Tips on Tuesdays – Notes on Pollination for Hybridizing


I love that so many of you are experimenting with hybridizing and that some of you are sharing your process and results here on All About African Violets.  Thank you!

A viewer, Joseph, from Port Pirie, South Australia (you can see his Growing Space here), sent along some pollination tips.  For those of you working on hybridization I thought it would be interesting to have Dr. Jeff Smith comment on them. Joseph’s pollination tips are numbered, and Dr. Jeff’s comments are bulleted and in italics.


Pollination Tips

1 You should use an OLD pollen parent and a young seed parent (about 2 days after fully opening). Put the plant in a bag (or under a dome) when the cross is performed as it allows the pollen to travel into the ovary. The best pollen comes from flowers that were allowed to die naturally and the pollen sacs will be dry and crispy.

  • I can see where this one is coming from. I do like to use slightly older pollen that is dry and not mushy and that often takes a couple of days. The stigma does mature later, usually 4-6 days after the flower opens. You should see the stigma separate slightly and look “moist” if it is receptive. The pollen will stick and be visible on the stigma. If the pollen doesn’t stick, you are probably too early or that stigma (seed parent) isn’t going to work. Putting the plant under a dome is a very good idea. The high humidity is often very helpful in getting the pollen to grow and get successful seed set.
2 If you are wick watering, take it off the wick a day or two before your cross, as it triggers the fight response in the plant, so as it is drying out, it wants to reproduce to ensure its survival.

  • Don’t know that this works or not. Couldn’t hurt, but it does seem to be an extra step you might not need. I do suggest pollinating several blooms at the same time. Multiple seed pods help each other stay on long enough to mature.
3 Try to cross in spring or summer, winter crosses rarely succeed, and even if you dome them, it’s best to cross after a rain, as this is when the plants are most responsive to the pollen.

  • I’m not sure about winter crosses (doesn’t Australia have reversed seasons to us so which “winter” does he mean? [Australian winter – Ed.]) but humidity definitely plays in the ability to make a cross. When I lived in Oklahoma, I often pollinated on rainy days to take advantage of the higher humidity. If you dome or bag your plant you should be successful in any season that you get flowers.
4 So its the humidity? Yes, and even if the plant is grown inside, it is still stimulated by weather patterns. The air pressure etc. triggers natural responses in the plant.

  • Yes, humidity is definitely an important factor in getting seed set.
5 If the plant has more than one bloom on the stem, pollinate the second flower, as it is generally more receptive to the pollen.

  • Yes, see my earlier comment about pollinating several flowers if possible at the same time.


Thanks, Joseph, for sharing these tips, and thanks, Dr. Jeff, for adding your take on them!