Auriculas are hybrids and do not come true from seed. This provides an opportunity to create new varieties that are either an improvement on what is currently available or a new break in colour or type. To ensure the hobby has a future there is alway a need for good new varietes to replace existing varieties that will over time lose their form or vigour.

Hydridising is one of the most enjoyable, rewarding and interesting aspects of auricula culture.

The guide is written for people living in the Midlands area of the UK and requires some adjustments for other UK regions and possibly major changes for other countries with vastly different climates or seasons. In the nature of things weather can play an important part and the best times for various tasks can change a little from year to year. There are many different approaches to growing auriculas from seed. This guide merely describes the method I have adopted.

There is a separate guide to growing auriculas for plants and offsets.

Raising a batch of seedlings is a 2 year activity spread over 3 calendar years. In the Spring of the first year you will start the process off by making crosses. In the second year there is sowing, transplanting and growing on to be done. Whilst in the Spring of year three with the flowering of your seedlings you can enjoy the result of your labours. A simple production line, that by doing some crosses each Spring, in the course of time produces a new batch of flowering seedlings every year.

  1st YEAR 2nd YEAR 3rd YEAR
JANUARY   As early as possible order seed from Seed exchanges etc...
Check out the Seed Distribution service from NAPS Midland and West.

SOW SEED (ideally in late January or early February) using previously watered good quality seed compost.
Cover seed at first signs of germination with thin layer of vermiculite.
As the days lenghten look out for signs of growth starting.

When growth is well underway begin light watering and feeding. Use a weak high potash firtiliser like the ones used to grow tomatoes.
MARCH Make crosses between earliest flowerers. When the first true leaves appear,
TRANSPLANT SEEDLINGS 40 to a standard seed tray, choosing the strongest.

Continue until you have enough.


As seedlings start to flower for the first time, ruthlessly discard those that are not good enough.

Promising seedlings that comply with the Show Shedule and are ready at the time of a NAPS Show should be transferred to a 3.5 inch round plastic terracotta coloured pots and shown. Successful seedlings may be named.

Those good seedlings that miss out from being shown or miss out at a show should be labelled with a number and considered with your standard varieties for crossing this year or showing next year. If not used as as a seed bearer then they can be repotted and split either now or in early Autumn.

Inevitably there will be some seedlings that do not flower when they should. The most ruthless of growers will discard them as this is the simplest way of producing and managing a sucession of fresh seedlings every year. If you only have a few seedlings and enough room then give them another year keeping them in their 3" pots until next spring.
APRIL The prime month to

MAY Make crosses between late flowerers.
JUNE Feed seed parents with weak high potash feeds. As seedlings grow and start to become crowded, selecting only the strongest, move each seedling into its own inexpensive 3 inch square black pot.

From late Summer they can then be grown like offsets or small plants as described in the guide to growing auriculas keeping them in their 3 inch pots until they have flowered.

Keep the seedling plants growing strongly for as long as possible by light feeding at every watering. Ideally finishing with a low nitrogen feed.
Ripen and clean seed.
Store seed at 4OC in fridge.
OCTOBER Sort stored seed.
Send surplus seed to the Society seed exchanges.
Store own seed at 4OC in fridge until late January or early February next year.
NOVEMBER Like all auricula plants the seedlings will go dormant as the days shorten. Keep them on the dry side but not bone dry.
DECEMBER Towards the end of the month send for seed lists from Seed exchanges etc...

ADRIAN       Labelling and naming
  1. For your own crosses use a labelling system that enables you to keep a track of your seedlings. This can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.
    E.g a 6 digit number yyxxnn where :-
    • yy is the year.
    • xx is the cross number made in this year - described in your Breeding book or file.
    • nn is the unique number of the seedling of this cross when potted separately and selected for keeping.
  2. Photographs of retained seedlings can be very useful.
  3. Auriculas that have won at a NAPS Show may be named.
  4. Greenhouse names that are only used within your own growing space, usually written in brackets, can be employed to aid memory.

