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John M. Ruter

Paclobutrazol was applied as a foliar spray, root-medium drench, and impregnated spike to `New Gold' lantana grown in 2.8-liter pots. Plants were treated 14 June 1993 at rates of 0, 0.5, and 1.0 mg a.i. paclobutrazol/pot and were harvested 27 July 1993 when control plants required further pruning. Impregnated spikes reduced plant size and flowering to a greater degree than spray applications. Drenches reduced root dry weight and biomass compared to spray applications. Plants treated with 0.5 and 1.0 mg a.i. paclobutrazol/pot were not different in regards to plant growth and flowering. Compared to nontreated controls, plants treated with paclobutrazol had a reduced growth index, decreased shoot and root dry weight, and fewer flowers with open florets. All plants in the study were marketable, even though growth control was considered excessive. Lower rates than used in this study should be considered for controlling growth. These results suggest that impregnated spike formulations of paclobutrazol may control plant growth in pine bark-based media.

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John M. Ruter

Loropetalum chinensevar.rubrum, Chinese fringe-flower, was introduced into the United States in 1989 and quickly became on of the most popular plants in the nursery trade. Growth abnormalities (little-leaf disorder) became a problem on container-grown plants in pine bark substrates during the late 1990s. Symptoms are as follows: darkening of older growth, shortening of internodes, upward cupping of leaves, crinkling of new growth, particularly the distal part of the leaf, decrease in leaf size. In severe cases leaf necrosis occurs along with stem elongation, thus branches appear to be elongating without new leaves. Petioles become very short. Branchlets may also be reflexed or drooping. In Florida, an eriophyid mite has been touted as the causal agent for the disorder. On plants sampled from Georgia nurseries, eriophyid mites have never been detected. `Ruby' consistently has the problem, while it has also been noted on `Sizzling Pink' and `Suzanne'. Plants in the ground do not express the problem. There may be an element present in native soil that is not supplied in sufficient quantity in organic substrates. Foliage from a commercial nursery was sampled for micronutrients concentrations. Initial data indicated that copper, zinc, and nickel were low and could be causing the problem. In May 2005, a study was initiated at a commercial nursery in Grady County, Ga. Copper and zinc sulfate, along with nickel lignonsulfonate, was applied as foliar sprays to symptomatic plants of `Suzanne' growing in #5 containers. Within two weeks after treatment, plants sprayed with copper sulfate resumed normal growth. Control plants, or plants treated with zinc or nickel did not resume normal growth. A second study was initiated in June to evaluate different rates of copper sulfate and Kocide, a copper fungicide. Medium to high rates of copper sulfate and the high label rate of Kocide were effective. The plants in this study had severe symptoms and required repeat applications of copper. Further research is needed on appropriate formulations of copper, rates of application, and rates of incorporation into pine bark substrates to eliminate the problem.

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John M. Ruter

Temperatures producing heat damage in leaves of Ilex ×meserveae S.Y. Hu `Blue Prince' and Ilex rugosa × cornuta Lindl. & Paxt. `Mesdob' (China Boy) were evaluated using electrolyte leakage and chlorophyll fluorescence techniques. Whole leaves were exposed to temperatures from 30 to 65C for 30 minutes to determine critical midpoint heat-killing temperatures (TJ using electrolyte leakage techniques. The Tm for `Blue Prince' and `Mesdob' was 52.4 ± 0.lC and 53.8 ± 0.lC, respectively. Dark-adapted leaves were heated for 30 minutes in darkness at temperatures between 30 and 57C before chlorophyll fluorescence was measured. Initial (F0) and peak fluorescence measurements were higher at 54 and 55C for `Mesdob' than for `Blue Prince'. Cultivar had no effect on variable fluorescence (F,). Based on the Fv: Fo ratio, `Mesdob' was estimated to have a higher optimal plant growth temperature than `Blue Prince'. The physiologic data support the hypothesis that I. cornuta as a parent conferred heat tolerance to the interspecific hybrid in this study.

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John M. Ruter

Granular and liquid formulations of paclobutrazol were tested to evaluate the growth and flowering response of butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii Franch. 'Dubonnet'). At the rates tested (5, 10, 20, and 40 mg ai·pot–1), the granular formulation reduced the growth index, plant height, shoot dry weight, total plant biomass, number of panicles and panicle length to a greater degree than the liquid formulation applied as a drench. Both formulations reduced total plant biomass and increased the root:shoot ratio compared to the control. All rates of the granular formulation above 5 mg ai · pot–1 produced non-marketable plants. Since no phytotoxicity was observed with any treatment, the application of paclobutrazol to control the growth of butterfly-bush may be useful if the correct formulation and rate of application are chosen.

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John M. Ruter

Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana) is native to the U.S. southeastern coastal plain from North Carolina westward to eastern Texas. The species has been planted extensively in the southeast as an ornamental tree or hedge. Unfortunately, carolina laurel cherry naturalizes readily and is now found in a variety of habitats, both natural and disturbed. Flowering occurs in the late winter/early spring before new leaves emerge and fruit ripens in the fall/winter. Fruit is eaten by migratory birds and seed is dispersed. Seedlings readily germinate in the understory of forests and landscapes in the spring. As there are a limited number of cultivars available, selections with improved form and sterility are needed for the landscape trade. In 2008, seed was collected and treated with Cobalt-60 gamma irradiation at rates ranging from 0 to 150 Gy. The lethal dose killing 50% of the seedlings (LD50) was between 50 and 100 Gy. Three sterile plants were selected in 2012 from the M1 (first generation of mutagen-treated seedlings) population totaling 62 seedlings. M2 (second-generation seedlings from M1 parents) seed was collected Fall 2012, and 1509 seedlings were grown to flowering size in containers. In 2014–15, 120 seedlings that showed no fruit production were planted in the field in Watkinsville, GA, for further evaluation. Ratings on field-grown plants in Dec. 2017 and 2018 showed that 73% and 78% of the plants, respectively, produced no fruit, whereas the remaining plants had minimal to heavy fruit set. Because carolina laurel cherry is andromonoecious, production of male and bisexual flowers was evaluated on 17 selections in 2018. Of 500 flowers evaluated per selection, the number of male flowers per plant ranged from 22 to 415 (4.4% to 83%). The number of racemes with all-male flowers on each selection ranged from 1 to 32. There were no significant correlations between the number of male flowers or number of all-male flowered racemes per plant and production of fruit. Approximately 5% of M2 seedlings remain seedless after 6 years of growth.

