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  • Author or Editor: Nancy G. West 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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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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