Jon 6a SE MAJuly 30, 2014

I am planning to gather seeds rake up an area on my corner lot and try to help seedlings grow. Quite a few just naturally sow themselves here and there. I just want to help them along. I really don't want to get involved in indoor grow lights and things like that.

I think it would be fun to just give them a little head start, keep them watered and increase the odds of them growing. Has anyone tried anything like this? How would you know when to harvest the seeds, do you 'shell' them, leave them in pods?


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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

You could just leave them on the scapes until the bottom of the pods begin to split and then plant them in your corner lot. Of course you won't know for sure which plants they came from. If you want to keep better track you could take the scape off after the last pod has been on the plant for at least 8 weeks (or when they begin to split) and then put that scape in a labeled paper bag. Then you could plant after they have dried a bit (a week or two). That way you would at least know the pod parent.

Make sure you're having fun.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 6:13PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Good timing for this question!
Today, while pruning, mowing lawn, deadheading etc. I cut off a couple of hosta flower stalks that had pods on them...nice and fat ones...and threw them at the back of the bed....(where they won't get disturbed) the same hopes...that they will germinate in the spring.

The rest I will harvest when the outside of the pods are dry and beige (same thing, lol). There are at least 3-4 very fat cherry coloured pods on Cherry Berry. Haven't researched fertility info but will harvest those for sure anyway.

Yikes! I totally forgot about some SILVER STAR seeds I harvested and froze last year!!! They are still in the freezer! I guess I will harvest new ones then! Duh!

Jon, I'm sure you'll get good info from the seed growers soon! :-)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 6:17PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Thanks Steve,

I read where Olga Petryszyn said she ends up with about one in ten thousand tries hybridizing hosta to get one she markets. I have seen the hybrids you have come up with and I admire your dedication and really like the results you get. Myself, I am more or less going to use them as ground cover. If by chance I get some nice ones I will set them aside in a different area and I will also be sure to post some pictures.

It might turn into something I get hooked on and try my hand at the effort you put into it.


I think Steve has me pointed in the right direction. I think his idea of keeping track of the pod parent is something I will do. It shouldn't take much effort to separate them and it may lead to just saving seeds from the parents that show the best results. Who knows, I might just eventually get involved in some real hybridizing. Amazing how I can change direction even before I finish typing a post.

It comes with being a two-finger typer.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:55PM
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bernd ny zone5

Make sure that you clean your cutting tool carefully and thoroughly with a 10% bleach solution after each plant when you are cutting scapes, or you might transfer viruses.

Jon, the benefit of growing hostas from seeds under light is that you would be able to garden hostas during winter.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:00PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Jon, I can easily see you hybridizing! You seem to have the tenacity it takes to be successful at it.

It will be fun to see what spring brings! :-). Happy seed-pod harvesting!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:05PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

I've decided to cut the pods and put them in the pot with the parent plant. I've never tried it before, so who knows what will happen. Whatever it is, it won't matter. It's worth it just to watch.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

on the library homepage.. in a black box.. is a primer on growing seeds ... you should be able.. to get all kinds of info on all the various variables.. including harvest.. etc ...

bob kuk ... GRHS ... had 4 RR ties.. in a box ... and he put cell packs with seeds in the them .. so that he could keep track of cross names, etc ... the key with his set up ... was covering the whole.. with hardware cloth .. to keep the vermin out of the seed trays ... mostly squirrrels i think... who have to disturb any pot ...

i have areas.. where the plants have free sown themselves ... mostly because i dont care.. lol ... i presume.. if i tried to do it.. i would fail ... lol ...

it can be done ... but if you sow the seeds in fall [plant seed when the plant itself distributes them, eh??] ... just scratch them in ... they will not be much more than a small TC plant next year ...

the real key to growing under lights in winter.. is that.. well done.. you can have a rather large plant by spring ... you will NOT have that in mother earth ... the point being.. your expectations ... of how fast seed grown hosta will grow ...

a stalk of seed pods.. is ripe ... when the bottom one.. splits itself open.. at that point you can harvest the whole ... and i am sure.. the rest is covered at the library link ... it would be much easier.. for you to review that info.. and ask specific questions .. rather than try to cover it all here ...

it is easily done.. with a little prep work .. but dont have high expectations for large plants.. anytime soon ...