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John M. Ruter

Decline of certain container-grown ornamental species during the hottest months of summer is a common problem for nurserymen in the southeastern United States. When roots are killed due to high root-zone temperatures and growth ceases, production of plant hormones also decreases. A study was conducted with Early Harvest PGR (Griffin LLC, Valdosta, Ga.), which contains cytokinins, gibberellic acid, and indole butyric acid, to determine if this product would improve the growth of five ornamental species that typically decline during the summer in south Georgia nurseries. The species used were Cotoneaster dammeri Schneid. `Coral Beauty', Cotoneaster salicifolius Franch. `Green Carpet', Spiraea japonica L. `Shirobana', Thuja occidentalis L. `Little Giant', and Weigela florida (Bunge) A. DC. `Minuet'. The treatments (control, 1.5 and 3.0 mL Early Harvest PGR/1125 mL water) were applied every 2 weeks from mid-June until mid-Sept. 1999 as a foliar drench. Treatment of both Cotoneaster species and the Thuja with Early Harvest PGR resulted in little influence on plant growth. While growth indices did not increase, shoot dry mass of Spiraea and Weigela increased 17% and 26%, respectively, when treated with Early Harvest PGR at the medium rate. Plant quality ratings for Spiraea increased when the 1.5-mL rate of Early Harvest PGR was applied. A rate of 3.0 mL of Early Harvest PGR on Spiraea decreased shoot and root dry mass, total biomass, root ratings, and final plant quality. Root ratings and plant quality were highest for Weigela grown with the 1.5-mL Early Harvest PGR treatment. These results indicate that treatment of woody ornamentals with Early Harvest PGR for positive results is both species- and rate-dependent.

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John M. Ruter

A study was conducted with Dendranthemum ×grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura garden chrysanthemum (`Grenadine', `Nicole', and `Tolima') to evaluate the growth and flowering of these plants grown in 2.6-L (no. 1) black plastic containers compared to plants grown in fiber containers with Cu(OH)2 impregnated into the container walls. For all three cultivars, growth indices, shoot and root dry weights, and total biomass increased for plants grown in fiber containers. Total number of flower buds per plant increased 30% to 32% for `Grenadine' and `Nicole' and 53% for `Tolima' grown in fiber containers. Plants grown in Cu(OH)2-impregnated fiber containers had less root coverage at the container:growing medium interface and no observable root circling in contrast to visible root circling on plants grown in black plastic containers. Foliar nutrient analysis on `Grenadine' showed that K decreased and Fe and Cu increased when grown in Cu(OH)2-impregnated fiber containers. No visible nutrient abnormalities were seen in this study.

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John M. Ruter*

Mouse ear (leaf curl, little leaf, squirrel ear) has been a problem for growers of container-grown river birch (Betula nigra L.) since the early 1990's. Mouse ear has been noticed in several southeastern States as well as Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin, making it a national problem. The disorder is easy to detect in nurseries as the plants appear stunted. The leaves are small, wrinkled, often darker green in color, commonly cupped, and have necrotic margins. New growth has shortened internodes which gives plants a witches-broom appearance. Plants growing in native soil rarely express the disorder. Several common micronutrients have been evaluated with no results. A trial was initiated in June, 2003 to determine if nickel deficiency was the cause of mouse-ear. Symptomatic river birch trees growing in a pine bark substrate in containers were treated with foliar applications of nickel sulfate and a substrate drench. Topdress applications of superphosphate (0-46-0) and Miloroganite, products known to contain nickel, were also applied. At 16 days after treatment (DAT), up to 5 cm of new growth occurred on plants sprayed with nickel sulfate and foliar concentrations of nickel in the new growth increased five fold compared to control plants. At 30 DAT, shoot length increased 60%, leaf area increased 83%, and leaf dry mass increased 81% for trees receiving a foliar application compared to non-treated control plants. Treating trees with a substrate drench alleviated symptoms, whereas treatment with superphosphate and Milorganite did not. Trees receiving a foliar or drench application had normal growth for the remainder of the growing season. Additional studies are underway to refine methods of application, rates, and sources of nickel suitable for use.

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John M. Ruter

A study was conducted with Magnolia grandiflora `St. Mary' to evaluate the effects of a pot-in-pot production system compared to a conventional aboveground production system and containers treated with or without copper hydroxide (Spin Out™). At 4 and 12 months after beginning the study, plants grown pot-in-pot were taller than plants in the conventional system. Stem diameters of plants grown pot-in-pot were also larger at 12 months. Production system influenced root dry weight in the outer 50% of the container, total root dry weight, percent root dry weight in the inner 50% of the container, percent root dry weight in the outer 50% of the container, and total biomass. Production system had no effect on shoot dry weight. Treatment with copper hydroxide had no effect on root or shoot growth. Production system and copper treatment influenced degree of root coverage. Plants grown pot-in-pot had higher rates of Ps and gs with increased Ci levels compared to plants above-ground. Production system had no effect on calculated transpiration rates.