Cold Hardiness of Evergreen Azaleas Is Increased by Water Stress Imposed at Three Dates

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The effect of water stress imposed at three dates in late summer and early fall on cold hardiness was examined in Rhododendron L. `Coral Bell', `Hinodegiri', and `Red Ruffle'. The persistence of the water stress-induced cold hardiness was also examined following plant recovery from the stress. Container-grown plants were exposed to three weeks of reduced water supply starting 8 Aug., 29 Aug., or 19 Sept., while control plants were well watered. Cold hardiness of leaves, lower, middle, and upper stems was evaluated with laboratory freeze tests. Reduced water supply independent of time initiated increased cold hardiness by 1 to 4C in the majority of the tested plant parts in the three cultivars. Cold hardiness of all plant parts tested strongly depended on the current water status of the plants as indicated by the stem water potential. In most cases, 3 weeks after rewatering, the cold hardiness of previously water stressed plants did not differ from that of nonstressed plants.

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