Geranium Guide

How to Hand-Pollinate Geranium Flowers (Part 1)

If you are interested in hand-pollinating geranium flowers, you are at the right place. Hand-pollinating geraniums can be a fun and exciting way to obtain new varieties, but it requires loads of patience and time. Geranium flowers take quite a long time to mature, develop and then form seeds. After the seeds are formed, the seeds will need to dry and then one must wait the right time to plant them, which starts the whole growing cycle all over. In order to learn how to hand pollinate geraniums, it’s important to learn more about geranium flower anatomy and the art of hand pollinating flowers.

The Basicsbee-flower-pollination

Hand-pollinating flowers requires mimicking  the action of bees and other pollinating insects, which is to collect pollen from a flower and transfer it to another. Bees don’t really do this purposely; rather it’s all a well-orchestrated plan developed by Mother Nature where bees and flowers exchange favors. The working bees collect delicious nectar from colorful flowers, and while they do this, pollen grains accidentally adhere to their bodies.

As they hover from one flower to another, they transfer the pollen to female flowers allowing the plant to reproduce and eventually form seeds. When it comes to hand-pollinating flowers, humans take over the task of the bee, but in this case by deliberately transferring pollen from one flower to another, through selective breeding practices.

stamen 2The Male Parts

To start hand-pollinating flowers, it’s important to learn about the male and female parts of flowers.

In geraniums, there may be flowers with just male or female parts, but some flowers contain both. The most significant part the hand-pollinator will be interested in is the stamen. The stamen is the flower’s reproductive organ; basically, the pollen producing male part consisting of an elongated stalk.

At the top of the stamen are found several anthers which carry the pollen. The pollen in geraniums presents as a yellow to orange powdery substance that becomes visible when the flower opens and is ready for pollinating.

In the picture on the left, you can see the stamen ending in the pollen producing anthers coated with the orange pollen.

stigma-geranium-pollinationThe Female Parts

When it comes to female flowers, the most important part is the pistil. The pistil derives from the ovary and ends in what it known as the “stigma” the structure that is meant to receive pollen.

In geraniums, the stigma presents as star-like structure with five edges. When the flower is receptive, the stigma appears well open and it becomes sticky so to better collect pollen.

The stigma of geraniums is receptive for only a few days before it starts wilting, so timing is of the essence for those who want to hand pollinate.

In the picture on the right, you can see the star-shaped stigma mostly likely at its peaks of fertility.

The process of hand pollinating geraniums therefore consists of collecting the pollen from the male plants and passing it to the female plants over the stigma when it is most receptive. We will see a step-by-step-guide on hand-pollinating geraniums with pictures in part 2.

Warning: some geranium plants (and any other plant) may be patented and propagation is prohibited. This information is often included in the tags provided upon purchasing the plant. The patent number is often found after the name of the cultivar. You can find information about the patent by looking it up on the USPTO website.  If you are unsure, best to consult with an attorney.

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