(12-15-18) Jeff Moore is well known for his innovative and intense hybridization of some exciting new hostas. He also has been active on Facebook as an administrator for several group pages that focus on raising seedlings. Recently on Hosta Seedlings he shared helpful thoughts and ideas on starting seeds from the beginning.

With his permission we are sharing his thoughts and ideas.

Prepping for seed planting.
1- Soil mix on hand – I use BRK 20 as my basic mix.
2- Fine mix I use to top off cups when the seeds first start
3- 5 oz. Solo white cups
4- Drill
5- Drill hole in bottom of cups
6- Cup with hole
7- Fill cup with about 7/8 BRK 20 and water in tray before next step
8- Place in 32 count tray and add fine mix on the last 1/8 of the cup
9- Pressurized mister
10- Mist top of fine mix to moisten for planting seeds.

This is my prep method and the next step is planting the seeds.
Easy – you can keep only the cups that have what you want – no sterilization required or needed.

This part has to do with collecting the seeds.

I use record keeping throughout the hybridizing season that shows every cross I did on this particular plant. I mark what color cable tie I put above the flowers I crossed, what the pollen donor was and a red asterisk for all the pods that formed. The ones that are crossed out initially looked like they would form a pod and aborted. Most important is the date I did the cross. Usually exactly two months after doing the cross they are more than ready to be harvested and I go out and collect those that are ready each morning and put them in envelopes with the cross listed on the outside. I let them dry a couple days and then removed the seeds by opening the pod with my fingernail and then extracting them.

The tool I use to remove the seeds from the pod. No idea what it really is but I found it at Ace Hardware in their 50 cent pile and it has worked better than anything else I have ever tried.

I separate the seeds that have bumps and discard the flat or white ones (it is usually a sign you collected your pods too early). There the rare cases where every seed looks really good.

I removed the wings by holding down the seed with my finger and pulling it off with my fingernail. This is a very optional step but you will find your seeds germinate a few days faster if you do it. What good is a few days early? Personal choice to have them germinate faster is all to avoid any issues with algae, fungus and the works.

Put them back into the marked envelope I originally collected the pod in and mark how many seeds on the outside. I will record the germination rate. Hopefully all will germinate and I will pick the ones I keep by features and viability they produce.

The seeds are ready to be planted immediately if you want but waiting about a week while they dry a bit more makes for a better germination experience.

Simple and some steps can be skipped or modified with no real change in how it will work out for you.

One thing to note is that each pod parent usually produces about the same number of seeds. Empress Wu seems to produce about 10 – 15 seeds per pod for me. Dorothy Benedict is one of those that produces in the neighborhood of 25. It varies quite a bit. As you know, we only need one.

Planting the seeds.

1- Label your cups with the cross and date.

2- I put the seeds on top of the soil mix and mist them in place. Some people like to cover them with a loose amount of soil mix but I never have myself. Moist – not wet is the key.

3- Put humidity dome on tray (I use permanest trays but any tray without holes in the bottom will work).

4- Bag the tray and mark the date on top. Place in dark, warm area and wait.

5- Somewhere between 4 to 21 days, they should start germinating.  Normally I will not even open the bags to look until day 7.

6- Once I have germination, I put them under lights. Each individual cup goes when any seeds germinate and the rest stay in the tray bagged.

Lighting once your seedlings have germinated.

Four Choices but two are not really a choice as they will have the worst results – incandescent and halogen are the two worst choices. Hostas are low light plants and will grow under any light but how well they grow is the question.

Best choice for energy is LED which will produce adequate lighting for your seedlings and will save you a ton of cash on your electric bill. Higher color temperature the better.

Best choice for growth is fluorescent but you have to make sure you get the right bulbs. Seedlings need blue light and the higher the color temperature the more blue light and the better for growth. I use two banks of fluorescent lights to start seedlings off and then put them under LED for the rest of the winter. I don’t really need the top growth rate once I get them going so this works for me. Color temperature around 5000 is equal to outdoor light but by bumping up to the 6000-6500 color temperature will make things grow even faster. If you are using fluorescent, you really should replace the bulbs every couple of years and my advice is to go with the higher number. I use T8 bulbs in my fixture.

I also have a fixture of T5’s which are the best you can do in the fluorescent area but they run hot and eat electricity. I only use this fixture for seedlings with scapes. It works really well but not worth the extra energy in my opinion.

I also have three banks of LED grow lights (blue an red) which work really well with seedlings with scapes as they need the red light to set pods. Sadly they do not do as well on the vegetative growth but at the stage they have scapes, not a big issue.

To continue to keep up with Jeff’s seedlings and insights –

Check out the Facebook page Hosta Seedlings  – Moore is the administrator of this page and often shows pictures and gives comments on hybridization projects.

To see Moore in person he will be a part of the upcoming Hosta Symposium in Milwaukee and will handle a session (Saturday, February 2nd, 2019 at 2pm) focusing on ‘Thoughts on Hosta Hybridizing‘.

Hosta Symposium
Sponsored by the Midwest Regional Hosta Society
February 1 and 2, 2018
Milwaukee – Brookfield Sheraton