Reduced Water Supply Induces Fall Acclimation of Evergreen Azaleas

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Georgia Experiment Station, Griffin, GA 30223

The primary cause of losses in evergreen azaleas injured by early freeze is bark split on lower stems. Delayed acclimation in the fall is thought to permit this injury. We examined whether reduced water supply affects acclimation of Rhododendron L. `Coral Bell', `Hinodegiri', and `Red Ruffle'. Containerized plants were grown under four watering regimes and placed outdoors or in the greenhouse. The water content of the growing medium was maintained at either 0.3 to 0.4 or 0.5 to 0.6 m3·m-3 from 16 June to 30 Aug. 1993, when half of the plants under each of these regimes was switched to the other watering regime. Freeze tests were conducted on 30 Aug. and 9 (let. Injury to leaves, and lower, middle, and upper stems was evaluated visually. Acclimation of leaves and upper stems before the August test, in most cases, was not stimulated by reduced water content, while the response of lower and middle stems was cultivar- and location-specific. The lower water content treatment after 30 Aug. generally increased freeze tolerance of all plant parts regardless of the previous watering regime. The higher water content treatment after 30 Aug. either prevented or delayed acclimation. This study demonstrated that the reduced water supply provided a feasible means of promoting acclimation of evergreen azaleas in late summer.

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