Saturday, May 19, 2012

To Hybridize Daylilies: Initial Steps

New daylily hybrids in the raised bed, May 2012
I've been interested in hybridizing daylilies for the last two years. The first year, I grew my dayliliy collection, considered different breeding goals, and built a raised bed for the new hybrids. Last summer, I made a lot of crosses. I visited my garden early in the morning armed with bug spray and a toothpick. Now, half of the raised bed is full of my new hybrids. It’s very exciting!
Daylily seedlings started in a box, March 2012

I'm raising
three crosses this summer: 'Fooled Me' x 'Pat Garrity,' 'Janice Brown' x 'Beautiful Edgings,' and 'Beautiful Edgings' x 'Janice Brown.' 'Fooled Me' and 'Pat Garrity' have orange flowers with a red eye. 'Janice Brown' is a gorgeous pink. 'Beautiful Edgings' is probably my favorite diploid, and it has a yellowish, pink, and white flower with a variable edge. We'll see what happens!

I harvested seeds in August and September and then refrigerated them. I planted the seeds into 20 oz styrofoam cups in early February. I drilled holes in the bottom of the cups and filled them with a mix of vermiculite, seedling mix, and a little dirt. The cups were placed in a cat litter box and kept under continuous florescent light (about 40 watts).

'Janice Brown' x 'Beautiful Edgings' = ?
I've killed a lot of seedlings in the last ten years, and most deaths were caused by improper watering. For my precious dayliliy seedlings, I watered from the bottom by flooding the litter boxes weekly. Every once in a while I watered the top, but I was careful about it. Problems develop, in my experience, when the top becomes too soggy or if the vegetation becomes too wet.

'Beautiful Edgings' x 'Janice Brown' = ?
I planted about forty seeds and half of them germinated. In April, most of the twenty or so seedlings developed multiple leaves. Orange roots started to poke out of the cup bottoms. At this stage, I transitioned the seedlings to the cold frame. The transition was slow and careful. At first, I put them out only a few hours at a time, and I brought them indoors when the overnight low dropped into the 40s (F). 

'Fooled Me' x 'Pat Garrity' = ?
In May, after they were adequately hardy, I placed them in the raised bed where they will stay until they flower. That might happen next summer, but a lot can happen between now and then. Stay tuned!

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