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Growing Hostas from Seeds


Beautiful new varieties are introduced every year.  It's not unusual to find some new varieties being sold for over $100.  Suppose you invest in one or more of those new and "still rare" varieties.  You grow them, collect lots of seeds in the fall and start new plants from seeds.  You would think you will make big money in a few years, right? Wrong! It doesn't work that way.  Hosta seedlings do not grow to be like their parents.  Even the seedlings from the same seed pod will grow differently - just like brothers and sisters don't always look alike.

The Pic1 and Pic2 below are both seedlings from one plant, H. 'Great Expectations' (Pic3).  Do you understand what I mean? This kind of uncertainty makes growing hostas from seeds fun.


Pic1: Blue Seedling

Pic2: Yellow Seedling

Pic3: Mother Plant

Seeds from a streaked or mottled hosta such as 'Revolution', 'Korean Snow' or 'Don Quixote' often produce streaked/variegated seedlings. But other than that, the seeds you sow will be most likely solid color plants.  Seedlings from variegated hostas revert to plain colors.  Fragrant flowers do not seem to pass their fragrance down to their offspring, either.  However, they may still have the parent plant's texture, waviness, petiole (stem) color, etc.  If you choose good parent plants and cross them, you may find a surprise hosta growing in your garden some day.  You'll never know...

Now I will show you how I grow hostas from seeds Giboshi arekore style.

Pollination

You can let bees or other insects pollinate your hostas for you.


Pic4

But if you want certain features - such as color, texture, etc. - on your own hostas, choosing your favorite varieties and crossing them is the way to go.  How can you manage it with all the bees and insects trying to help you?

Well, I go out in the garden in the evening.  I choose plump buds that seem to be opening the next morning, and remove all the flower petals and stamens leaving only a stigma (Pic4).  This way, you will be able to prevent bees or any insects from landing around the stigma.  In the morning, I pull the anther from the hosta of my choice as a pollen parent, and rub the pollens onto the lonely stigma.  Very simple, isn't it?

Of course, if you prefer, you can cover the buds to make sure insects won't pollinate them.

You can find more pictures and information in the Hosta Library.

Seed Collection

The Pic5 is a mother plant (Tokudama Flavocircinalis) with seed pods.  You have to patiently wait for the seeds to mature.  When the pods turn brown and start to split (Pic6), they are ready to be collected.  It usually takes 2 - 3 months.  It seems to take longer if the bloom is early in the season.  Pick the whole seed pods, keep them in labeled envelopes and let them dry.  The pods will open and the seeds will come out easily.  Hosta seeds are thin and black. (Pic7) A viable seed has a bump on one end.  If you don't sow the seeds right away, it is said that they will keep in the freezer in sealed containers such as plastic bags for a couple of years.


Pic5: Seed Pods

Pic6: Seeds are ready.

Pic7: Collected Seeds

Sowing

Before sowing, you have to clean the container and sterile the seed starting soil.  There are a few ways to sterile soil:

When the soil is ready and well-moistened, place seeds on the surface and cover them with thin layer of dirt.  Cover the container with a lid or keep the container in a plastic bag so the dirt is moist all the time.  Keep it in a warm place as seeds do not germinate well in a low temperature.  It doesn't have to be kept in a lighted place.  It usually takes from one week to one month for a seed to germinate.

Another method to start seeds is to place them in a folded wet paper towel in a plastic bag, and plant them in the dirt after they sprout.  This method is good to start a limited quantity of seeds or the ones that you want to pay special attention, so you can be sure the seeds germinate before putting in the dirt.

I sow seeds in egg cartons or any containers with lids -- the ones you see at supermarkets with cakes or fruit (like strawberries or blueberries) in.  The lid helps to keep the moisture in until the seedlings come out of the dirt.  Just don't forget to poke holes at the bottom for drainage and for bottom feed.

Watching the Babies Grow

Pic8: One-month-old
seedlings
You would want to place the seedlings under fluorescent lights 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get the maximum growth during the winter months.  The left (Pic8) is a picture of my seedlings one month after being sowed.

When the seedlings have the second or third leaf, I start re-potting them.  Seedlings seem to grow better when they are transplanted often (about once a month) whether into bigger containers or not.  I find styrofoam cups very handy as they come in many different sizes.


Pic9: Two-month-old seedlings

Pic10: Seedling with a flower
The seedlings in the Pic9 are two months old.  They have already started showing different characters.

Some fast growing seedlings bloom in about 4 to 4-1/2 months. The plant in Pic10 is a 4-months-old sieboldii seedling.

The photos below were taken when they were 3 months old, 4 months old and 8 months old.

Before you take your seedlings outside into your garden, you may want to train them first.  Choose a cloudy day and take the seedlings out for a few hours.  Repeat this but for longer hours each time so the seedlings will get used to the sun and wind gradually.

Seedlings
at 3 months old
Seedlings
at 4 months old
Seedlings
at 8 months old

It takes at least 2 years for a young hosta plant to show its real characteristics such as corrugation, waviness, etc.  It is exciting to wait and see how these young plants will grow and develop their personality (hostality?).  (Continue to "My Hosta Seedlings Photo Album.")

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