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  • Author or Editor: Christine Wiese x
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Previous research indicated that acceptable quality annual and perennial plant species can be grown in the landscape with low nitrogen (N) inputs. However, information on the impact of soil conditions and N use by ornamental plants grown in central Florida is lacking in the literature. Our objective was to evaluate plant growth and quality response of eight warm-season annuals, seven cool-season annuals, and four herbaceous perennial species to a range of N fertilizer rates when plants were grown in landscape beds containing native field soil or subsoil fill. A slow-release N source (42N–0P–0K) was applied every 12 weeks at annual N rates of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 for a period of 18 weeks (annual species) or 1, 3, or 5 lb/1000 ft2 for a period of 54 weeks (perennial species). Plants were evaluated for aesthetic quality every 6 weeks and shoot dry weight was measured at completion of the experiment. Dry weight production and aesthetic quality of most species evaluated was unaffected by N rate. For several species, shoot dry weight was higher when planted in the field plots containing native soil [alyssum (Lobularia maritima) ‘Bada Bing White’ wax begonia (Begonia ×semperflorens-cultorum), dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba), ‘Survivor Hot Pink’ geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa), ‘Blue Puffs Improved’ (‘Blue Danube’) ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella), goldenrod (Solidago chapmanii), ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia (Salvia longispicata ×farinacea)]. Quality response to soil condition was mixed over the course of the study. Several species performed as well (or better) in the field as when planted in the subsoil fill soils. These results illustrate that some landscape plant species are able to survive and thrive under various soil and fertility conditions. These “tougher” species may be good choices for installation in landscapes with marginal native soils or disturbed urban landscape soils.

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Current nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendations for landscape-grown ornamentals are based on limited research. The objective of this research was to evaluate plant response of selected warm- and cool-season annuals to N fertilizer applied at five rates in the landscape. Three warm-season annual species [‘Profusion Cherry’ zinnia (Zinnia elegans ×angustifolia), ‘Cora White’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and ‘Golden Globe’ melampodium (Melampodium divaricatum)] and three cool-season annual species [‘Telstar Crimson’ dianthus (Dianthus chinensis), ‘Delta Pure Violet’ pansy (Viola wittrockiana), and ‘Montego Yellow’ snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)] were transplanted into raised beds containing subsoil fill in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone 9a. Slow-release N fertilizer was applied over an 18-week period at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, and 12 lb/1000 ft2. Trials were replicated a second year. Plant size index (SI), tissue chlorophyll (SPAD), and plant quality were determined every 6 weeks. Shoot biomass and tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) were determined at 18 weeks. Regression analysis indicated that all species required N inputs at annual rates exceeding 8 lb/1000 ft2 to achieve maximum size, shoot biomass, or SPAD. However, acceptable quality plants were produced at much lower N rates. We suggest application of N fertilizer at a rate of 4 to 6 lb/1000 ft2 per year to landscape-grown annuals to maintain acceptable plant quality and growth. We expect fertilization at lower rates (based on aesthetics) can reduce the amount of fertilizer applied and the potential for nutrient losses in runoff or leachate. Future research should address N fertilization needs in higher fertility soils as well as the response of other plant species.

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Despite inconsistent reports of nitrogen (N) fertilization response on growth of landscape-grown woody ornamentals, broad N fertilization recommendations exist in the literature. The objective of this research was to evaluate the growth and quality response of three landscape-grown woody shrub species to N fertilizer. Three ornamental shrub species, ‘Alba’ indian hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica), sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum), and ‘RADrazz’ (Knock Out™) rose (Rosa) were transplanted into field soils in central Florida (U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 9a). Controlled-release N fertilizer was applied at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, and 12 lb/1000 ft2 for 100 weeks. Plant size index measurements, SPAD readings (a measure of greenness), and visual quality ratings were completed every month through 52 weeks after planting (WAP) and then every 3 months through 100 WAP. Plant tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) concentrations and shoot biomass were measured at 100 WAP. Results of regression analysis indicated little to no plant response (size index, biomass, SPAD) to N fertilizer rate. Shrub quality was acceptable for all species through 76 WAP regardless of the N fertilization rate. However, quality of rose and sweet viburnum fertilized with N at the low rates (<2 lb/1000 ft2) was less than acceptable (<3 out of 5) after 76 WAP. Results suggest that posttransplant applications of fertilizer may not increase plant growth, but that low-to-moderate levels of N fertilization (2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year) may help plant maintain quality postestablishment.

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Recent research suggested that the nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates needed to maintain high-quality landscape plants was lower than rates needed to grow the largest size plants. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of N fertilizer rate on the aesthetic quality of various landscape-grown annual and perennials species. Nineteen cool-season annuals, 20 warm-season annuals, and 4 perennials were planted into raised beds containing subsoil fill material in a completely randomized design in west-central Florida (U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 9b). Plants were fertilized every 12 weeks with polymer coated, slow-release N (42N–0P–0K) fertilizer at annual N rate of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 (annuals) or 1, 3, or 5 lb/1000 ft2 (perennials). Plants were rated for aesthetic quality every 6 weeks for a period of 18 weeks (annuals) or 54 weeks (perennials). For most species, quality ratings of plants fertilized with 3 lb/1000 ft2 of N per year (annuals) or 1 lb/1000 ft2 of N per year (perennials) were not significantly lower than plants receiving higher rates of N annually. Previously reported N fertilizer recommendations for central Florida of 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year should be adequate for maintaining acceptable quality landscape-grown annual and herbaceous perennial plant species.

