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  • Author or Editor: Geoffrey C. Denny x
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As interest in issues such as seed source, provenance, genetic pollution, and threatened and endangered plant species grows, so does the need for an understanding of the relatedness and evolutionary history of plants. Appropriate taxonomy and nomenclature become much more important. Taxodium (L.) Rich. is a genus of landscape trees included in many plant materials courses across the country. It has been treated variously in the horticulture literature as having one, two, or three species. The most appropriate treatment is one species with three botanical varieties: baldcypress [Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. var. distichum], pondcypress [T. distichum var. imbricarium (Nutt.) Croom], and montezuma cypress [T. distichum var. mexicanum Gordon].

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Rapid population growth and urbanization in Florida have increased the number of urban landscapes that receive fertilization and irrigation. Consequently, maintenance of these landscapes may contribute to water shortages and water quality degradation. This article 1) describes the current fertilizer and water use practices that are used by homeowners and landscape professionals; 2) summarizes the research related to nutrient and water use by landscape plants; and 3) provides an overview of the critical issues that should be considered as we evaluate the need for improved management of water and nutrients in urban landscapes.

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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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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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