Hybrid plant varieties are usually more uniform and vigorous

In selecting plants and seeds, you often find the word “hybrid” as a descriptive term. Some organic gardeners shy away from hybrid varieties because they have read somewhere that they are “unnatural”.

Hybridization is actually a process which occurs all the time in nature. Pollen is carried by wind or insects from one plant to pollinate an unrelated one. Having a large gene pool of variable plants is an advantage in nature, because it enhances the adaptability of plants to a changing environment (like global warming).

It is only in the last 85 years or so that man has learned to control the crossing process. Most woody fruit and ornamental plants are actually hybrids. Some are chance crosses in nature selected by man for superior qualities or intentionally developed by controlled pollination. They are then propagated by cuttings or grafting a piece of the new selected hybrid variety on to a seedling or selected dwarfing rootstock.

Most of the new flower varieties developed for container planting are also hybrids. Crosses are made between selected plants and the seedlings grown for observation. The outstanding individual plants are then named and propagated by cuttings or tissue culture.

Hybrid plants normally grown from seed, such as most annual flowers and vegetables, have had parents carefully selected for several generations and then test crossed to see which will produce the best offspring. The very best of hundreds of test crosses are named and introduced as F-l or first generation hybrids. Producers of hybrid varieties maintain control of parent varieties or use the plant patent process so they can profit from the development of superior new varieties. So don’t be afraid to plant and enjoy the new hybrid varieties.

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