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Research supporting recommendations for fertilizer needs of landscape-grown vines and groundcovers is lacking. The objectives of our study were to (1) evaluate the quality response of selected vine and groundcover species to nitrogen (N) fertilization at five rates and (2) validate the recommended N fertilizer rates (from the initial evaluation) by monitoring quality of additional landscape-grown vine and groundcover species. Three vine species and two groundcover species were planted in west-central Florida into raised beds containing subsoil fill material in a completely randomized design. Plants were fertilized every 6 weeks with a controlled release fertilizer (20N–0P–0K–23S) at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, or 12 lb/1000 ft2. Plant aesthetic quality (0–5 scale) was assessed every 6 weeks for 30 weeks after planting. Although quality of some species increased significantly as N rate increased, all plants supplied with at least 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year N fertilizer had acceptable quality ratings of 3 or better. Screening of three additional vines and four additional groundcovers fertilized with controlled release fertilizer (42N–0P–0K) at an annual N rate of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 confirmed that fertilization with 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year should be adequate to maintain acceptable vines and groundcovers grown in the landscape in west-central Florida.

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There is limited research regarding proper fertilization rates and timing for landscape-grown herbaceous perennials. Most current nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendations for landscape-grown perennials are based on rates for woody landscape plants or on rates for greenhouse-grown perennials. In addition, most fertilizer guidelines are defined to achieve peak growth, which may not be the best indicator of desirable plant quality. Basing fertilizer input rates on plant quality levels rather than maximum growth may result in a lower fertilizer application rate and a reduction in excess fertilizer available for leaching. The objective of this research was to evaluate the response of landscape-grown herbaceous perennials to N fertilizer applied at five rates. Five herbaceous perennials [bush daisy (Gamolepis chrysanthemoides), ‘New Gold’ lantana (Lantana ×hybrid), ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia (Salvia longispicata ×farinacea), ‘Evergreen Giant’ liriope (Liriope muscari), and ‘White Christmas’ caladium (Caladium bicolor)] were transplanted into raised landscape beds containing subsoil fill in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone 9a. Controlled-release N fertilizer was applied at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, and 12 lb/1000 ft2 for 96 weeks. Plant size index (SI), tissue chlorophyll, and plant quality were measured every 6 weeks for 96 weeks. Flower cover was determined every 6 weeks from 42 to 96 weeks. Shoot biomass and tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) were measured at 96 weeks after planting (WAP). Regression analyses suggested that some species required in excess of 12 lb/1000 ft2 N to reach maximum size, chlorophyll content, and shoot biomass. However, plants exhibited quality ratings of good to excellent at annual N rates of 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 N per year. We suggest that these low to moderate levels of N fertilization (2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 N per year) will provide sufficient N to produce acceptable size and quality herbaceous perennials in the landscape.

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The survival of shrubs planted into the landscape depends on sufficient irrigation during the establishment period. Few studies have investigated the effect of irrigation frequency on the posttransplant growth of landscape shrubs. We conducted two studies in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 10b over a 2-year period in which we compared canopy growth index (GI), root extension to canopy spread ratio, canopy dry weight, and root dry weight of shrubs irrigated at different frequencies. In the first experiment, wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) and ‘Lakeview’ orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata) shrubs were planted in Sept. 2004, Dec. 2004, Mar. 2005, and June 2005 and irrigated for 28 weeks after planting (WAP) every 2, 4, or 8 days with 3 L of water per irrigation event. In the second experiment, ‘Macafeeana’ copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana) and orange jasmine shrubs were planted in Sept. 2005, Dec. 2005, Mar. 2006, and June 2006 and irrigated for 28 WAP every 1, 2, or 4 days with 3 L of water per irrigation event. Canopy GI and root extension to canopy spread ratio were determined at 28, 52, and 104 WAP. The entire canopy and roots were harvested 52 and 104 WAP to determine dry weight. In Expt. 1, wild coffee and orange jasmine plants irrigated every 2 days had greater GI than plants irrigated every 8 days at 28 WAP, but GI was not different at 52 or 104 WAP. Canopy dry weight at 52 WAP was greater for plants irrigated every 2 days than every 8 days, but there was no difference at 104 WAP. There was no difference in wild coffee or orange jasmine root dry weight or root extension to canopy spread ratio among the irrigation frequencies. In Expt. 2, there were no differences in GI, canopy dry weight, root dry weight, or root extension to canopy spread ratio of copperleaf or orange jasmine irrigated everyday compared with plants irrigated every 2 or 4 days. From the data collected in these studies, it appears that irrigating wild coffee or orange jasmine every 8 days during the first 28 WAP limited canopy growth but not root development. However, after 52 WAP, rainfall events appeared to be sufficient to eliminate any initial effects from irrigation frequency. Our data suggest that wild coffee, orange jasmine, and copperleaf from 3-gal containers can be successfully established in the landscape when irrigated with 3 L of water every 4 days for the first 28 WAP.

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