Return to the Bulbs Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Tulip Germination Experiments

Posted by sunandshadow 6 PA ( on
Sat, Apr 10, 10 at 16:45

I want to document my experiments with germinating tulip seeds, I figured this would be a good place to keep track of what I've tried.

April 10 2010 - Tulips are blooming outside, I've made attempts to hand-pollinate them. Am not using the Aperitif because I plan to cull them out of my breeding program due to having excessively fragile flowers, and also tall spindly stems even in full sunlight. Am also not using the white noid tulips, though I will leave them in the bed, they look ok, might want them some other year.

Everything else I'll attempt to get seed pods from - From what I've read it's likely several versions will have sterility problems with either the male or female portion of the reproductive anatomy. Any variety which yields no seed pods will be assumed to have 'female sterility'. Currently I strongly suspect the Claudia variety has this problem.

Tulip varieties which have not bloomed yet: griegii fire of love, griegii double red riding hood, acuminata, Texas Flame, Black Parrot, Queen of Night, Paul Schafer, Zurel, and Blue Heron. I'm hoping a few dark ones will bloom in time to breed them with the first batch. Possibly purchase an earlier-blooming parrot variety for next year.

Meanwhile, from the tulips I was attempting to force in pots over the winter, I only obtained 1 seed pod. The stem that the seed pod was on appeared to die due to fungus gnat damage before the seed pod was mature, so the seeds may be nonviable for this environmental reason. I left the seed pod on a sunny windowsill until it began to dry, then gently opened it. Seeds were mostly clear but some had a greenish or light brown tinge to them. I scattered the seeds into a Jiffy greenhouse tray of mixed perlite and potting soil. Because the seeds are not fully dry and hard, they should sprout promptly if they are going to sprout at all, so now I'll observe the tray for 2-3 weeks.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

Update April 15 2010

No sign of tulips seeds sprouting yet. Fire of Love, Black Parrot, Queen of Night, Zurel, and a noid double purple I suspect is lilac perfection are now blooming. Most Apricot Impressions have lost their petals while nothing else has yet, so I'd give them poor marks for bloom durability. Note to self, remove all blooms from uninteresting tulips in the purple mix bed, otherwise I will have no idea which seed pods I want to harvest.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

I may have misread: are these seeds that have set during your current spring season?

It might just be natural gloom on my part, but I wouldn't expect to see any signs of striking until the autumn. Late summer at the best.

They need to survive summer - and if it's going to be hot'n'dry then being snug in a seed is THE safest place to be, IMO.

For example - last year the Littonia set seed and I scattered some, sowed some in orthodox fashion (they all failed...) but the scattered seed, in gravel, are coming up thickly this autumn.

Narcissus are similar. For me, they set anywhere between September and November - and they send up those spindly little onion-y shoots late February onward.

So, you may need to be patient. Perhaps even a year's worth of patient. Not this coming autumn but the following one.

Good luck with your germination rates and results. It's lots of quiet fun!

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

The seeds I'm currently watching to see if they germinate are from a potted tulip which was forced over the winter. They are currently in a covered tray of mixed potting soil and perlite under plant lights in my basement, somewhere around 60 degrees.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

Another follow up. Texas Flames and Greigii Double Red Riding Hoods have bloomed, so that's all the tulips. Of the earlier ones, at least half have lost all their petals. A notable exception are the Gavotas, they seem quite long lasting if a bit faded, although I think they bloomed later than some varieties.

Without the petals it's much easier to examine the pistils. There seems to be a consistent rate of half of all double tulips and Yellow Crowns having malformed pistils. This won't be a problem for my purposes if the ones that appear to have correctly formed pistils are actually fertile. All tulips except the noid presumed Lilac Perfection seem to have produced pollen.

The Apricot Impression and Daydream tulips are developing dark stripes down the sides of the seed pods, hopefully a sign that they have been fertilized. But it's too early to tell whether any of the tulips' seed pods are starting to swell yet. Still no sign of sprouting from the one seed pod produced by a potted tulip.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

All tulips have now lost their petals.

Some fertilization data is in:
Noid purple double presumed lilac perfection, Herman Emmink, and Black Parrot did not appear to have produced any functional pistils (failure of the tube to close, extra lobes). Emblazon is the same except one of the half-formed pistils looks like it might be producing seeds anyway. Yellow spider had a slightly higher rate of correct pistil formation, looks like one fully formed pistil (with an extra lobe) and one half-formed but making seeds anyway. Yellow crown had closer to 50% correctly formed pistils.

All other varieties from the earlier tulips look to have at least 80% female fertility. This includes Claudia, Ballerina, Daydream, Apricot Impression, Queen of Night, and Paul Scherer. I discarded the noid white pistils because I wasn't interested in their seeds and discarded the aperitif bulbs because the flowers were poor quality, but both seemed to have well-formed and functional pistils.

Greigii Fire of Love tulips produced correct-looking pistils, but all withered (possibly because I hand pollinated them with pollen from standard tulips?). Greigii Double Red Riding Hood produced about 40% functional pistils, too early to tell if they will wither. Two Acuminata seem to be producing seeds, I would assume these are regular Acuminata seeds since I did not attempt to cross pollinate them.

The other types of tulips (Texas Flame, Flaming Spring Green) have just lost their petals, so it is too early to tell if they will make seeds. Possible conclusion - viridiflora are later than other tulips?) I would expect a lower fertility rate from them anyway because I did not hand pollinate them.

...I have no idea what I am going to do with thirty pods of tulip seeds, lol.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

Today I noticed that the seed pods on the Daydream tulips look different than all the other seed pods. They are paler green and have noticeable seed bumps showing through the skin. I don't know what this indicates - whether this variety just has unusually thin skin, or whether they are getting ripe earlier than the others (but pics of ripe pods on the internet don't seem to have ridges like this, they look smooth). I'll continue to observe them and see what they do, or if other types start to look similar.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

The Daydream seed pods turned out to be empty except for tiny seeds that failed to develop. Tentative conclusion - Daydream tulips have female infertility.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

I harvested all the Daydream pods and dumped all the seeds from them onto a damp paper towel, in a baggie in the fridge. I still think they are sterile, but I figured it couldn't hurt. I've been trying to find a reference picture of what a healthy fertile tulip seed should look like, but the only pic I found, I'm not sure was actually of a tulip because the seeds looked too round. From text descriptions, tulip seeds are supposed to be like lily seeds, flat papery ovals.

I also harvested one Apricot Impression seed pod that looked ripe and two more were starting to split a little so they may be ripe tomorrow. Perhaps that will settle the question of what good seeds look like.

As a side comment, tulip seed pods turn out to have a strong smell. It made me think of walnuts or a jar of spices.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

Harvested the other 3 Apricot Impression pods today. Still confused. @_@ Either the fertilization rate is ridiculously low (approximately 2 more-developed looking seeds per pod) or they're all fertile. In a few more days the Claudia seed pods should be ripe.

RE: Tulip Germination Experiments

Any Updates?
Interested in Trying This Myself

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Bulbs Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here