Crinum Lilies: How To Make New Varieties at Home

Crinum Lilies: How To Make New Varieties at Home

with Tony Avent

By Published September 06, 2022

Shop for Crinum at Plant Delights Nursery

Learn how to create new crinum crosses, it is quite easy if you follow these steps. Tony shows the whole process. We hope some of you will consider taking on plant breeding as a hobby.

Video Transcription

All right, welcome to Crinum Breeding 101. This is one of our crinum trial areas where we have uh over 165 different crinum lilies. Crinum lilies are members of the amarillid family, so they're in the same genus as rain lilies, lycoris, hippeastrum, so many plants, sprekelias, that we know and love. And a lot of these, there are some species in here, but most everything in here has been created as a hybrid. Now some of it is accidental, that people go out, they pot the seed, and whatever the insect cross, that's what they get. We actually enjoy making controlled crosses. And to do that you simply take the pollen from one, put it on the stigma from the other. Let's look at how that happens.

So here is a fully open flower. When the flower gets at this stage and it's been open for long, you can pretty much assume that somebody's already been in there and had sex with it. So, the two different parts, these are the male parts, that have the pollen on them. So, if you take and you rub your finger and you get something on it, that's pollen. And this is the stigma. What you want to do, is take that and put it on here. And you can do it that simply. Now we would rather actually go in and take this and you see the pollen and put it on here. And then that's all you do. And then you mark your flower. We recommend getting some waterproof tags that have a string and then tie it on your flower, and you want to tie it on down where the pods are going to be produced. If you look at the base, this is all stalk, that's developing seed pod down there. So, you want to get it down below that pod and tied on at that point. And then you want to label it and you always label with the pod parent first. So, the plant that's going to set seed goes first and then you put x times the parent.

Improving on the Parent Crinum Lily

This is actually one of our hybrids. This is one we're calling 'Razzleberry,' it is not on the market yet. But you see we've got these, and this is late in the day on a warm day, beautiful, beautiful, sturdy dark red stalks, which are really incredible, an amazing floral show. We're looking for large numbers of buds and this has... this has a lot of buds. This is probably 18 to 20 flower buds on one. Now what would we like to do to improve that? Because breeders are always looking - all right that's a great plant, but how do we improve that? Well, the way to answer here, would be to make the stripes darker. We just got another plant growing nearby, this is one called 'Forever Stripes' - beautiful flowers, doesn't have the dark stalks, doesn't have the number of flowers this has. We're going to cross the two of these. We're going to across this with this. So, we're going to take the pollen off this. Now as I mentioned, these flowers have been open since last evening, so they're already done with, so you're not going to get a good cross there. So, what we have to do, is go to the unopened flowers, these will be opening tonight. And the way you can tell is, be out here about six o'clock in the evening and the flowers start to unfurl. We happen to know that, and we know what size. First thing we're going to do is pull off all the petals, because those get in the way of getting to the... of getting to the good stuff. All right, so here we go. We're going to get those petals off. You don't want to interfere with getting any of the sexual parts off. All right, so we still got our pollen from yesterday, so the pollen will be good, if there's still any left that the insects haven't done. So, we just... basically you can just pull the pollen. And you go in here again and find the stigma, which is clean. Now a lot of people will use goggles that have magnification so you can actually see this, but we can see it pretty well. And we're just dusting that on the stigma. And you can see that's now covering the stigma. And so that's ready to go! So, we will tag that flower, and then we will know within generally a month, if you have seed.

Timing is Everything

And once those seed develop, you need to sow them fresh. Crinum seed are very fleshy, and they go bad really, really quickly. So, you do that, and then you'll have something that will come up in... really a matter of a couple weeks. Now to flower, it's generally going to be about three to five years, depending on how good a job you do growing. But you can make the cross several days in a row, so tonight for example, we would have two flowers that would be ready to make that cross. And then these will probably be one to two days later. There's actually another one for tonight, so we got three for tonight, and then these would come on. You typically want to make your crosses in the early evening, five to six o'clock is when your stigmas are ready. You got to wait until they're actually sticky and you can come in. And we know timing wise... but generally, if you have a doubt, come in and actually you can feel that. And it develops almost a little goo there, and that's what holds the pollen on. So, if you get it too early, if you try to do this in the morning - no good. You got... you're not going to impregnate your crinum early in the morning. You've got to do it that early to mid/late afternoon, or early evening, when you're able to get that. And I hope you give that a shot. We need more plant breeders, especially amateurs that really want to play with a genus that commercial people are not ever going to mess with. And that would be crinum lilies.


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