asiatic lilium EarlibirdI started hybridizing lilies outdoors in 1974. This resulted in only a few seed pods and very little seed. In 1975 I changed my approach by starting to bring the lily plants I wanted to pollinate into an unheated greenhouse. I put these plants into 1 gallon tins and then providing only enough heat to prevent freezing until the seed had ripened.

After I bring the lily plants into the greenhouse, there was a fair improvement in the number of seeds. This was due to such factors as:

  • the rain did not wash off the pollen;
  • because of higher temperature on colder days; and
  • being able to keep the night time temperatures from dropping to the same as the out-of-doors.

About 1978 I got a coal fired furnace and kept the minimum temperature up to 60 F with a little more improvement in seed production. During 1979, I raised the night time temperature to 60 F as well as raising the relative humidity inside the greenhouse to 60 - 70 percent compared to 30-40 percent outside on warm sunny days. Once again I noted a little more seeds produced.

Under garden conditions I have never seen stigmatic fluid on asiatic lilies. For me only the Trumpet type lilies produce stigmatic fluid. Under high levels of relatively humidity of the greenhouse I have seen some stigmatic fluid on a few asiatic lilies.

For my 1981 hybridizing I raised the daytime temperature to near 80 F or 27 C and the night time temperature to 70 F or 22 C. This gave me an increase of 500 to 2000 percent on some lilies. I have been trying to get seed from Earlibird as a pod parent since 1979 under outside and greenhouse conditions, but have never produced any seed. However, under the 1981 greenhouse conditions I was able to get more seed than I wanted from an Earlibird X Golden Wonder cross.

Carol Jean asiatic lilyAlso some seeds were obtained using Carol Jean pollen. A very great improvement was also noticed in seed production on lilies like Connecticut Lemon Glow, Carol Jean (photo on right), Sally JoAnn, and Elenore Edna. Next year I will try other lilies which have given me little or no seed in the past. My 1981 conditions also gave an increase in the size and weight of the seeds. This is not to say that higher temperatures and humidity did away with all my seed production problems. There are still many seedlings which give me very little seed.

With regard to higher humidity 60-70 percent, it is my feeling that it gave an improvement in seed production of between 30 to 40 percent. Not all breeders agree that humidity improves seed setting. Dick Thomas, in Naramata, B.C., says he gets his best seed set under high temperatures, and low humidity. Dick was kind enough to make many crosses for me on Connecticut Lemon Glow, Carol Jean, Yellow Blaze plus many other in 1981. The seed from his crosses was larger and heavier than my seeds, even on similar crosses.

I notice that most of the seeds from other breeders look "fuller and plumper" than my own seed. One reason for my lighter seed could be due to the fact that I dig up pod parent plants at or near the beginning of bloom to bring them into the greenhouse. At this time I can lose a great many of the contractible roots. Another reason could be that I make pollination on all the blooms on a plant.

by Fred Fellner (CPLS Newsletter #28:7-8) 1981