By Bob Axmear

This is a short article on hybridizing, somewhat my methods of how I go about it. Am sure there are many others who do it differently. Hopefully some of the things I mention might help you save some time, expenses, and headaches if you start hybridizing yourself.

If you are like me after a few years of buying everyone's plants and adding to a collection the fun starts to go out of it. Then you might be ready to try hybridizing and creating your own plants. Even if you don't develop the next Sagae or Paradigm you can have the satisfaction of having plants you created yourself.

AHS Graphic used below

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What you probably shouldn't use.

Example of what not to use for hybridizing if the center of the leaf becomes white, in this case Ice Age Trail . This plant has a mediovariegated center and that will cause the seedlings to turn out without enough chlorophyll to survive or grow well, the seedlings would be very weak if they did make it. You can see the seed pods are white when normally they are green(most of them) or some other color. Ice Age Trail if white centered, Great Expectations, and Revolution and sports are particularly bad with this and I probably wouldn't use any plant like it.
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Another example of what not to use are weak, wimpy plants. If you use plants like that for crossing the resulting plants you develop will turn out the same. This plant has decent streaking but no substance. It can barely hold it's leaves up. I suppose you could cross it to something with more substance but it would be better to just get better plants.
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The third and last example of plants not to use are weak and ugly plants. If a plant is unattractive chances are seedlings from it will be as well.

This also goes for variegated plants if you save the seed from them, the seedlings won't have the variegation the parent plant had and most likely will be very plain looking. This isn't always true, if the plant has thick leaves the seedlings will probably have good substance but be solid colored.

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What you might want to use.

Good plants to use are ones with nice shapes and/or streaking with good substance. This is one example.

You have to use a streaked plant for the pod parent, taking pollen from a streaked plant won't transfer the streaking to an unstreaked plant.

When you get streaked seedlings from your crosses they develop over time into variegated plants. This can easily take 3 or 4 years or more. I haven't had much experience crossing solid colored plants but imagine some of the traits they will exhibit take time to show up as well.

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Nice colors and shapes of the leaves you could use. Also has substance and an upright growth habit and somewhat wavy edges.
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Wavy edges are always attractive.
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Attractive streaking, would make a good pod parent. By the way, some divisions on a plant may have streaking and some divisions have no streaking. In this case if you are after streaked seedlings only the streaked divisions are good for crossing and the harvesting of seed. If a division is solid colored the seedlings from that division will be solid colored as well.

There is much more to work toward than just variegatd plants. There are gold or yellow plants, blues, greens, puckered ones, fragrant ones, red or purplish petioles, white backs, large, medium, and small and even minis of each type of plant, on and on.

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If you see pods with stripes on them you know you will have good streaked seed inside.
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Another way to tell is the little leaf on the scape(flower stalk), don't know what it is called off hand. This one is larger than normal and you can see it easily. If it is streaked the seed probably will be as well. Or just look into the plant and make sure the division the scape is coming from is streaked.
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I have my plants potted up and in a garage to make the crosses. I do this about 6am or so, I keep the garage door closed all night and that keeps the bees away. Others make their crosses outside in the mornings, they might remove the tepals and anthers the night before to keep the bees away. If you do it very long you will probably develop your own style of doing things.

I use a limited amount of plants to cross with, some might be wavy edged to a regular streaked plant, some might have pointy leaves like Hyuga Urajiro. This way I don't bother to tag each cross. Others might freak out hearing this, they think every cross has to be marked. It is up to you to decide.

I use strong reading glasses and long, hooked on the end tweezers for crossing, I always have to use the glasses, sometimes I just hold the anthers in my fingers.

Most people probably use fresh pollen. I know one person puts the anthers on paper plates and let it dry and they store it in gelatin capsules and then freeze it. I heard of others that wipe the ripe anthers with Q-tips and then dry the pollen a little while and then store it protected in the freezer.

These are hosta flowers when they are starting to develop, not all look exactly the same
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Here are the flowers just opening up
Notice the pollen hasn't ripened yet.
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This is later on in the day. Different plant's pollen ripens at different times of the day, probably caused by heat and humidity at the time. Sometimes you need to make the crosses at 5am and sometime 10am, etc. I don't think it matters as long as it doesn't get hot and the bees don't beat you to it. When it gets really hot hostas drop their flowers so this might be a consideration for you. You should probably keep the plants well watered during the hybridizing period, that should help set seed as well.
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This is a hosta flower after pollen has been applied to the stigma and the tepals and anthers removed. Now is the time to place a jewelry tag on it with pertinate information if you want to, tie it around the pedicel. For myself, I just let the bees at them after an hour or so, figure the pollen I have applied has a good head start.
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These are two I crossed last fall, One Man's Treasure which are the purple bell shaped flowers and red petioles, and plantaginea which are the large white fragrant flowers. I was hoping the seedlings flower's would be fragrant but someone else who did the same cross said their's weren't.

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These are the seedlings from the cross.
Hopefully they will have bright red stems, many
are red at least and fragrant flowers which will
be awhile before they flower. You can see traits
of both parents in the seedlings. I will plant the
seedlings in the ground in the fall and let
them grow 2 or 3 years and then evaluate them.
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This is a gold, thick leafed seedling I want to cross to one of the red stemmed plants like the one above, One Man's Treasure. I doubt if I can do it this year because OMT blooms later. I can store pollen to use later though. It is just an example of the various crosses one could make. It is fun to imagine what you want to end up with and then go for it..
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Here is a list of my favorites, if someone else wants to add some please send them to me. I have more favorites and will keep adding to the list. As you develop your own breeding stock you become less and less dependant on other's named plants for your crosses.

Dorothy Benedict- always has beautiful seedlings with great substance. I suspect if left to cross naturally by bees it self crosses and the resulting seedlings are slow growers.

Elvis Lives- has slightly ruffled blue leaves, just a great plant to use.

Centerfold- I like this gold plant, it is puckered and keeps it's bright color all season.

One Man's Treasure- extremely beautiful flowers and red petioles.

I will add more to this section or revise as I think of things that might be informative.

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