ones).

    "They are started in Pro-Mix BX and I have not fed them anything yet."

    I also use Pro-Mix BX, and its nutrients will start to run out soon. I first realized the Pro-Mix nutrient limitation when a noticeable Calcium deficiency developed in my indoor seedlings. Your water source may supply some nutrients. If you are using "city water," it may be Fluoridated (for your teeth) and Chlorinated for biological safety. Chlorine is a trace element for plants. They don't need the Fluorine, but they can tolerate it.

    I had purchased some Calcium nitrate crystals for my indoor growing, and I moved a small bag of Calcium Nitrate here to the apartment, along with a bag of Better-Gro Orchid Better-Bloom. Silicon is one of the elements that is "beneficial" to plants as it strengthens cell walls. Rice growers consider Silicon to be a necessity for strong stems to keep those seedheads out of the irrigation water. Silicon presumably makes stronger flower plants.

    I am currently experimenting with Nickel (a required element for plants that is naturally supplied in the garden soil), which, as far as I know, is absent in Pro-Mix. I have no idea what a Nickel deficiency looks like in a zinnia. Lots to learn. You must supply some soluble nutrients to your Pro-Mix or get your plants into garden soil as soon as practical. More later.

    ZM

  • 3 months ago

    Hi ZM - Thank you. We are on well water, so no added nutrients. I've ordered some Better-Gro Orchid Better-Bloom. Regarding soluble nutrient application, I have Hi-Yield Calcium-Nitrate available locally. Do you have a preferred silicon addititve?


    What would you recommend as a feeding solution ratio of each, per gallon of water? I'm assuming I should feed through the roots.


    OB

  • 3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Hi OB,

    " Do you have a preferred silicon addititve? "

    I currently use SUPERthrive Pro-Tekt 0-0-3, which I purchased from Amazon. It is a liquid that I dilute with water to feed through the roots. I think any liquid Potassium Silicate, properly diluted with water, would be fine, either through the roots or possibly even in a foliar feed. The company that produced the "water glass" product I used to use went out of business or vanished. Take some care when using potassium silicate because it is highly alkaline, and plants use it only in small amounts, mainly in their cell walls.

    ZM

  • 3 months ago

    Grown from seeds of diploid plant flowers onto which I had added pollen from tetraploid plant flowers. Are these plants recognizably triploid?


  • 3 months ago

    www.houzz.com/discussions/6346156/it-can-be-fun-to-breed-your-own-zinnias-part-57

    > " However, my best zinnia plants were the triploids."


  • 3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Hello again, four,

    That photo of mine showed umpteen blooms and umpteen branches, and if your photo had been anything like that, I would have at least suspected triploidy. But your photo looks nothing like that and, like I said above, looks like Peruvian Zinnias. There is nothing in your photo to give a clue about ploidy. The absence of multiple branching could suggest non-triploidy.

    I plan to produce more triploid zinnias in the future. I am growing some tetraploids (three different varieties) and some diploids indoors.

    ZM