Auriculas from Seed
First obtain your seed. This can be sourced from commercial outlets (availability limited), or the Society seed exchange, most not available elsewhere at very reasonable prices; or by producing your own seed from your own plants for free.
As seed does not give plants that are true to the parents, you will be raising new varieties. Although only about 1% of the seedlings will be of show standard quality and form, the remainder can be given away to friends for growing in their gardens.
The best time to make crosses is around midday on a bright warm sunny day when the pin or stigma becomes sticky or receptive, also make sure the pollen to be used is ripe, a good golden colour and fluffy, if it is a dull colour with a slight grey appearance its past its best and probably no good. The easiest method of pollinating is to remove a whole pip or flower that you intend to use as the pollen parent then carefully tear open the petals to expose the stamens. On the flower that is to be pollinated to produce seed, without removing the pip, carefully tear open the petals to expose the stigma or pin, then holding the removed pip with exposed stamens touch the stigma on the seed parent plant, make a note of the cross parents on a label and put it into the pot with the plant you have pollinated.
A greenhouse or cold frame is the ideal home for your Auriculas prior to and after pollination and the plants should be kept dry shaded and cool where possible and well ventilated, fine mesh over open doors and windows will keep a good supply of air flowing over the plants but more importantly keep bees and other bugs from contaminating your cross with pollen from other plants. Make sure the plants don't dry out as this could stress the plant and prevent seed setting. Once the pods swell and the green cover over the seed pod changes to the colour of straw and cracks across the cover (figure 3), carefully remove the seed pods and put into small paper or glassine seed envelopes (never use polythene bags) and clearly marked with the variety, parent plants crossed and the year. Store your seed in an airtight container in the refrigerator, not the freezer.
Some sow the seed in September/October but others prefer to sow it in January the following year, spare seed can be saved for a number of years in the fridge and shared with friends, or sent to society seed exchange scheme.
Using small seed trays or pans, sow the seed onto the surface of compost (50/50 peat compost and sand) or Seed Compost, which has been pre-soaked. Cover the seed with a very thin layer of dry sand and cover the tray or pan with a sheet of glass. Keep it away from direct sunlight and germination should take place in a few weeks. Keep the glass on until ready for transplanting, ensuring they never dry out.
In Spring with the seedlings at the first true leaf stage, transplant the seedlings into trays or tray 40 section inserts, using the same compost. The inserts allow for future potting on to be carried out with minimal root disturbance.
As the seedling grows, use larger inserts and gradually change the compost towards that which will be used for the adult plants.
The final transfer into pots, 7x7x8cm black pots are cheap and take up the least amount of growing space. Remember the labels to identify them.
In the following Spring you should have some of these plants flowering. Now is the time to set aside the good ones and discard those not upto standard.
The perfect plant has not yet been produced, and you have as good a chance as anyone to breed the next winner. Good luck.
For further information on the care of your plants see the Auricula Growing Guide.
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