> Volume 66
Hybridizing with a Purpose
by Greg Sytch
For all those would-be hybridizers who feel
that this is an area best left to the more
experienced, delight in knowing that
hybridizing is just an easy way of playing bee
or Genetics 101. It allows creativity,
expression, and upon your first successful
I have found the most difficult part of
hybridizing is the selection process. A
successful cross can yield hundred of
seedlings, most look-alikes. How is it
possible to grow them all? It is not, even for
myself with greenhouses and a mild climate.
Then, how do you choose? You make your best
Upon transferring male pollen to a female
blossom, you should have a purpose in mind.
List your priorities of a good hybrid and
In 1997, I crossed B. 'Flutterby' with B. 'Di-Anna'.
My goal was to achieve the unusual and
beautiful foliage of B. 'Flutterby' on a
sturdier grower that would be easier to grow.
I find B. 'Flutterby' a bit temperamental and
its leaves curl and frill to such an extent
that debris is often harbored near the
petiole. This creates opportunity for disease.
It can disfigure the specimen, and lastly, I
do not have time to constantly preen the
plant. I also find that B. 'Flutterby' blooms
at an annoying pace -- almost everblooming --
so cuttings can be difficult to come by (never
snip a cutting from a bloom node). Do not get
me wrong, I love B. 'Flutterby', but if I had
a perfect world...
Everyone should know B. 'DiAnna'. Fast,
beautiful, lushly spotted leaves, everblooming,
but not from every node. Rather compact, it is
a survivor. In my perfect world, I would want
B. 'Di-Anna' to transfer all of these positive
traits, but retain the beauty of B. 'Flutterby'.
Just tweak 'Flutterby' a little. So how does
The selection process begins. In this case,
my cross of B. 'Flutterby' x B. 'Di-Anna'
produced the usual hundred or more seedlings.
I utilize the pastry clamshells from the
supermarket for starting seeds, just
sprinkling on the surface any seed that will
release from the pod. In 7 to 21 days, green
specks of growth appear (Hopefully not algae).
In 3 to 4 months, the seedlings are at the
top of the container properly cared for --
misted with a pinch of fertilizer and checked
for water weekly. The top lid should be left
slightly ajar for the last week to acclimate
the seedlings. A riot of color is a feast for
sore eyes as looking from above, selection
seems impossible. They all look so beautiful.
One key thought to keep in mind when
selecting cane seedlings is that at this age,
most are very colorful, displaying much silver
that should fade with maturity. Look for
leaves with heavy spotting, curls, furls,
frills, reds and roses. Not just the
eye-catching silver streaks. I chose three
dozen seedlings to pot into 3" pots, and
they went straight into my propagation
greenhouse. Here, it is warm, not too bright,
and humid. In two months, they are ready for 4
1/2" pots. In two more months, they are
ready for 6" pots. This is when the true
As mature leaves unfurl, you will have a
feel for the color, shape, and style each
seedling will possess. Trash those seedlings
that do not meet criteria. In my case, by the
time I repotted into two gallon pots, I had
selected seven seedlings. Currently I have
named three, all beautiful plants in three
gallon pots. A few are "still being
evaluated." But my biggest surprise came
from the flowering. One is orange, another is
orange-red, and still another is
orange-salmon. Was it worth the effort? Yes!
Is it easy? Yes! Just wait until you see B.
'Tequila Sunrise' or B. 'Tangerine Twist'.
You'll know it was definitely worth it.
Greg who grows in Florida is another noted
hybridizer with such beauties as B. 'Aripeka'
and B. 'Kissammee'to his credit.