Hand Pollination

Started by CG100, September 25, 2023, 09:06:48 AM

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I have searched, but cannot find....................

I have never bothered to try previously, with any plant (unless shaking some Philadelphus flowers from one plant, against flowers on another, counts), but last year I decided to try on some Lachenalia aloides (pollinated by a vaiety of creatures in habitat but particularly sunbirds); not one seed was set.
I used a reasonably large, fine-bristled paint brush several times, pushing the brush as far inside the flower as reasonably possible.
I suppose that it is possible that the whole potful is just one clone that has offset innumerable times over years in cultivation in the UK.

So, what are the rules?

Diane Whitehead

I've never pollinated my Lachenalia, but I've pollinated lots of other plants, starting about 75 years ago.

I've never used a brush.  I use tweezers to remove a stamen and brush the anther against the stigma.

With a narrow tubular flower like Lachenalia, I might slit the tube or remove most of it to make the procedure easier.
Diane Whitehead        Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
cool mediterranean climate  warm dry summers, mild wet winters  70 cm rain,   sandy soil

Steve Marak

Depends very much on the size/shape of the flowers and the particular species, since some things have special requirements. But for general pollination I use cotton swabs a lot, sometimes clipping or shaping the cotton a little, sometimes dry, sometimes damp. Very cheap, available in quantity, disposable (the ones with paper spindles are compostable), and seem to work pretty well. If I'm doing controlled pollinations among specific plants I can mark the spindles with a felt-tip pen to help track whose pollen is where.

I haven't tried Lachenalia, but have had good results with them on various Ledebourias.


David Pilling

There is an article by Matt Mattus on propagating Lachenalia here:

There are lots of potential problems with pollination - various forms of self incompatibility, ever more difficult to overcome - eventually you end up as Leslie Woodriff, dabbing on cement.

The article does not raise any of these, merely that the flowers have to be dry. It also offers leaf cuttings as another method of propagation.

What you dab the pollen on has to be developed enough to be receptive, you have to dab it in the right place, and bees have good PR, and often do not do the job.


I am not sure why it did not work. When did you do that? Lachenalia aloides flowers in late winter. 
I would think it does not matter which tool you use to transfer pollen. As long as you did transfer. Did you see the pollen on the paintbrush? I noticed that in some Lachenalia flowers the stigma is visible, in others not. It might be worthwhile dissecting a flower to see where exactly is what. I agree that there may be some degeneration especially due to virus infection in plants that have been propagated vegetavely over a long time. Even more important to raise new stock from seed, the difference in vigor and flower quality is amazing. I do not think Lachenalia is self sterile: there must be another reason for your failure. 
Algarve, Portugal
350m elevation, frost free
Mediterranean Climate


I like Diane's method using tweezers, I want to give that a try.  It cuts out the middleman - I have never had good luck with swabs, and have not tried a brush.  My only successful pollination was the Urginea maritima, and I just used my thumb.

The stigma must be receptive.  When the flower first opens, the stigma looks like a tube that just ends.  At some point the tip splits slightly into 3 lobes and pollen will now stick to it.  I think the pollen must also be ready, but am not sure how to tell if it is or not, except when it will stick to the stigma.


Many thanks all.
I very vaguely remember using the bunch of stamens in tweezers method, but on what and when, with what degree of success................. I had certainly forgotten all about that, so my OP contains a white lie.

Early this year, I had numerous L. a. in flower over a couple of weeks so just used the brush every few days between as many flowers that "appeared ready" as I could be bothered with. I did not check for pollen on the brush or receptiveness. It was curiosity as much as anything as the very few Lachenalia that I had previously, had never set seed, but I did expect at least a few seeds.........

I wil pay more attention this next time around (they are around 5-10mm above the top-dressing currently).

Lachenalia are indeed easy from leaf cuttings, as are Eucomis, or the very few that I have tried are.

Ledebourias - I had two L. luteola in flower at the same time and one appeared to have a partial seed-set after just wiping one spike over the other a few times, but we then had a week or so of scorching weather (35+C in the greenhouse even with a fan running - it was (very) high 20's outdoors), and any seeds that had formed, perished.