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  • Author or Editor: Erin Alvarez x
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Salt tolerance of landscape plants is important to ornamental growers as well as residents and landscapers in coastal communities. Damage to ornamental plants from salt spray can be prevented by evaluating and selecting plants that exhibit tolerance to aerosol salts. Ornamental grasses are frequently recommended for low-maintenance landscape situations and may be candidates for coastal plantings once they are evaluated for their salt spray tolerance. The objective of this study was to determine the salt spray tolerance of Miscanthus sinensis `Gracillimus' and Pennisetum setaceum `Hamelin'. The experiment was conducted for 90 days from 7 July to 5 Oct. 2005 in a polyethylene greenhouse in Gainesville, Fla. Plants were subjected to four treatments (100% seawater, 50% seawater, 25% seawater, or 100% deionized water) applied by spraying each plant to runoff three times per week. Plant heights, flower number, and aesthetic ratings were recorded biweekly for the duration of the experiment. Root and shoot dry weights were determined at the initiation and completion of the study. Significant growth rate differences were found between treatments. Growth rates of plants treated with 100% seawater were significantly lower than the control and other seawater concentrations. Root and shoot dry weights of the plants treated with 100% seawater were significantly lower than the other treatments. In addition, significant differences were found between the 100% seawater treatment, the 25% seawater treatment, and the control in the aesthetic ratings of plants at the end of the study.

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Salt-tolerant landscape plants are important to ornamental growers, landscapers, and residents in coastal communities. Ornamental grasses are frequently recommended for low-maintenance landscape situations and may be candidates for coastal plantings after they are evaluated for their salt spray tolerance. ‘Gracillimus’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and ‘Hamelin’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) were subjected to four treatments [100% seawater salt spray, 50% seawater salt spray, 25% seawater salt spray, or 0% seawater salt spray (100% deionized water)] applied as a foliar spray. As seawater concentration increased, root, shoot, whole-plant biomass gain, height, inflorescence number, and visual quality decreased for both cultivars; however, fountain grass appears to be slightly more tolerant of salt spray than maiden grass.

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Water use is the most important environmental issue facing the horticulture industry. As a result, many water management districts are recommending native plants for their putative low-water requirements. Numerous textbooks and trade journals claim native plants use less water than non-natives; however, previous research found no difference in water use efficiency in the field between native and non-native species. Furthermore, recommendations of ornamental grasses for use as low-maintenance and low-water-requiring landscape plants have recently escalated. This study evaluated non-native Miscanthus sinensis `Adagio' and the native Eragrostis spectabilis for irrigation requirements and drought response in a landscape setting. To simulate maximum stress, both species were planted into field plots in an open-sided, clear polyethylene covered shelter. Each species was irrigated on alternating days at 0, 0.25, 0.5, or 0.75 L for a 90-day period. Growth index and height were recorded at biweekly intervals, and final shoot and root dry masses were taken at completion of the study. Significant treatment and species effects were found for height, growth index, shoot dry weight, and biomass. Plants receiving 0.75 L of irrigation had the greatest growth, and non-irrigated plants grew significantly less. Comparisons between species found growth was greatest among Eragrostis spectabilis plants for all parameters.

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Nonnative Miscanthus sinensis Anderss ‘Adagio’ and native Eragrostis spectabilis (Pursh) Steud. were evaluated for drought tolerance in a rain-excluded landscape setting in sandy soil in response to irrigation application volumes of 0 L, 0.25 L, 0.5 L, or 0.75 L. As irrigation rates increased, plant mass, canopy size, and shoot-to-root ratios increased for both species, being greatest at the 0.75-L rate. Shoot dry weight, root dry weight, total biomass, and shoot-to-root ratios were greater for E. spectabilis than M. sinensis. Cumulative water stress integral was also greater for E. spectabilis. Greater growth in conjunction with higher cumulative water stress indicates the native E. spectabilis is anisohydric and more drought-tolerant than the isohydric nonnative M. sinensis.

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