ANDREA JULIE       Obtaining seed

  1. Seed can be sourced from Commercial Suppliers, Society Seed Exchanges or best of all from your own plants.
  2. The Midland and West Section of The National Auricula and Primula Society usually runs a Seed Distribution service for members from 1st January to 1st March each year. Here quality seed is available at little cost, often hand pollinated from rare varieties.
  3. There are principly two sorts of seed :-
    • Open pollinated - where the flowers have been naturally pollinated by bees or other insects. The identity of the seed bearer may be retained but when bought they are often just a mixture. This seed is the easiest to produce but is least likely to produce a prize winning seedling, however a reasonable mixture of colours can be forthcoming for little cost or effort.
    • Hand pollinated - where a deliberate cross is made by hand between known selected parents. The resultant seed is collected, recorded and stored separately. This a much improved chance of producing a top class variety and has all the advantages of a known pedigree.
APRIL MOON       Making your own crosses
  1. Always have an aim in mind. Although the actual results obtained may lead you on a different path, keep focused, so that you develop an understanding of what works well and in time achieve a successful breeding strategy.
  2. Beginners for some reason usually want to breed green edged show auriculas and blue selfs. These with the possible exception of double auriculas are the most difficult types to breed successfully. Whilst I do not wish to discourage anyone from following their dreams, I would always recommend that at least initially you should try a few other crosses as well. If you want to produce a winning seedling that can be named there is no easier or more rewarding place to start than with yellow selfs.
  3. In general you should pick two varieties that are similar to make a cross and with luck some seedlings will inherit the better features of both parents. The breeding of like with like has proved its worth by continuing to produce better prize winning seedlings. For example cross green edged with green edged or red self with red self or gold centred alpine with gold centred alpine. Care should be taken in the long term not to create too narrow a gene pool. If there is a danger of this happening then widen the crosses to edged with edged etc.. But if a very wide cross is made, say an edged plant is crossed with an alpine, you are likely to produce a lot of "interesting rubbish". On the other hand if you are trying for new breaks or even new types of auricula - anything goes.
  4. The plants you intend to cross must be kept in an area free from bees and other pollinating insects. So house the plants intended to use for breeding in a greenhouse with all the doors and windows netted. Strictly speaking this applies only to seed parents from just before the pips start to open until crossing has taken place.
  5. In practice the choice of which crosses to make is limited to those plants in flower at the same time and in the case of doubles those that have pollen or viable stigma. In general the pollen parent (father) is at its most potent when the pip is fresh and has just opened while the seed parent is at its most fertile just after the pip has started to open. The probability of making a successful cross, particularly for edged crosses, diminishes as the pips age but can be achieved with fully open pips provided they are reasonably fresh. Doing the cross late risks the seed parent being self pollinated. If you have a magnifying glass you can always check that the stigma is free of unwanted pollen before making the cross.
  6. Often you will want to use your own seedlings in crosses in a process known as "line breeding" and there will be close calls to be made between leaving the potential parent long enough to help you choose a good parent and doing the cross early to get a successful union.
  7. Having selected the two varieties to cross remove the petals from each plant to obtain the anthers from the pollen parent and expose the stigma on the seed parent. This is achieved by either cutting across the tube just above the stigma or tearing down between the petals and pulling them off two or three at a time.
  8. This sounds tricky but a little practice and you soon become adept.
  9. To complete the cross, take a removed piece of petal with its anthers attached and fold it in your fingers so that the anthers protrude. Then dab the anthers (father) on an exposed stigma (mother). Repeat until all the pips you wish to fertilise are done. Remove all other pips.
  10. There is absolutely no need for pollinating brushes, tweezers and sterilising equipment.
  11. Remember to label the pot containing the seed parent (mother) with details of the cross. Keep pollinated plants in a separate area or mark them with coloured wool tied round the stem to avoid accidental dead heading!
  12. Aim at producing more seed than you really need because some crosses may fail. Surplus seed can be shared with friends, donated to the Seed Exchanges or even just stored in an airtight container in the fridge until needed possibly years later.
BARBARELLA       Harvesting the seed
  1. Soon after making a cross the seed pods will start to develop. The plants need weak high postash feeds.
  2. Some crosses may fail and the flower stem will die prematurely. Remove the dead stem and return the plant to the rest of the collection repotting as necessary.
  3. The swollen seed pods ripen mainly in August and September but some plants may be earlier or later depending on when the cross was made and the the weather.
  4. As a seed pod ripens it will change from green to pale yellow or light grey. The optimum time to gather the seed is when the top of the seed pot starts to split. Leave too long and the slightest movement will cause the seed to spill out and be lost.
  5. You may be lucky and all the pips on the stem will have cracked open or be just about to do so at the same time. In this case cut off the stem and place upside down in a paper bag. Label the bag with the cross and pin the bag to a notice board or similar in a warm dry room. Leave for about a week for the seed head to dry out and continue ripening. If the pips ripen at different times cut and dry off separately or a few at a time.
