One of the basic methods to propagate plants is to grow them from their seed. This method of propagation is especially advantageous for people growing lilies, as it enables them to grow lilies that cannot be easily obtained in the form of bulbs. At the same time, seed germination also allows the lily growers to generate more bulbs cheaply from the same plant. Most importantly, propagating lilies from seeds also allows the growers to breed their individual hybrid stock.
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All said and done, the most important reason for growing plants from their seeds is that bulbs propagated in this manner are not infected by viruses, which is very common in plants/ bulbs purchased from outside sources. If any of these diseases are introduced in your garden, you will find it extremely difficult to get rid of them. In fact, these diseases can spread through the entire stock, deforming or even eliminating the entire lily bulbs in your garden. On the other hand, lily bulbs grown from seeds are free from virus infections even in the case the seeds have been obtained from plants that were infected.
Provided the seed has been obtained from a species that is growing in the wild, where the chances of hybridization are nil, it is very likely that the plant grown from it will bear resemblance to the parent. However, seeds obtained from hybrids, cultivars or even species that have crossed with plants in the vicinity may not necessarily produce progenies resembling their parents. The chances, in fact, are that they will not be identical.
Another point that needs to be remembered is that you should never name a plant that has been propagated from the seeds of a cultivar similar to its parent. Bulbs that have been propagated by vegetative means will be completely similar to their parent and can also bear the name of their parent.
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It is important to note that lilies are basically self-sterile. In other words, a lily plant will not produce viable seeds if it is pollinated with its own pollens. Therefore, it is essential to cross-pollinate the lily species as well as their hybrids either via natural pollinators like bees or any other artificial means.
Pollination may occur both under proper protection and in the open. In fact, pollinating lilies in a protective structure or a greenhouse is best, as this allows the grower to control the prevailing weather conditions. Elevated temperature levels during the period of pollination as well as fertilization result in superior quality seeds. However, you can also obtain excellent seeds under a variety of conditions.
The seed capsules (also called pods) are collected before their color changes to brown and begin to split open on their own. Preferably, you should only harvest the seed pods when the weather is dry. However, this may not be possible in some climates. Moreover, it may also prove to be practically impossible to allow the pods that develop later in the season ripen out in the open. If there is a forecast about an impending frost or the weather remains wet continuously, you may cut the entire stem even when the seed capsules are immature or are green. Usually, the cut stem is moved indoors and dangled upside down in a room that is warm and properly ventilated to allow them to become mature.
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After the seed pods are harvested, they are taken indoors and dried out on paper plates or newspaper lined trays in a room with good air circulation. Ensure that the seeds are spread sparsely. In addition, the temperature of the room should not be very warm, as the pods require drying out slowly. Ideally, the temperature ought to be between 15°C and 21°C (60°F and 70°F).
When the pods become completely dry, you need to remove the seeds - a process known as "shealed". In case you leave the pods till they turn to be brittle, some parts of the capsule tissue may be mixed together with the seeds. Therefore, all through this process it is necessary to observe if the pods or seeds are affected by any disease, particularly Botrytis blight. If you find any diseased pod or seed, discard them while retaining the others and keep them clean.
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Following the shealing, you need to leave the seeds in the trays for some days to allow them dry out completely. You may facilitate the process by stirring the seeds daily. You can also remove chaff from small amounts of seeds by placing them in a low pan and blowing on it gently while the pan is moved around. The good seeds are usually heavier and, hence, they will have a tendency to remain at the bottom of the pan during this process, while the chaff will fly up and settle on the top of the good seeds. It can be removed by blowing over them gently. On the other hand, wonderful seed cleaning machines are available for removing chaff from large quantities of seeds harvested by commercial lily growers.
While cleaning the seeds, look for the existence of embryos - an indication that these seeds possess the ability to produce a plant. You can do this by spreading the dry seeds on a white paper sheet or even a frosted glass with a powerful light under it. The embryo can be seen clearly in the form of a dark line that runs along the length of the flat seeds. Sometimes, the seeds may be deeply pigmented, which makes it quite difficult to observe the embryos. In such cases, provided the seed is chubby and has a normal shape, you can safely take the presence of the embryo for granted. In case you have adopted the right precautions during the pollination of the lily flowers and the subsequent fertilization process, it is likely that the species as well as the hybrids closely related to them would produce heavy, plump seeds having well-developed embryos entrenched inside their endosperm.
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Once you have dried out and cleaned a small number of seeds, place them in packets similar to coin envelopes and, if there are a large number of seeds, put them in plastic sacks. You should label all the different seeds distinctly with details regarding their origin and date of harvest. It is advisable that after harvesting the seeds, you store them in temperatures lower than the freezing point. When stored in such conditions, the seeds will remain viable for as many as 35 years or longer. Home lily growers, who would be sowing the seeds in the same season, may store them in an air tight container and place the container in a refrigerator.
As far as lilies are concerned, there are two forms of germinations - epigeal, which denotes "above ground", and the second hypogeal meaning "below ground". Again, these two germination group are categorized into immediate and delayed sprouting or emergence. Nearly all the lily seeds in the epigeal germination category are immediate, while the seeds that belong to hypogeal germination group are usually delayed. Therefore, before sowing a lily seed, it is vital to have good knowledge about the germination category to which that seed belongs. Usually, epigeal germinators are sown in the beginning of spring, while hypogeal germinators are sown either towards the end of summer or early fall. Irrespective of whether a seed belongs to the epigeal or hypogeal germination category, there are four fundamental standards for propagating lilies from their seeds.
The first principle is to sow the seed in a soil mix that is well drained. Secondly, initially you need to water the seeds in moderation ensuring that the soil never becomes saturated or soaked. At the same time, you need to ensure that the seedlings are provided with adequate shade all through the hot season. In most areas, it is perfect to provide the young plants with 60 percent shade. Considering that everything is favourable, you need to spray the plants on a regular basis with a view to check aphids and Botrytis.
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