F1 Hybrid Seeds
The “F1” on seeds and plants means it is a “first child” or unique offspring created by human intervention — the selective cross-breeding of two different species. The resulting plants and seeds are referred to hybrids.
Cross-pollination occurs naturally when bees, flies, butterflies and other pollinators help fertilize plants, but this is typically within a species and results in genetic variety more than dramatically different plant characteristics. Plants resulting from naturally-occuring seeds are known as heirloom plants.
Growers select the parent plants based on their characteristics and then exclude the mother plant from all polon except that of the father plant. If all goes well, the resulting seeds will yield plants with exaggerated occurrences of those characteristics. Not all plant hybrids are sterile, but many are. The ones that are, such as F1 sunflowers, don’t have pollen, which is a big advantage to flower growers.
Advantages of F1 Flowers
At Blue Gables Farm, we buy mostly hybrid seeds for our flowers for several reasons.
- Hybrids offer more predictability and consistency in the resulting blooms.
- Hybrids reduce unwanted characteristics and increase desirable ones. Examples include drought tolerance, new colors, bigger flowers, pollenless blooms and longer stems.
- Hybrids typically have increased disease and pest resistance.
Cost of Seeds
The biggest disadvantage of hybrid seeds are their cost. Some flower seeds cost as much as 40 cents each, which makes the resulting flowers very expensive to grow and difficult to sell at a profit. Hybrid corms, bulbs, tubers and roots can be very expensive.
Another disadvantage of using F1 seeds is that you can’t save seeds for subsequent crops. Most flower farmers have to buy seeds every year because if you save seeds from hybrid plants you never know what you’re going to get in the next generation of plants. They may be less vigorous, have fewer blooms or more susceptible to disease than their parents.