JARS v41n2 - The Gentle Art Of Hybridizing

The Gentle Art Of Hybridizing
Ray and Jane Goodrich
Vienna, Virginia

Have you been growing rhododendrons and azaleas from seed and now want to create your own? The technique is very simple. You can be very scientific and read all the books telling you what to cross with what OR you can just have fun and cross one great looking rhododendron or azalea with another great looking one.

1.  Find an unopened bud on Great Plant #1 which is showing color. Carefully peel off, or snip off the flower petals. Second, snip off the anthers (pollen bearing parts). Don't get the pollen on the stigma or you have inadvertently selfed the plant.

2.  Now, is the stigma shiny? If so, you are in luck. Apply pollen that you have collected from Great Plant #2. If the stigma is not sticky, apply pollen anyway. Some may stick. Repeat the process with a few more flowers. Tag the pollinated flowers with a label attached to copper wire, wound around all the parents-to-be. Record the cross.

3.  If the stigma wasn't shiny when you first applied the pollen, go out the next day and look at your handiwork. Did it rain that night? The pollen may have washed off. If no pollen is visible on the stigma, reapply.

4.  By late July you should be able to look at the cross and see if you have a "take". The seed capsule will be visibly larger on your handiwork than on the flowers which were not hand pollinated. Wait until the first or second week in September to gather the seed pods. The exceptions would be crosses on R. maximum , R. bakeri , and R. prunifolium . Gather the last three in late October, after frost.

5.  Place seed capsule with its label in an open envelope or muffin-paper in a warm place, away from a breeze. The pods will probably split open in one to two weeks. Harvest the seed (over white paper) by twirling the pods between thumb and finger. Alternate method: shuck seed with small knife blade, dissecting seed from chambers.

Good Luck!