Drought Response of Three Ornamental Herbaceous Perennials

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Boltonia asteroides L. `Snowbank' (Snowbank boltonia), Eupatorium rugosum L. (eastern white snakeroot), and Rudbeckia triloba L. (three-lobed coneflower) were subjected to drought for 2, 4, and 6 days during the fall and spring. Leaf gas exchange, leaf water potential, growth, and carbohydrate partitioning were measured during drought and throughout the following growing season. Leaf gas exchange of B. asteroides was not affected by drought treatment in the fall, not until day 6 of spring drought, and there were no long-term effects on growth. Transpiration and stomatal conductance of R. triloba decreased when substrate moisture decreased to 21% after drought treatment during both seasons. Assimilation of drought-treated R. triloba decreased when substrate moisture content decreased to 12% during spring but was not affected by drought in the fall. There was a decrease in the root-to-shoot ratio of R. triloba that had been treated for 4 days, which was attributed to an increase in the shoot dry weight (DW) of treated plants. Reductions in spring growth of E. rugosum were observed only after fall drought of 6 days, and there were no differences in final DWs of plants subjected to any of the drought durations. Spring drought had no effect on growth index or DW of any of the perennials. Boltonia asteroides and R. triloba had increases in low-molecular-weight sugars on day 4 of drought, but E. rugosum did not have an increase in sugars of low molecular weight until day 6 of drought. Differences in drought response of B. asteroides, E. rugosum, and R. triloba were attributed to differences in water use rates.

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