How do you breed echinaceas?

agent1xe13(4b QC)July 20, 2008

Following the thread I opened about new echinaceas hybrids and the one opened by davemichigan on the subject of echinaceas, here are some questions I have for the more learned and experienced among you, if you can be so kind to give a poor guy a hand at learning something.

I have experience breeding several genus and types of plants and if I haven't done so in real life with some of them for several reasons, at least I know how it is done and I could easily do it right. But when it comes to composite flowers, I'm in complete darkness. My particular interest is for echinaceas and I would very much appreciate any detailled information as to how to proceed.

1- I know that what we call the "flower" is not really one but in fact made up of many tiny flowers. But these flowers don't open all at the same time. I suppose you must protect the bloom till you have pollinated the whole thing to keep it from being "contaminated" with other pollen than the one you want. Is this right?

2- I read that an echinacea flower can't be selfed, is this right?

3- I suppose that you don't pollinate each flower individually, or one would need a magnifyer glass to do so. I then also suppose that if a flower can't be selfed, you must brush off some pollen from the father plant and then brush it on the mother plant, and you must do so regularly, every other day or so in order to pollinate all the flowers. Is this right?

4- If a flower can be selfed, then every thing I assumed above doesn't hold true any more. So, how do you do it then?...

Thanks to anyone that can shed a little light in my very dark corner ! (:


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I've had the best results by planting two plants I like close together and letting the bees and butterflies go to work for me. In fact, the bees are much better than you will ever dream of being. One of the top echinacea hybridizers in Holland use bees in this way. You just have to plan a layout with certain plants close together. It's really easy! If I wanted to cross Pink Double Delight with White Swan, I'd plant them close together. You can try two white swans next to one double delight or reverse the number and try different combos.

These can self-pollinate too though; however, I've achieved several crosses this year through natural pollination. I planned which plants were close together and they crossed just as I expected. You can clearly tell that these are the result of the cross I planned.

If you want some really good info, search for info on hybridizing sunflowers. It's so similar that you can learn a lot from them.

The cool thing about these plants is that each "bloom" can be pollinated by many other varieties on the same "bloom." You can get many different crosses by planting the seeds from one seed head.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 11:22AM
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agent1xe13(4b QC)

echinaceamaniac, thank you so much for that information! Wihtout knowing it, it seems that I was doing the right thing, my plants are very close to one another, and I let the bees and butterflies do the job. All I did was harvest the seeds, sow them and wait for the results. And the results are beyond my best dreams even if they are not spectacular. I do like your plants a lot, they are very nice! Congratulations!

I did't expect that, but I'm still discovering new stuff in my first batch, the 2007 batch. Most carry many blooms on branching stems. I found this pink one that looks similar to your double white one, very short florets that still let you see the cone (I have 3 or 4 like this):

Then I have this pink one with 3 layers of petals:

And I have several pink ones that have more petals than usual and the petals are much wider giving a fuller look to the flower:

From the new batch, the 2008 batch, they are from different mothers and fathers from the previous batch, and several plants have buds coming up, the should begin to open within a month or so. One (only for now) shows variegation as mentioned previously. The leaves of most are lighter and brighter than the 2007 ones. They are also much larger than I've ever seen in any echinaceas. I took these pix of one of the largest one, but most are very close this in size: 30 cm long by 15 cm wide (12 x 6 inches)! I can't wait to seee the flowers on these! Let me hope that the size of the leaves are an indication of the size of the blooms!

I have no idea where all this will lead me but I really do have fun discovering all these new cultivar. I'll only keep the best ones, the strong ones that have some very distincts caracteristics.

Thanks again echinaceamaniac, you have been of great help, and keep on showing us your new plants as well, I really enjoy seeing them, they are an inspiration fo me to keep going.

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    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 5:41PM
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I really like the one with the 3 layers of petals. You should save seed from that one! I'd try to propagate some cuttings of it and cross it with some double coneflowers. It'd be interesting to see what you could get. I'd like to see a double coneflower with 3 layers of the long ray petals!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 6:18PM
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