  6. After drying the seed head or pods for about a week tip out the contents of the paper bag onto an A4 sheet of white paper. In a perfect world all the seed will have fallen out of the pods and you will just need to remove and throw away the now bone dry stem, stalks and old pods leaving just clean seed to put in a small labelled glassine envelope. In practice some seed pods will retain some or all of the seed and require breaking open to allow removal the seed with the point of a small knife. Bits of dead stalks and pods can contaminate the seed and you may need to separate out the seed by using the knife to move the seed to one end of the paper and the debris to the other. To tell the difference between good seed and dust, rub your finger over it and the good seed will fell quite gritty. A few crosses will appear to work but at harvest time produce just dust. I find that by using two sheets of paper the cleaned seed can be shovelled with the knife into the open seed envelope at the corner of the top sheet with the bottom sheet of paper catching any spillage.
  7. The precious seed can be stored in glassine envelopes in clean empty airtight containers (e.g. old jam jars) in the fridge (not freezer) at 4 degrees C until sowing time.
  8. I send most of my surplus seed to NAPS Midland and West seed exchange.
BLUE JEAN       Seed sowing and growing on
  1. Use a freshly bought seed compost. If a strong compost is used the first roots will burn and the sowing will fail.
  2. Depending on the number and size of the crosses you sow, use seed trays with or without cell inserts or shallow pots. I sow small amounts of seed from a lot of different crosses and use inserts of 24 cells in standard seed trays sowing about 25 seeds per cell.
  3. Water thoroughly with half strength funcicide before sowing the seed. (Do not use copper based fungicide if you have aluminium benching). Leave a while to drain.
  4. Surface sow the seeds and label with details of the cross.
  5. Place a plastic cover on the seed tray (or place pots with sown seed in a seed tray with a plastic cover) and put somewhere cool (out of direct sunlight) and safe from pests. A good place is under the bench in a cold greenhouse.
  6. The seed should start germinating in quantity after about 4 weeks. When germination is underway cover all cells with a thin layer of vermiculite and give a light spray with water to stop the vermiculite blowing off. Leave the plastic cover on until germination is practically complete.
  7. Move to better light, again avoiding hot direct sunshine.
  8. Usually watering is not needed until after the cover is removed and the compost dries out more quickly. Water by emersion. If the compost is kept too wet by starting watering too early (after the initial soaking of the compost) the seed will rot or if the compost is allowed to completely dry out during germination the seed germ will die with resultant failure.
  9. The tiny seedlings are ready to transplant into standard seed trays containing 40 cell inserts when they have a couple of true leaves (in addition to the initial seed leaves).
  10. Use a compost similar to your standard auricula compost with perhaps a little extra sand and peat in the mix. Water by emersion with some feed (I use one recommended for seedlings based on seaweed extract) when the seedlings have established. Keep the seedlings well labelled.
  11. Move to better light, always avoiding hot direct sunshine.
  12. When the small seedlings are large enough and have begun to out grow their space, transplant them to 3 inch pots (cheap square black ones are quite adequate) using your standard auricula compost.
  13. Try to keep them growing strongly for as long as possible and so improve their chances of flowering the following Spring.
  14. Seedling vigour is no myth and you will find that seedlings in general are easy to grow.
BRENDA'S CHOICE       First flowering
  1. When your seedlings start to flower, about 2 years from making the cross or a little over a year after sowing the seed, you can enjoy that special delight of seeing flowers no-one has ever seen before display their beauty.
  2. The very best of the seedlings will be selected for keeping. While some of the rejects can find their way into the garden border or charity plant sales most are merely thrown away.
  3. Deciding which plants to keep is not necessarily that easy, as no seedling will be perfect or be completely lacking in merit. I find it useful to order the merits of a seedling into the following categories:-
    • Health. Here the attributes we are seeking are fairly basic. They inlude :-
      • Freedom from decease such as any sign of virus.
      • Strong healthy leaves, flowering stems and footstalks.
      • Free flowering with a good head of pips not just the minimum required by the show schedule.
      • A plant that offsets well but not excessively and is both potent and fertile.
      Some of these qualities are not immediately obvious at the first flowering and some can be overcome by excellent husbandry but a lot of fruitless work can be saved by spotting trouble early and only keeping the best.
    • Form. These qualities are fundamental to a florist. If you study the show standards for the various types of auricula you will notice that many requirements are common to the majority of types, these generally relate to form and elevate the auricula to a florist flower. They inlude :-
      • Clarity.
      • Symmetry.
      • Proportion.
      • Tissue quality.
      The process of going through the somewhat dry Show Standards and allocating each separate standard to one of the above 4 facets of form or aspects of health or type is a useful exercise in understanding what really defines a good auricula. The selection process relating to form can be summed up as requiring a good eye!
    • Type. The standards peculiar to each separate type of auricula although highly important for the exhibitor and judge are fundamentally arbitary in nature. They are a practical necessity to stucture the shows and categorise the enormous variability displayed by this hybid. The Show Standards are published by each Section of National Auricula and Primula Society. They have some annoying differences but thankfully most differences are minor.
    Most people will keep those seedlings that they like best, limiting the number according to the resourses they wish to devote to them. All serious hybribisers will be members of NAPS and exhibit their seedlings to benefit from the opinions of other enthisiasts and gain recognition for their efforts.
  4. Those seedlings of show quality that meet the requirements of the show schedule should be transferred to 3.5" round terracotta pot and shown to test their quality in competetion. All the seedlings that display promise whether or not they made the shows together with the named varieties in your collection are candidates for crossing to continue producing hopefully better seedlings in future years.

  1. There is great pleasure in producing your first winning seedling and you can name a seedling that wins at a NAPS show.
  2. Soon you will be producing winners by crossing varieties you have bred yourself and seeing your varieties also doing well when exhibited by others.
  3. Success with seedlings is not too difficult and raising new varieties is both special and fun.