Breeding Your Own Lilies

Lilies are impressive plants and their life cycles are indeed vibrant. Usually, the flowers of all lilies are magnificent and it is possible to grow these plants in all kinds of gardens. Several types of lilies are easy to grow and can be propagated from their seeds. In fact, when you propagate lilies from seeds, they will be in bloom within a year from the date of sowing. Growing lilies successfully does not require several acres or any particular expertise. You also don't need to invest a significant amount of money. All that you require to grow lilies is love and interest for these plants and some of your time.

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Is it difficult?

Nearly all lily species and hybrids are fertile and produce copious amounts of seeds. For instance, you can expect anything between 20 and 100 seeds from just one pod. If you use fresh seeds, they will germinate quickly compared to using stored seeds. In fact, the seedlings from fresh lily seeds of several popular types can produce blooms in just a couple of years from the date of sowing. It is also possible to propagate the bulbs of most of the good quality lilies quite rapidly. In fact, you will also not find it problematic to grow what you think were not-so-good or healthy seedlings. Lily aficionados having just modest plots have successfully breed lilies that were named and spread them across the world for people to enjoy the flowers.

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How to produce hybrid seeds

Nearly all types of lilies produce copious pollens on large anthers that are detached easily. If possible, after having selected a flower as a potential seed parent, you ought to take away the anthers before the flower sheds its pollens, perhaps on the stigma. You can accomplish this job using your fingers, but it is more helpful to use a pair of tweezers. It is much easier to hold the anther(s) using a pair of tweezers. Besides, it will help you to keep your hands clean. In case you are extra careful, you may also protect the stigma using a small contraceptive cap prepared with a sticky tape or by twisting a piece foil paper. Nevertheless, the stigma will still be sticky as well as receptive once the flower has opened. This is the appropriate time to place the pollens from the male parent on the stigma. You may also take another anther from the same cultivar and bring it into contact with the stigma in order to evenly plaster pollen on all the three lobes of the stigma.

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Once the pollination is complete, some lily enthusiasts put the flower in a paper bag or they cover the stigma with a view to put off strange or unwanted pollens carried by insect or wind from coming in contact with the pollinated stigma. While this is seldom required, it is always better to take some additional precaution if you are dealing with an extremely rare type of lily. If you are dealing with any other flower than lilies, you can employ the common method of transferring pollen on to the stigma using a small water color brush. However, in the case of lilies, this is a useless exercise. It will be much easier as well as more effective to transfer the anther to the stigma directly. If you are not using fresh pollen or those that have been stored for a brief period, you will find it useful to use a small tool. Using a large brush will not only result in wastage of pollens, but it will also be very awkward.

Having made a cross, it is imperative to label the flowers right away. If you think you will remember everything that you have done, including the name of the flowers used as parents, it will do no good. In fact, you may be easily confused with other flowers and crosses in just a few minutes. Therefore, you will require fastening a label made of card or plastic for it to remain of many weeks - till the time the seed pod ripens completely. You should note down the name of the parent on the label using indelible and waterproof ink or pencil. The principle is to write down the parents' name in this order - "Enchantment" x "Connecticut King". The first name is that of the female flower or the seed parent, while the second name is that of the male parent or the flower from which pollen has been collected.

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In case you are contemplating to cross two flowers that do not bloom simultaneously, you can adopt two approaches. First, you can change the blooming time of one artificially by retarding it. However, it would be much easier to bring the flower that blooms later into bloom somewhat in advance by gentle forcing. The second approach is to store the pollen till the time when the selected female parent comes to bloom.

Ideally, the anthers should be collected just prior to their splitting and splitting their pollen. Subsequently, put the anthers in a plastic pill box and allow them to remain in a safe, warm and dry place till they are dried out and split. It is important to label the container by writing the name of the cultivar - all pollens look almost similar, and seal the lid of the container when the anther has dried out and the pollen is free. Having done this, store the container in your household refrigerator till the time when the pollen is required for crossing.

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This method is useful only when you need to store the pollen for few days. On the other hand, if you require storing the pollen for many weeks or months together, you will be required to take some additional care to make sure that it remains dry and does not turn mouldy. This can be achieved easily by placing the pollen in a container along with a deliquescent (aqueous) chemical or a synthetic gel that will soak up the little moisture that may still be present. One such chemical is calcium chloride.

Place a little amount of the chemical at the container's bottom and cover it up using cotton wool or gauze. Subsequently, store the pollen on a small piece of tissue or blotting paper. In such conditions, pollen will remain viable for almost six months, provided you store the container in a refrigerator.

Harvesting seeds

If the lily cross proves to be fertile, its seedpods will distend and become erect. Conversely, the seedpods of infertile plants remain small and eventually wither. With the seeds beginning to mature and ripen, the seedpods become dry and may also start splitting at their top before letting the ripened seeds to break out. At this phase, you either need to harvest the whole pod or ensure that not a single seed can escape. You may remove the pods, label them writing the name of the species or hybrid and place them on a unsoiled paper in an arid, well ventilated place where the seed will remain safe and continue to become fully ripened. On the other hand, you may place a square plastic net with fine mesh or piece of muslin on top of the seedpod and tie it using a small rubber band with a view to void any seed from escaping. In case you are going to be away for some days or do not have enough time to regularly check the ripening pods, you will at least be assured that everything is safe and that all the effort you have put in will not be futile.

Seed pods that ripen at a relatively later phase may be cut off from the plants by autumn end, when they are unlikely to mature any further. After removing such pods from the plants, dangle them upturned over a clean sheet of paper in a relatively warmer and arid spot in order to facilitate their further ripening and collect the ripened seeds safely. It will be prudent to spray fungicides on the developing pods sometime in autumn as a precautionary measure to put off infection as well as damage. At the same time, you need to be always cautious about labelling all the seed batches very carefully.

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