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:56AM
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Jon 6a SE MA


Good advice on sanitation. I understand about Winter interest, but don't know if I want to put the effort into it.


Tenacity? Me?

The idea is to try and show the 'water' splitting around an 'island'. I don't think hosta would grow on the island which is heavily shaded, filled with roots and has poor soil. Maybe enrich with some compost and plant succulents to add some green and a small focal point.

Ken, thank you very much for the good information. If the 'natural' seeding doesn't work out I will probably be tempted to do it right next winter. Right now I think Steve's suggestion to at least separate the parents makes sense. The results might push me to try conventional propagation / hybridization.

My idea to line the road with hosta comes from a large nursery in my area that planted a portion of their property (few hundred acres) with hosta and daylilies. My idea of a little neighborhood beautification with minimal maintenance. Maybe naturalization will cull the weakest plants??

Someone plowed into a fire hydrant on the corner and clipped it right off. The city replaced it and spread gravel in a big patch around the new hydrant. Grass keeps popping through the gravel which isn't very thick. I am planning on using this as at least part of my plan. If grass and weeds are growing, then I think sowing hosta seeds on the gravel might let them settle between the pebbles and it might be a good hosta nursery. The hosta would not be any hindrance to access to the hydrant. It s a large area, but other 'plots' would be necessary.

Anyway, I appreciate all the good advice from everyone.


This post was edited by jonnyb023 on Thu, Jul 31, 14 at 9:43

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:21AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I just went out to water the 'Ravine' area and some new plantings and discovered an area with about 15 new seedlings. A lot were near Sieboldiana Elegans (no surprise), a couple below and near Great Expectations and others scattered around Sagae, Night Before Christmas and Paul's Glory. I'm sure other areas have more.

I have no idea which, or if any of these are infertile. I also understand that data on fertility is often wrong. Between the 'naturals' and my planned 'semi-naturals' I should soon have plenty of seedlings.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Liz321(6 - Detroit Metro)

Perfect timing for me as well! Last year I took Ken's recommendation to leave the pods on my giant hosta and just let them seed naturally to see what happened. Yesterday, I was weeding and found at least 30 seedlings under the two largest hosta.

I think I will leave these where they are for a few years and start more in pots to see what happens to compare growth! Fun experiment. :)

My only worry is how long I can let the seedlings grow in this bed before I have to split the parents! They are growing much faster than I expected. oopsie.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 4:12PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I have some that are 2 year olds and they are plenty big enough to move. When they are small it is easy to scoop them out and replant and they will never know they were moved.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 5:17PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Yup, you! Lol. Don't know you from Adam, but every time I see that River of rocks, the word tenacity pops up!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:09PM
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The nice thing about volunteer seedlings is they act as a ground over and no weeds grow under the new hostas. If you later decide you'd rather plant another hosta in that spot, it's easy.

I don't think you can go out right now and cut down scrapes with pods on them and get seedlings. The seeds need about six weeks of ripening on a live scape.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:07AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I've never tried with hosta pods but other perennial seed pods where I cut them before they they were ripe for harvesting. Lupine comes to mind. They ripened regardless and this year (year two) they flowered...and reflowering now. Same for Digitalis. I'll keep an eye out for these hosta pods that I've cut off earlier...who knows? Strange things happen in my garden sometimes.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:43AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I think waiting until they 'ripen on the vine' would work best. I split open a pod today that was green and the seeds were not anywhere near ready. I am going to keep the umbilical cord attached so they can mature as far as they can.

