Hybridizers Strive to Create the Perfect Variety

Hybridize and raise daylily seedlings by choosing two varieties of daylilies you want to cross.

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Keith Miner, owner of California Daylilies in Newcastle, Calif., raises 5,000 to 10,000 daylily seedlings a year, looking for the one with masses of drop-dead-gorgeous flowers, neat foliage and the perfect growth habit.

Dave Bushnell, owner of Bushnell's Garden Nursery in Granite Bay, Calif., raises up to 25,000 seedlings each year.

But whether you raise thousands or a few, hybridizing and raising daylily seedlings is easy. Choose two varieties of daylilies you want to cross. "I just look at the two parents and think, 'You would make beautiful kids,' and I cross them," said Tom Hobbs, owner of Southlands Nursery in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Miner likes to cross plants that have similar flowers.

"Each evening, I check to see what daylily flowers are going to be open the next morning so I know which ones I'm going to hybridize," Miner said. "My mornings start at 5:30 a.m. You want to get out before the bees. They don't always pollinate the flowers, but they do steal the pollen."

Miner has been using a hybrid called Open My Eyes to cross on many of his daylilies. He breaks off the stamen containing the pollen. As he walks through the daylily area, he wipes a bit of pollen on the pistils of the plants he wants to pollinate.

Mission accomplished. Next, he waits for the seedpod to form. When the seeds are ripe, the pods will begin to break open. Miner gets six to 10 seeds from each pod. He starts them in flats using a commercial planting mix. Germination rate is generally high.

Hobbs, Miner and Bushnell agree that watching the seedlings grow and bloom is an exciting part of the process. "Even though we do thousands of seedlings a year, I love getting up in the morning before the rest of my duties and going out to walk among the seedling beds to see what's blooming," Bushnell said.

"It's like an Easter egg hunt every morning. It's excitement every day during blooming season."

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