Bedding plants are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, both during production and in the landscape. This research compared the effect of short-term temperature changes on the CO2 exchange rates of four popular bedding plants species. Net photosynthesis (Pnet) and dark respiration (Rdark) of geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bail.), marigold (Tagetes patula L.), pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams.), and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) were measured at temperatures ranging from 8 to 38 °C (for Pnet) and 6 to 36 °C (for Rdark). Net photosynthesis of all species was maximal at 14 to 15 °C, while Rdark of all four species increased exponentially with increasing temperature. Gross photosynthesis (Pgross) was estimated as the sum of Pnet and Rdark, and was greater for petunia than for the other three species. Gross photosynthesis was less sensitive to temperature than either Pnet or Rdark, suggesting that temperature effects on Pnet were caused mainly by increased respiration at higher temperatures. Gas exchange-temperature response curves were not useful in determining the heat tolerance of these species. There were significant differences among species in the estimated Rdark at 0 °C and the Q10 for Rdark. Differences in the Q10 for Rdark were related to growth rate and plant size. Large plants had a greater Q10 for Rdark, apparently because these plants had a higher ratio of maintenance to growth respiration than small plants. The Q10 of the maintenance respiration coefficient was estimated from the correlation between the Q10 and relative growth rate, and was found to be 2.5 to 2.6.
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