As long as there is green, juices are flowing and photosynthesis is going on. When they start to split I will age them in a paper bag as Steve says. Once in a while I follow directions.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:21PM
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bernd ny zone5

As Ken wrote, a major benefit of growing hostas under light is that you can get relatively big plants after the first year. I compared plants I bought and it looks like I grew seedlings as big as 2 year olds the first year. I started November 15, and have actually two plants now with scapes, one blooming white. This way you can cut out a whole year.
I bought a h.'Blueberry Waffels' from Glenbrook Farm this year, and that plant is setting pods right now. I will grow some seedlings from that over winter, but will start only in December because blue/green will get large too fast.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 6:21PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

My Diamonds are Forever has two seed pods it's first year. I'd like to have some solid color smalls. Is that what I'm likely to get?


    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:52PM
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Jon 6a SE MA


Most seedlings are solid colored unless you selectively pollinate them. This is how you selectively pollinate hosta-

'Preparing the pod parent

In order to prevent the pollination of the selected flowers by natural agents such as bees the plant has to be emasculated. Before attempting this it is essential to study hosta flowers in order to know exactly when they are going to open, because it is necessary to catch the flower in the late afternoon of the day before it opens - that is, while it is still in bud but almost ready to open. The procedure is first to slit open the bud carefully, exposing the sex organs without damaging them, and then to cut away the petals and sepals. The final step is to locate the anthers and to cut them away without damaging the stigma. The removal of the petals and sepals deprives insects of a landing platform and makes it most unlikely that they will try to effect pollination, while the removal of the anthers eliminates any likelihood of self-pollination. Wind pollination is unlikely anyway since hosta pollen is heavy.

Gathering and storing pollen

Pollen is the medium in which the male gamete is transferred to the female. It is by its very nature short-lived and sensitive to changes in temperature. When the pollen of hostas is ripe and ready to use it has a powder-like texture. What governs its viability is enzyme activity, which is mainly temperature-controlled: the pollen needs a reasonable amount of heat to ripen, but in too much heat its viability deteriorates rapidly. The workable range would seem to be between 18°C (65°F) and 29°C (85°F), with an optimum of about 24°C (75°F).

Because it is so sensitive to temperature, it is important that pollen is gathered at the right time: too early in the day and the ambient temperature will not be high enough, too late in the afternoon or evening and the temperature will have fallen too low again. Mid-morning seems to be the time of optimum enzyme activity, but by this time of day the bees may have already got there and taken the pollen. For this reason it is better to gather the anthers, bearing their pollen, reasonably early in the day. The anthers should then be taken indoors, placed in the dark and allowed to come up to the optimum temperature before being either harvested or used.

Pollen may be used as soon as it has reached a suitable temperature, or it may be stored in folds of low-grade white paper, on which the source of the pollen can easily be written. It helps to fold the paper first and then open it out, tap the pollen into the middle section and refold it. The paper containers can then be stored in a refrigerator (not a freezer, which is far too cold) and will remain viable for the rest of the season and often into the early part of the following one. This of course means that one can mate hostas that do not naturally flower at the same time.

Transferring the pollen

The actual moment of mating is achieved when the pollen from the male anthers is transferred to the female stigma, which becomes moist and slightly swollen when it is at its most receptive: once it forms a dew-drop it is too late. The simplest and most natural way to do this is to brush the pollen-laden anthers across the slightly sticky stigma, thereby leaving a deposit of pollen on it. This of course is only possible when the anthers and stigma are in season at the same time.

Where stored pollen has to be used, a fine camel-hair or sable brush will be needed. Pollen is delicately taken on to the tip of the brush, which is then wiped across the stigma. Each cross should be made using a different brush, and the brushes should be cleaned afterwards in methylated spirits. As the brush then has to dry before use, it is practical to have a whole batch of brushes to work through before having to clean them. Another technique is to use a wisp of cotton wool held by tweezers to transfer the pollen, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each mating.

