Specialty cut flowers have become important to the United States floriculture industry. The semiarid southwestern United States, including southern New Mexico, has limited availability of specialty cut dried flowers (“everlasting” flowers), but the regional climate, with a relatively long growing season, high light intensity, and low relative humidity, is conducive to field production and processing of dried flowers (Stevens, 1998). Successful introduction of specialty cut dried flowers could increase agricultural diversification and the number of water use options for high-value crops in struggling rural economies of New Mexico.
Globe amaranth and celosia bloom prolifically and are recognized in the literature as specialty cut flowers. Celosia thrives in warm weather (Dole and Wilkins, 2005), and common globe amaranth is classified as heat tolerant (Still, 1994). Also, several cultivars of common globe amaranth and cockscomb celosia withstand high levels of root zone salinity (Carter et al., 2005; JongGoo and van Iersel, 2002). Thus, these species have good potential as dried flowers in hot, dry, southern New Mexico, the soils of which are frequently affected by high salinity.
We found no scientific data on yield and flower stem quality of field-grown globe amaranth and celosia as affected by species and cultivar selection, planting density, and harvest timing. Growth rates and productivity of these warm-season annuals under adequate irrigation should increase with the progression of a hot growing season, but the timing, frequency, and amounts of multiple harvests need to be determined. Increasing the number of rows per bed or decreasing the distance between plants on a bed result in more plants per land area, but the effects on yield and quality are not adequately known.
In view of the lack of available field data on celosia and globe amaranth, the first objective of this study was to make general observations on adaptability of two species of globe amaranth and two species of celosia to southern New Mexico climate and soil under drip-irrigated field conditions. Our second objective was to determine flower stem yield and quality, and postharvest flower retention as affected by species, planting density, and time of harvest.
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