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  • Author or Editor: Donglin Zhang x
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Stewartias (Stewartia spp.) are prized for their camellia (Camellia japonica)-like flowers, intense fall color, and exfoliating bark. In spite of having outstanding ornamental value and features, these plants are not readily available for landscaping in the horticulture trade. The primary reason stated is the difficulty of its mass propagation and production. In the last two decades, considerable research has been conducted on various aspects of stewartia propagation such as seed germination, cutting type, light, rooting medium, rooting hormone, cold acclimation, and tissue culture. In this article, we discuss factors that directly influence propagation of stewartia and we highlight results of published studies to propagate stewartia. The evidence indicates success in adventitious rooting of cuttings but at the same time recognizes the continuing challenge associated with overwinter survival. Sexual propagation has also been studied, but its commercial application is limited. To date, there is lack of concrete information on why stewartia remains under-represented in our landscapes. It still remains unclear if it is the lack of consumer demand or existing propagation difficulties that is the cause of under utilization of stewartia. Given the information from most published studies, we suggest further research on the aspect of overwinter survival in addition to a survey of the nursery and greenhouse industry to accurately determine the cause behind the absence of stewartia in horticultural trade.

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Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is an outstanding ornamental shrub due to its attractive foliage and showy inflorescences. Breeding efforts have led to improved selections that have predominantly been developed and evaluated in the northeastern United States. Consequently, most cultivars have largely been dismissed as incompatible for the southeastern U.S. environmental conditions by nursery growers and consumers. This study was conducted over a 4-year period to evaluate 21 popular mountain laurel cultivars, primarily developed in the northeastern United States, for container and field performance in Georgia. All cultivars yielded considerable growth in the first year of container trials, indicating production of mountain laurel as a 1-year container crop is feasible. Cultivars displayed significantly different total growth index throughout the container trial. Fast-growing cultivars such as Bullseye and Ostbo Red yielded more than 100, 150, and 250 cm of growth index in 1, 2, and 4 years, respectively. Conversely, cultivars that grew slower, such as Firecracker and Tinkerbell, had less than 80, 115, and 180 cm in 1, 2, and 4 years, respectively. Cultivars were classified into five groups, using principal component analysis, that included dwarf habit with pink flower, dwarf habit with nonpink flower, nondwarf habit with green stem and white flower, nondwarf habit with pigment-patterned flower, and nondwarf habit with pink flower. In a field study, performance rating of 21 cultivars ranged from 2.0 to 4.8 (out of 5.0) in 2014 and from 2.0 to 5.0 in 2015. Ten cultivars that received the highest ratings over these 2 years were selected for a subsequent field trial in 2016. Cultivars showed overall decreased ratings (1.0–3.3) from the previous 2 years because of late spring planting. ‘Ostbo Red’, ‘Pristine’, and ‘Tinkerbell’ had higher performance ratings, more net growth, and less decrease in maximum quantum yield, which indicated suitable adaptation to southeastern U.S. environmental conditions. Nursery growers and consumers should benefit from regional cultivar trial information derived from this study. ‘Ostbo Red’, ‘Pristine’, and ‘Tinkerbell’ performed well across trials and therefore are recommended for southeastern U.S. landscapes based on superior container and field performance, leaf spot (caused by Mycosphaerella colorata) tolerance, and morphologic distinctions.

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We documented a successful embryo rescue (ER) protocol for butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a member of the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae). Milkweed (Asclepias sp.) includes more than 100 species native to the United States, is an important pollinator plant, and has many commercially desirable traits. However, there is little commercial production outside of native plant nurseries because milkweed species are typically seed-grown and suffer from low seed set during pollination, late-term abortion of seed pods, and nonuniform germination. This project determined the optimal growing media (study one) and embryo maturity (study two) to recover mature seedlings from excised embryos and compared the results to those of traditional methods of seed germination (in soilless substrate). Study one investigated three different media: Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium at full strength and half strength and woody plant medium. MS medium at half strength was optimal for butterfly weed germination and maturation, with greater root and shoot lengths at the time of harvest. In study two, the effects of MS medium at half strength on embryo maturation 90, 60, and 30 days after pollination (DAP) were investigated. The optimal time to harvest embryos was 60 DAP; embryos at 30 DAP were capable of germination but not maturation. A mean germination rate of 97.4% was observed when using embryo rescue, but it was 72.3% with mature seed germinated in soilless substrate typical of commercial production. A similar increase in germination rates was observed for all embryo maturities when compared with seed germinated using soilless substrate. The protocol developed for this study should help to standardize production, reduce propagation time, and improve the commercial acceptance and profitability of milkweed.

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Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) traditionally has been recommended as a shade plant, but many cultivars are also suitable for full sun. In regions of the country where light limits growth and photosynthesis, supplemental lights are used to increase daily light integral (DLI). Understanding the minimum DLI necessary to produce coleus would minimize supplemental lighting use, reducing costs and improving production sustainability. ‘Kong Red’ and ‘Wizard Coral Sunrise’ coleus were grown in a greenhouse under a 12-hour photoperiod and a mean DLI of 2.9, 3.8, 5.8, or 10.0 mol·m−2·d−1 to determine the lowest light level needed to produce high-quality plants. After 8 weeks, both cultivars had a 4.2-fold increase in shoot dry weight as DLI increased from 2.9 to 10.0 mol·m−2·d−1. Plants grown under 10.0 mol·m−2·d−1 were 22% to 25% taller and 18% to 21% wider compared with those grown under 2.9 mol·m−2·d−1. ‘Kong Red’ had 3.6 times as many branches and ‘Wizard Coral Sunrise’ had over twice as many branches when grown under 10.0 mol·m−2·d−1 compared with those grown under the lowest DLI. Leaf counts for both cultivars were 64% greater when grown under the highest DLI compared with those produced under the lowest DLI; leaf area for both cultivars was also positively correlated with DLI. Leaves of both cultivars had significantly more green area (i.e., less variegation) when grown under lower DLIs. Overall, both cultivars exhibited a more dense growth habit and greater degree of variegation when grown under the highest DLI. Therefore, we recommend growing ‘Kong Red’ and ‘Wizard Coral Sunrise’ coleus under a minimum DLI of 10.0 mol·m−2·d−1.

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