Is it realistic to obtain a healthy new cultivar specimen using the following method?

For an ornamental plant or tree, obtain seeds and treat them with a chemical mutagens like Ethyl methanesulfonate. Plant the seeds and hope for an aesthetically pleasing mutation to exist on one of the adults.

Could that realistically work?


  1. What are the chances of generating a healthy new cultivar at home with this method? For example, how many seeds of Picea abies would I need to statistically obtain a healthy weeping mutant tree?
  1. Is it possible to promote mutations using adult specimens instead of seeds?

  2. Are there better ways to mutate plants at home?

  3. Any suggestions on trees or plants that could be fun to mutate? And why? (ideally surviving outside in Québec, Canada but also possible inside if small enough)

I am also looking for any references to relevant academic papers, books or blog posts that could be helpful. My background is not in biology at all but please share anything you have in mind that might be useful to this project.

  • The primary work is involved in reproducing and marketing a new cultivar, not the initial innovation. I had an azalea show a flower variation that looked new ( they commonly do that). As it happens a friend once ran commercial green houses ( and even had growing patents in his name - employer actually owns patents like this), He pointed out that having a new flower was not valuable, it was the commercial development that was difficult. Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:19
  • This is mostly just for fun and commercialization is not in my mind at this time. My interest is in the innovation part. I think it will be difficult enough to get a novel and valuable mutant that I am satisfied with. Actually I have no idea how difficult it is and how much luck is involved. That's why I asked the original question.
    – lpasselin
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


Hybridizers have used colchicine to convert daylilies from diploid (their normal genetic condition) to tetraploid for about 60 years. Tetraploid daylilies are a little large, with wider leaves, stouter scapes, and larger, beefier, flowers.

After the first diploid-to-tetraploid conversions in the very early 1960s, it was discovered that the only way someone could create viable seedlings with a tetraploid parent is to pollinate it without another tetraploid daylily; this led to a flurry of conversions and many introduced tetraploid cultivars. Since that time, desirable diploids have been converted so that they can be bred with tetraploids.

This page from the Patriot Daylily Society contains instructions for converting a healthy diploid plant to a tetraploid (you can also convert seeds using a different method).

IMPORTANT NOTE! Colchicine is toxic!

  • Thanks for sharing! The images on the page do not work unfortunately. I will look into this.
    – lpasselin
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:23

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