Successful crossing

Some hostas are much more difficult to cross than others. H. plantaginea and some of its offspring are notorious for rejecting the pollen of other hostas. One technique that has been found successful is to use H. plantaginea pollen round the rim of the stigma, and the pollen of the parent you want to cross in the centre of the stigma.

Many breeders believe that there is no need to do anything further to defend the stigma once the cross has been made as the pollen takes only an hour and a half to reach the ovary. However, it is not unknown for bees to come and steal the pollen off the stigma after it has been put there. The simplest defense against this is to slip a short length of drinking straw over the anther. This can be removed the next day.'

If your seeds are 'mated' naturally I think neighboring hosta have a better chance of being the 'parent', but there is no practical way to know except after the fact.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hybridizing hosta

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:14AM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Wow, maybe I don't want to grow seeds after all. That's a lot of work.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:53AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

When you consider that an expert expects that getting one marketable hosta variety takes about 10,000 cullings....if you are willing to go through all the steps needed, it is a daunting task.

I plan to follow Steve's advice by just isolating the seeds by Pod Parent and watching and enjoying what nature comes up with. Particularly nice ones or the best of what develops can be relocated and enjoyed; the others can serve as groundcover or be culled.

If I see that a particular Parent consistently produces nicer offspring then I can concentrate on that one. It may lead to discreet hybridizing...or not. I will give my favorite hosta priorities as Pod Parents. Grouping the offspring of favorite Pod Parents close to one another is another way I think you can hope to get results you might like (???). It all depends on which plants the bees or other pollinators, decide to land on, the wind and other factors on any particular day when the receptor hosta is prime to be fertilized.

Maybe looking at which hosta is used to produce marketed plants would be a good thing to look at if one wanted to get serious about this.

If I am gong to do this now, I have no choice but to go with what I have, which is already fertilized seeds ripening on the 'vine'.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 10:44AM
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Sort of sounds like advice to folks with fertility problems who want to maximize chances for reproduction. Taking the temp and all, really sounds familiar!

Interesting source, Jonny.

I've watched a great many of my lovely fragrant hostas set NO SEEDPODS, although they bloomed beautifully. From what I can tell, only the major players of the plantaginea family bloom at night. The others bloom during the daytime, on a varying schedule. Some have so many blooms open it is difficult to tell which opened when.

I have Mama in bloom now, and I'm hoping she can set at least ONE big fat pod. Doubled Up opened its first flower last night, well after dark. I checked after dinner and it was not open, but before I went to bed I took a flashlight (and my camera) to look, and there it was. I'm wondering if I could place Mama and Doubled Up together for a little pollen swapping before the next bloom opens.

Meanwhile, I have lots of pods on Cerveza, Mariachi, Fragrant Gold, and some forming on multiple Royal Standard plants.... A few pods on Twenty-Four Caret Gold, Avocado, and one with tag missing.

I have hopes that all the long whip scapes of Victory which set large amounts of pods during the early round of fragrant bloomings, will have some fragrant DNA mixed in there. However, I'm thinking the fragrant gene must transfer only when the podparent is fragrant? This I will know more about when I read Hosta Sex 101 more carefully.

I plan to have fun with this, and make my own observations, which are definitely NOT scientific, more like folklore or witchcraft.

You know, I was watching the long waving scapes in the twilight, and came up with a different reason for them being so long and bouncy. On a night when there is no breeze to create movement of fragrance in the air, the slightest touch will send them into a swaying motion. It could be a pollinator finding them, or a bird landing on the scape. But that motion could definitely create a wave of fragrance moving on the still air, and the sound waves of the scape, striking super receptive antennae of properly attuned moths (like sharks with their receptivity to smell) could lead them to the white flowers. The totally white flowers of major plantaginea family make them glow in my camera viewfinder even in pitch blackness. I don't think night pollinators rely on vision to locate sources of nectar.

