I want to try pollinating and growing episcias by seed. Have any of you done it? What was your method? After pollination, how long did it take to get ripe seed? And how long after sowing did it take the seed to sprout? Thanks.
I've done it. It isn't hard to do and very worthwhile, if just for the learning experience. First study the flowers. That is always the case with any plant you wish to pollinate. All gesneriads seem to operate the same way. When the flowers open you will see inside the anthers, which are fused together with lots of nice fluffy yellow pollen where they are fused. This is the best time to harvest pollen. I use any number of tools, though I frequently use my trusty finger nail. But a steak knife works well, or a tooth pick, or a pencil, etc. This is the male phase. In a few days the anthers with pollen will retract and the pollen eventually becomes unusable. At this point the stigma exerts itself by growing out and then flaring open at the receptive tip. This is the time to pollinate it. You could use pollen stored from the same flower but it is easier to just transfer pollen from a new flower to an older one.
Next, grow the plant in good light, as it has been all along, and watch the flower. It should wither pretty quickly after pollinating--about a day. Then, slowly a green berry will form. The berry is roundish oval. It stays on the plant for a period that I have forgotten--I think about two months MOL. At the end it becomes soft and olive brown. Then you harvest the seeds by picking the berry (it should come off with the slightest touch) and smearing the whole mess onto a regular sheet of white paper, spreading the pulp with tiny seeds all over. Let the sheet dry for a day, and then the seeds will flake off and can be collected in a very clean state. Don't plant all your seeds at the same time in the same pot. You may discover that you then will get a solid carpet of seedlings. It is better to lightly plant a few seeds. Never cover gesneriad seed. First thoroughly wet the seed starting medium and then scatter the seeds over the premoistened surface, enclose the pot in a ziplock bag and put in good indirect light. Fresh seed germinates very quickly, though gesneriad seed can take up to three weeks. You will see tiny tiny green seedlings. These grow quickly and stay green for quite a while. When grown on, they will begin to show hints of their future colors and patterns as new leaves emerge. Its a great project. But, I would encourage you to at least think about putting up a light stand to grow them and your other plants. You needn't purchase and expensive light stand unit--you can put one together easily from metro style shelving and lights + timer from a hardware store.
PS. Episcias can be more difficult to set seed on than other gesneriads. I don't know why, but I had good luck here in dry California. I think the plant needs to be in good light and be a healthy plant. Not every flower that is pollinated will set a berry so try it over and over again.
Thank you John for this explanation. I'm glad it's here so I can read through it again, since we had that discussion over on the hybridizing forum. New flower pollen on older flower stigma, got it.
Thanks for the info. It helped me set seed. The berry has matured & seeds have germinated. Now I'm waiting to see what they look like. It's like waiting for Christmas.