Optimizing Mineral Nutrition for Flower Production in Heliconia `Golden Torch' Using Response Surface Methodology

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Containerized plants of Heliconia psittacorum L.f. × H. spathocircinata Aristeguieta `Golden Torch' were grown in a greenhouse for 8 months from early summer to winter under selected combinations of N, P, and K. Fertilizer rates ranged from zero to rates that exceeded those reported in the literature by 50% to 100%. Biomass variables (vegetative and inflorescence dry weight, and leaf area) were predicted to be maximized at high N and high N to P, and N to K ratios corresponding to N-P-K application rates of 1.2, 0.5, and 0.6 kg·m-3, respectively (≈2:1:1). However, the number of shoots and flowers produced per rhizome were maximal at lower N to K ratios (1:1). Flower yield could therefore be optimized with appropriate fertilization, provided attention was paid to the N to K ratio so that the size of plants and their flowers was not compromised by efforts to increase shoot and flower number. The heavier the rhizome planted, the shorter the time for shoot emergence and flowering to occur, and the greater the number of flowers harvested. However, rhizome weight had no effect on number of shoots to emerge. The probability of shoots flowering declined markedly with order of shoot emergence, although this could be increased with appropriate mineral nutrition. The maximum number of leaves subtending the inflorescence (seven) was obtained at high N and P rates. Flower production was probably limited by declining solar radiation in autumn, and by within-plant competition for rooting space.

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