So to sum it up, I think the long scapes which move at the slightest touch or provocation, are grown to disseminate the fragrance. I will therefore not be pulling up the scapes into ponytails with hair clips on the fragrant hosta any more. I will instead elevate them so I may pass unimpeded, leaving the pollen undisturbed until a suitor comes calling.

Another observation.
I noticed bees coming to a lot of the fragrant hosta multiple times, but when they approached Fried Bananas, this during the daytime, they backed away without taking a taste. I have not decided why that is. Maybe the pollen and fragrance is gone in the day? Maybe it was already empty as a source of nourishment? Why would they back away from such a nice flower otherwise? I watch this happen on different days, and always it is Fried Bananas. One of my favorites, and I know it is also DelDonna's fav grove of hosta too.

This is Doubled Up taken last night with my flash

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:01AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I think (therefor I am) that the reason for only nighttime pollinators being attracted goes back to the origins of the hosta. I remember seeing a documentary on cactus (I think...therefor...) showing how they attract only a certain pollinator and only at night. It was very significant as (I think) the pollinator was very specialized and came from very far away. This was probably the only way for this species to survive.

I have another theory on long scapes on plants. I think (oh, brother) that while it may have to do with the distance their fragrance carries it may have to do with how far the seeds travel. It could be that longer scapes (on bigger hosta) are designed by thousands of generations of natural selection to spread the seeds further so the larger plants don't get cramped into a too small space.

Also, bees have multi-pixels eyes that see things we cannot. A flower, even a plain white flower, looks completely different to a bee. Bees see bull's eyes on each flower which direct them to the goodies they need.

Bees, and maybe other insects (I don't know everything) sense the slightly negative charge on flowers generated by all the buzzing on them. It seems those fuzzy hairs stand on end, kind of, with the very slight negative charge flowers have. They also have geo-magnetic senses and highly development dances to communicate where the best stash is.

So it is not just soft wafting fragrances carried on hot summer breeze. It is the tingling of charges no Man can feel and magnetic attraction no Man can sense that flawlessly directs the bee to the target, it only can see.

How's that Moc?

I will stop now as by brain (and probably yours) hurts.


This post was edited by jonnyb023 on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 12:13

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:47AM
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Hey, Jonny, I like that. And if you haven't read The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of The World, by Pollan, (great name for an author of such a book), then I "think" you should. Very interesting.

I had not thought of the disbursement of the seeds afterward, but it makes sense to me....and I think it is a factor, but not the only one. Plants have a strategy, just like insects and other critters do. A really good example of evolution at work.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 2:34PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

My brain is full. I will have to wait until I forget a few things.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 2:47PM
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bernd ny zone5

In case you consider hybridizing, you should first read Don Rawson's (don_r here) Hybridizer Manual which he usually sells on the Hosta Library Auction for $25, which is his cost. This Manual is a collection of practices used by hosta hybridizers.
This would send you in the right direction by hosta experts.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 5:45PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Thanks Bernd, sounds like a good investment if I get hooked.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:08AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Jon and Mocc...that was an enlightening conversation ...and a. fascinating subject.

Mocc, last year you recommended the book to me as well. Back in November I googled title and found a PBS video on utube with Pollan narrating, I believe. Can't recall exact length of video but longer than an hour. Interesting viewing.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:36AM
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It is fascinating reading, Jo. I googled the author, since I forgot how his name spelled exactly, and saw the video available through YouTube. Isn't YT something great? Not always HD or prime quality, but something is better than nothing.

I'd also recommend that you view a short video of HANGING HOSTAS OF HAMPSHIRE. If you think you are running out of space, take note. I noticed a perfect spot for hanging or suspended hosta, coming down your white painted outdoor stairs. Easy to tend without bending over.

Here is a link that might be useful: HANGING HOSTAS OF HAMPSHIRE video

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 12:40PM
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