Growth Response of Herbaceous Ornamentals to Phosphorus Fertilization

in HortScience

A series of experiments investigated the effects of increasing phosphate–phosphorus (P) concentrations on the growth and development of four horticultural species. In experiment 1, petunia [Petunia atkinsiana (Sweet) D. Don ex W.H. Baxter] plants were grown using eight P concentrations, and we found that the upper bound for plant growth was at 8.72–9.08 mg·L−1 P, whereas concentrations ≤2.5 mg·L−1 P caused P deficiency symptoms. Experiment 2 investigated P growth response in two cultivars each of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri W. Bull) and vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don]. Growth for these plants was maximized with 6.43–12.42 mg·L−1 P. In experiment 3, ornamental peppers (Capsicum annuum L. ‘Tango Red’) were given an initial concentration of P for 6 weeks and then switched to 0 mg·L−1 P to observe whether plants could be supplied with sufficient levels of P, and finished without P to keep them compact. Plants switched to restricted P began developing P deficiency symptoms within 3 weeks; however, restricting P successfully limited plant growth. These experiments indicated that current P fertilization regimens exceed the P requirements of these bedding plants, and depending on species, concentrations of 5–15 mg·L−1 P maximize growth.

Contributor Notes

We are grateful for the funding support provided by the Fred C. Gloeckner Foundation, the USDA Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, American Floral Endowment Altman Family Scholarship, and The Garden Club of America. We would also like to express our gratitude to Dümmen Orange for providing cuttings and for peat moss provided by Sun Gro Horticulture.

Corresponding author. E-mail: josh.brady.henry@gmail.com.

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    Nonlinear regression plateaus and quadratic regression model for growth index (GI) of petunia (Petunia atkinsiana) ‘Surprise Sky Blue’ and ‘Potunia Neon’ on termination of the experiment. Regression lines were generated from means of each treatment (n = 8). Equations and X0 values for plateau models are located below the corresponding lines. Dotted lines represent the X0 values, where the model plateaus, along with corresponding GI. Models significant at P ≤ 0.0001.

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    Effect of five different fertilizer P concentrations on growth means of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) ‘Tamarinda Dark Red’ and ‘Pure Beauty Red on Pink’ over a 10-week period. Growth in terms of (A) height and (C) diameter of ‘Tamarinda Dark Red’, compared with (B) height and (D) diameter of ‘Pure Beauty Red on Pink’.

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    New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) plants grown using P concentrations of 0, 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 mg·L−1 over the course of 10 weeks. (A) ‘Tamarinda Dark Red’ may be seen in the top row, and (B) ‘Pure Beauty Red on Pink’ in the bottom row. Visual differences in plant size, flowering, and overall leaf architecture may be observed.

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    Effect of five different fertilizer P concentrations on growth means of vinca (Catharanthus roseus) ‘Cora Burgundy’ and ‘Pacifica XP Blush’ over a 6-week period. Growth in terms of (A) height and (C) diameter of ‘Cora Burgundy’, compared with (B) height and (D) diameter of ‘Pacifica XP Blush’.

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