my own hybrids
|My (ex)-gardens||'Park der Gärten' Germany||ASA Convention 2003||Flowershow ARS||Dutch Rhodo. Society|
|Kalmia latifolia||"Indian Summer" in Maine||wildflowers Costa Blanca||Bernhard Knorr rhodo's||Hans Hachmann Rhodo's||Joe Klimavic azaleas|
Sowing rhododendrons and azaleas is the following step after
hybridizing. The fine thing of it is, that you always get something
entirely new! Just like with us and animals. Everyone is unique - there
only exists one of each of us. Surprises are plenty, like double flowers
or high quality oft the plant itself. This way the thousands of new
hybrids arose during the last centuries.
I'll tell you my story about sowing the way I do it and what I use for it. Sometimes I read how other 'sowers' proceed, but as long as it goes well what I do, I consider the well-known saying :"Never change a winning team". But if you want to try another method or vary some details, just go ahead - why not? I wish you good luck with it!
after reading the story about hybridizing, think: "I can do that as
well", then this page is important for you. People have the
strangest ideas about hybridizing, how it works etc. May be also about
sowing the seeds. Now some principles are very important. Use the right
soil, don't let it dry out, provide some warmth and give them enough
light, but no direct sunlight. If you have kept the seeds dry, cool and
dark, they will be good for some years. Not closed in plastic or so, but
paper, that will allow airation.
Now I will describe how I do it.
September-October the seed-capsules are ripe. You can see it, because they are
starting to turn brown. This is the time to harvest. I break off the
pods, put them in a plastic cup or jam-jar or so and place them on a
warm place like the central heating. After a week the seed-pods will open - if
not, I break them open and sieve them out with a sieve with small holes
and try to get them as clean as possible. This is important, because all kinds
of particles from the capsules will cause all kinds of moulds. I will tell you
about the time of sowing later.
I think that most of you will have to wait to sow till spring, but I have a greenhouse with bottom heating and daylight tubes, so I sow directly after collecting and sieving the seeds. Now I take some foam boxes or other boxes and put a layer of at least 2 inches of good moist (!)rhododendron soil at the bottom. It depends on how deep the box is. Then I take some sieved light brown peat of half an inch and make a layer on the soil of about half an inch. This layer, whatever you use, must be fine, that the tender roots of the seedlings can grow into it. Some people take fresh green chipped peat moss, but I don't have good experience with it, though it can work, I think. Last year I bought very good hard plastic low boxes with transparent hard top with a slide to close the cover or give it some air. This works great! see pictures below.
Now I make some divisions in the box, with some labels or so, for some sections for the seeds. Sometimes I use the whole box for seeds of one certain cross.
Now I take some seeds out of the pot or jar between thumb and forefinger and spread the seeds as equal as possible over the fine peat. On a label I write the parents of the cross, the mother first! Now I don't cover the seeds with anything!! No soil! The seeds of rhododendrons and azaleas need light to grow as soon as they germinate! Then I use a fine sprayer to water the seeds, not a can, the seeds could spread too much or clot together. Then I put the cap over the box and close the slide on top of it. Keep in mind, that as soon as the seeds germinate and then they would dry out, they are dead!! What a waste!! So, check this to get and keep them moist. Not wet. They are no swamp plants.
From now on light, moisture and warmth are important to germinate. Maintain 70 to 75 degrees F, about 20 C for seedling growth. There must be a right balance between warmth and light. NO direct sunlight, because it could be far too hot! In a room in the house on the north side! Keep the seeds moist with a fine sprayer. In about 2 to 3 weeks the seeds will germinate and start to grow. Then there is a risk, that if you spray, the tiny seedlings will fall over, because they have no roots yet. Then I do the following: I take a sieve and put dry brown peat moss and some sand in it and sieve this carefully over the small seedlings. I blow a bit to get the particles between them. Now I spray again. This procedure prevents from moulds and makes sure the seedlings don't fall over. Besides the roots can grow now into this mix. Well, we have to consider a lot of things.
As soon as the seedlings have their 2nd
or 3rd pair of leaves, we can plant them out in pots or a new plant bed in a
box. Most of the time I wait a bit till they have grown a bit further. On a
cloudy (!) day I put the box outside under some trees to harden off a bit.
This has another advantage: now the seedlings get a more natural colour and if
we look at the stems of this babies we can see lighter green and darker
red-green stems. My experience is, that you can see what kind of flowers they
will get. Light green stems mean light coloured or even white flowers. Darker
stems dark or red flowers. Now you can pot up what you want.
Potting up must be done very carefully, because the seedlings are very tender. If you bruise them, they will die.
For me the time of sowing mostly is directly after getting the seeds ready. November-December. With my greenhouse with daylight tubes and bottom heating this is possible. You can do it in your house, not at a place with direct sunlight. Put a paper or so over it. Sowing outside can be done, but then you will have to wait till the frost is over and there is enough warmth. I know many sowers, who do all this in their basement with daylight tubes, providing light and warmth 'in one action'. Anyway, I wish you good luck with it. See summary below for quick support.
harvest the seeds in Septem-October as soon as the seed pods turn brown;
2. dry the seeds in the house on a warm place, f.i on or near the central heating;
3. sieve them as clean as possible to prevent later diseases or moulds;
4. take a seed box with transparent cap or top, preferably with a slide to close or open;
5. fill the seedbox with fine moist rhodo soil of al least 2 inches with half an inch sieved soil on top;
6. divide the seeds well over surface and moisten them with a fine sprayer;
7. don't let them or the soil dry out; no direct sunlilght, temps of about 70 F = 20 C.
8. plant them out or pot them up after their 2nd or 3rd pair of leaves; be careful with tender roots;
9. take care they will not dry out and harden off well, also after potting up;
10. always put a label on or in or with it with the parents, mother first..
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