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Need help with Zinnia seeds

Posted by northerner_on Z5A ONCanada (My Page) on
Sun, Nov 7, 10 at 12:24

Hello, last week I took two full mature (all dried up) zinnia flowers from my neighbours garden. I was sure that I took the two flowers from the same plant, but now that I am sorting through the chaff and seeds, I am coming up with two different things which look like zinnia seeds:
November 2010
I have not saved zinnia seeds for a long time, and even though I am sure of the shape, I have these two different colours and textures of seed.The ones on the left are quite light (in weight and colour), whereas the ones on the right are quite rigid and as you can see darker. Are both these sets of seeds mature, or did I get one mature seed head and one immature one? Do different colours of zinnias produce different coloured seeds? Your help would be appreciated. Thank you.
Northerner


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

The seeds on the left don't look viable to me. The ones on the right appear fine--but that's still no guarantee. My 2 cents worth.

Martha


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

I am also a novice at saving zinnia seeds. The flowers on my plants are now drying up however I really do not know what to save when I crumble the flower. How will I know what the seeds look like. The marigolds are very obvious.


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

  • Posted by remy 6WNY (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 7, 10 at 21:16

The seeds on the right are good. Zinnias often make good seed and bad seed. Pollination doesn't always occur.
A rule of thumb with seeds is if they are good, they will be hard, as you noticed with the seeds on the right, thick and ridged. Bad seed will be thin and easily bendable.
Remy


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

  • Posted by zenman Ottawa, KS 5b (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 7, 10 at 22:55

Remy,

"A rule of thumb with seeds is if they are good, they will be hard, as you noticed with the seeds on the right, thick and ridged. Bad seed will be thin and easily bendable."

Well said. I use the bend test to determine whether a zinnia seed is "empty" or whether it contains a developed embryo. You can also lightly pinch a seed to feel whether it contains a developed embryo and endosperm, or if it is just an empty husk.

Incidentally, in the picture above, the seeds on the left are floret seeds and the seeds on the right are petal seeds (with a couple of exceptions). Floret seeds develop at the base of the star-shaped yellow florets, while petal seeds develop at the base of petals. Floret seeds can be viable or not, just as petal seeds can be viable or not.

I am a zinnia hobbyist, and I do some of my own cross-pollination, so naturally I save zinnia seeds. I like to get two generations per year in my outside zinnias, and two generations per year in my indoor zinnias, so in order to shorten the seed-to-seed time, I save "green seed" from still living petals. This picture shows how to tell the difference between viable green seeds and "empty" ones.

By planting green zinnia seeds, I can get new plants into bloom several weeks sooner than by waiting for the petals and florets to turn brown and "dead". You can either plant the green seeds immediately for quick turnaround, or dry them out for storage and use at some future time. Another advantage of saving green zinnia seeds is that you avoid losses to pregermination in brown seedheads in rainy weather. If you see a little dried rootlet sticking out of a brown zinnia seed, it is a "goner".

ZM


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

Thank you all very much for your help. And Zenman, thanks for your detailed dissertation on zinnia seeds. I will have to save your response for further study. I was not able to discern the difference between the 'empty' and 'viable' green seeds from this cursory look, but I will be sure to look at them more closely when time permits. At this time, while doing lots of seed-saving, Remy's 'bend-test' will have to suffice. Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating shortly!!!


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

  • Posted by zenman Ottawa, KS 5b (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 20:35

Northerner,

It takes a little practice doing the bend test, because you can break a good seed if you bend it too much. When there is some danger of breaking a delicate seed, I use a gentle "pinch" test to verify that there is some "content" in the seed without flexing it much. The seeds in this lot required a lot of gentle pinching as an alternative to the bend test.

They were saved from an unusual "Pink Shaggy Dog" zinnia that had a lot of long narrow petals. I have noticed that there is a lot of correlation between seed shape and petal shape. As you can see from this picture, the Shaggy Dog zinnias have some extra long narrow petals.

I plan to use Tissue Culture techniques to germinate some of the long thin seeds from the Shaggy Dog zinnias, because I doubt that they contain enough endosperm tissue to support normal germination. I'll be experimenting with the Tissue Culture of zinnias this Winter.

ZM


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

  • Posted by remy 6WNY (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 9, 10 at 22:41

ZM,
That is a very cool looking zinnia!
Remy


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

Hi Zenman, thanks again for more helpful information. I picked up a couple more zinnia heads which I believe were Shaggy Dog types. The petals were long and thin, and the seeds were still attached to the petals when I took the dried seed heads apart. There were no other seeds in the seed head but these, so I simply snipped the dried petals off, let the seeds dry on for a further few days and stored them. I will have to try your 'pinch' test next fall when I am saving. Don't know I can really tell if there is "content" with my limited experience, but I guess with the interest your responses have sparked in me, I may get there some time. As for "Tissue Culture", that's way out of my league. Beautiful Zinnia pic. Now I'll be searching for seeds for them.


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

  • Posted by zenman Ottawa, KS 5b (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 13, 10 at 0:12

Northerner,

"Now I'll be searching for seeds for them."

If you mean for a commercial strain of zinnia called "Shaggy Dog", you won't find it. That is a name that I coined for one of my hand-hybridized zinnia specimens. If you mean searching for them in your saved zinnia seeds, then, yes, that is a possibility. Zinnias have all sorts of interesting surprises in store, and no telling what you will find in your zinnias.

The Shaggy Dog flower form is unusual, because as the flower matures, it gets really "long" or "tall" instead of wide, as you can see in this picture.

"I picked up a couple more zinnia heads which I believe were Shaggy Dog types. The petals were long and thin, and the seeds were still attached to the petals when I took the dried seed heads apart."

It is possible that you might find your own "Shaggy Dog" type of zinnias. The ancestors of mine were simply commercial Burpee Hybrid and Burpeeana zinnias. I grew quite a few and cross-pollinated a few selected favorites that had extra long thin petals. I grew those hybrids, and then made hybrids of the hybrids.

However, I was trying to get a spider flowered strain, and the dangling flower form of the Shaggy Dog zinnia came as a complete surprise to me, and was unplanned. But I immediately liked it, so naturally I self-pollinated it as much as possible and saved seeds from it. We'll see what I get from those seeds next year.

"I will have to try your 'pinch' test next fall when I am saving. Don't know I can really tell if there is "content" with my limited experience, but I guess with the interest your responses have sparked in me, I may get there some time."

You will get there. It is just a matter of shucking out and handling a lot of zinnia seeds.

"As for "Tissue Culture", that's way out of my league."

For a lot of people, Tissue Culture is a hobby all by itself. I was drawn to it more for what it could do to improve my zinnia hobby. However, as I get into it, I can see the attraction. There are many aspects to Tissue Culture and it can be as simple or involved as you want it to be. It is actually fairly easy to get started in Tissue Culture, and the Home Tissue Culture Group and their kits are a good starting place.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

Zenman-- I just read your post that said the seeds with a small brown rootlet are "goners". I started paying closer attention and nearly ALL of mine have that on there. Im assuming that means throw them away?


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

Zenman-- I just read your post that said the seeds with a small brown rootlet are "goners". I started paying closer attention and nearly ALL of mine have that on there. Im assuming that means throw them away?


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RE: Need help with Zinnia seeds

Mackenzie, that means they've already germinated - so don't save them, but plant them now.


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