My First Steps in African Violet Hybridization

Meet the Parents…

 Mac’s Just Jeff (G. McDonald) Semidouble coral red pansy/variable darker fantasy. Mosaic variegated medium green, white and variable pink, plain, scalloped. Miniature .

Pixie Pink (L. Lyon) Single light pink/rose eye. Plain, ovate. Miniature trailer.

My first viable cross, the second one I attempted, was sown on 11/11/11.  African violet seed pods are said to require a maturation time of three to six months,with those ripening prior to four months having low or non-existent germination rates.   Word of mouth, though, I’ve heard that some people have had success with seed pods at around 2 months and given the very variable nature of violets it seems entirely possible that there would be outliers which produced their seed pods and seeds faster.  The plant will let you know when it has matured as the seed pod and stem will begin to shrivel and dry, so there are no real needs for guessing games – they’re ready when they’re ready.  For my particular pod this point was reached after exactly four months.  My failed attempt was removed from the plant at just over two months – it unfortunately rubbed against the marker which I’d put on it to show which plants had been crossed – and although it did have what appeared to be viable seed I could not get them to germinate.  I have a feeling that was a failing on my part, though, as I wasn’t prepared or ready for its arrival and had to cobble things together.

The first of the above pictures shows the seed pod not long after pollination – a few weeks or so, and the second shows them after around three months.  Not all AV seed pods are oblong like these – my first cross gave me a small ball-shaped seed pod (which ultimately came to an early demise!).

I dried this seed pod for ten days and it went from a mostly brown, still plump pod to completely dried and much harder.  I simply left mine in a cool spot with a piece of cotton wool over it to both reduce moisture and stop the tiny pod from falling out of the cup!  The seed pod, once ripe and dried,  can be cut open with a sharp knife or blade.  This is best done on top of a piece of white paper so that you can both see the seeds more easily and to act as a tool with which to sow the seeds.

The seeds themselves are tiny, slightly ovoid or round and a dark brown colour.  They are so small that I feared breathing on them in case I sent them flying across the table.  These seeds require a fine but loose medium in which to be sown, with fair humidity.  They need to be surface sown as they require light to germinate.

A tiny seedling, 8 days after sowing.  This little thing was around 1mm in length – from tiny radicle (seed root) to baby leaves.

 This photo shows four of the seedlings and is about twice life size to give you an idea of just how tiny these are.  They have fully formed little seed leaves on a miniature scale – much smaller than any of the plants I usually grow – even my alpine strawberries, which were minuscule, were bigger than these are.

By this morning’s count I’ve now got nine seedlings, with a few radicles peeking out here and there.  I have been keeping them in a propagator since sowing, but was worried the light was not sufficient in a windowsill for germination.  Luckily, the garden centre had a deal on one of the exact same type and my seedlings are now sitting under fluorescent lights and at a suitable temperature – I’m hoping this will help them grow more strongly and improve germination rates in our dull winters.

I’m still amazed at getting this far, if I’m honest.  Having managed to pollinate an african violet, bring it to maturity and get the seeds to germinate is a personal achievement.  I am hoping that I manage to get at least one to full size, but even if I don’t I know that, in the future I’ll be building on a stronger understanding of the process.  If all goes well, though, I’ll be able to update on good progress on here in the future!


Update on the seedlings can be found here!

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