How to hand pollinate Morning Glories?

littleonefbJuly 25, 2008


Could you tell me if the following idea is a good one or if you think it is a waster of time.

Since the Japanese MG produce so few seeds, I wonder what you think of this idea to attempt to pollinate some of the flowers and possibly increase the number of seeds.

A friend and I thought about buying at least 50 really cheap kids paint brushes. labeling each paint brush with the name of the MG that we are growing and store each one in it's own ziploc baggie.

then as we have at least 2 blooms at a time on a vine, very carefully moving pollen from one flower to another on the same vine to try a force some pollination to potentially increase the number of pods. By doing that hopefully increase the number of seeds as well.

We would only do this with a few of the flowers and let nature take it's course with the rest.

We would also be extremely careful that we used the correct labeled paint brush and store it in it's correct ziploc baggie as well.

do you think it has a chance of increasing the seed yield or do you think it is just a waste of time?

Thanks for the help and your thoughts on the attempts to pollinate and increase the seed yield.


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Hi Fran,

Learning how to do simple hand pollination is a good idea in order to increase seed production and to enjoy doing your own crosses or to insure that a particular cultivar is self-pollinated to prevent unwanted crosses.

The easiest way to insure that a Morning Glory is pollinated is to push the anthers (after the pollen has been released) with the fluffy looking pollen up against the stigma so that pollen adheres to the usually slightly sticky surface of the stigma...if the anthers are at the same height as the stigma or slightly higher than the stigma , the pollination is easily achieved...(but if the anthers are much below the stigma or much higher than the stigma then simply using some object to simply push the anthers onto the stigma will not work and you will have to try another method...)

You can use a small artists brush to tranfer the pollen from the anther to the stigma within a flower,or between different flowers...

The brush should be able to perform 2 functions well

a) pick up the pollen

b) release the pollen

I have found that the cheap brushes which are made out of synthetic material do not pick up or release pollen very well...cotton swabs are excellent at picking up pollen,but are very reluctant to release it and you are likely to to damage to the surface of the stigma by abrading (or bruising ) it with a cotton swab in the process of trying to get the pollen to be released...

The brushes that work the best are made out of natural hair and pick up the pollen and release it very well...a very good brush is usually about $5 to $10 but worth can find high quality brushes that are excellent for pollen work at an artists or high quality craft supply store...a quick wipe will clean the brush of pollen...

The other method that I use to hand pollinate is grasp the stamen about midway (or lower) with a pair of tweezers and with a quick sharp tug > yank it free...then re-position the stamen so that the anther is facing the stigma and use it like a paint brush to lightly paint the surface of the stigma(s...a very light brushing is usually sufficient and you should be able to see the pollen coming off of the anther and adhering to the surface of the very full anther can pollinate several don't need to completely cover the stigma with pollen...10 to 15 good pollen grains is usually very sufficient...more than that is usually a waste of good pollen...

The pollen will sprout and produce a pollen tube which will penetrate the specialized pollen tube transmitting tissue and make it's way to the ovary and on to the the ovules and if all goes well,the fertilized ovule will ripen into a seed...

Morning Glories can only accommodate up to about 25 pollen tubes in total,so if the 25th pollen tube for whatever reason does not fertilize the ovules,no further pollen tubes will be enabled and any additional pollen placed onto the stigma is realistically wasted...

The pollen transfer is best done as soon as the anthers have released the pollen (i.e., dehisced )and this may be very early in the morning,although some flowers may not release the pollen until mid-morning or sometimes later in the day...

Hand pollination is best done when it is not too hot and not too cold...not too dry and not too wet...pollen which has been rained on is worthless...

Pollen can be stored in a cool,dry place,on a non-absorptive surface(like glass,plastic or waxed paper) after being dried in the sun for about an hour or so...pollen so prepared will remain viable for a couple of months...pollen can also be frozen,but will loose a certain amount of vigor...

Flowers which have been hand pollinated can be protected by any further unwanted pollination by covering them in something to prevent other pollinators from accessing the inner flower e.g., like a small piece of muslin with a tie string to tighten below the flower base...

Hand pollination is actually very easy and can be mastered with just a little practice...

Check out the photo link posted and click onto the contents at the top of the photo page to view more from Dr.Yoneda's wonderful online asagao book...

There it is...(!)

Hope the suggestions are helpful...

Talk to you...


Here is a link that might be useful: Pistil and Stamen Closeup in Morning Glory Beginners Guide

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 3:59AM
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Ron . . .

Much of this I have forgotten about and this is great to refresh my memory.

I hope everyone else that uses your information on how to hand pollinate MGs will appreciate all of your hard work in helping us all 'learn'.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 6:04PM
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Sorry I haven't posted to thank you for all the information. I posted 2 days before I had major spinal surgery and it is a long slow process to recover from.

I've printed out all the information to have, but at the rate the weather had been going around here, it doesn't matter that I am not getting around as well as I would like.

All we've had is rain, rain, and more rain, severe thunderstorms, hail and downpours that resemble more the tropical rain forest than a summer day in New England.

One thing I've learned is that morning glory vines like some water, but they sure don't like receiving over 12 inches of rain in about 4-6 weeks and rain on them every single day.

Not only have most of my MG not bloomed but they have not had any huge growth either. Even the most common MG, heavenly blue, flying saucer and the real blue star are not happy vines out there, but they have bloomed some.

What has bloomed is one flower at a time, except for the heavenly blue, which is 2 or 3 at a time, sydney which is 4 or 5 at a time and blue star which is 2 at a time.

The only prize bloomer is thanks to you Emma. So glad to see you posting here again. Your beautiful "emma's gift" aka aomaraski MG seeds you traded with me a long time ago have millions of grandchildren blooming all over the country from seeds that I've traded to other members.
That MG is a no fail bloomer and just keeps going and going in blooms till the frost totally does it in, sometime in late fall.

Ron, I don't know if I will end up trying to pollinate any MG this year, I have to have more than one flower on the vine to do it, and so far not any luck with the ones I wanted to pollinate.

Will let you know if I get an opportunity to do so and what the results are.

Thanks again for the info


    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 9:16PM
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Hi Fran -

It has been a very long time hasn't it!
And you are very welcome for the Purple-Flaked Shibori Seeds. I still love that Morning Glory. You would for sure also like another that I grow every year: Jamie Lynn Ipomoea purpurea. A beautiful White with a Pale Pink Halo.

Sorry to hear about your surgery. Ouch!
Hope your recovery is fast and you are back to your gardening very soon.

Take care of yourself . . .


    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 1:40AM
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Speaking of the devil, I have your jamie lynn seeds and how ironic that you mention it and I see your post today. Something is going on cause first thing I saw this morning was my first blooms of jamie lynn !!!!!!!!!!
Smaller flower than I expected, but beautiful all the same.

here she is in all her glory this morning

I've posted pics on WS forum of my blooming MG.

here's the link

Here is a link that might be useful: blooming MG

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 6:01PM
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Fran -



One of my all time favorites.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 2:20AM
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What a lot of great info, thanks from me too, Ron! Wow, I have bookmarked that link, it is very valuable.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 11:09AM
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