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Jianjun Chen, Russell D. Caldwell, Cynthia A. Robinson, and Bob Steinkamp

Silicon (Si) is the second most-abundant element in soils, and its concentration in soil solution ranges from 0.1 to 0.6 mm, which is the same concentration range as some of the major nutrient elements such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur. Increasing evidence has recently suggested that Si plays important roles in improving plant growth. However, little information is available on Si effects on container-grown ornamental plants, particularly since most are grown in soilless media where Si sources are greatly limited. The objectives of this research were to evaluate Si absorption and translocation in diverse container-grown ornamental plants and to determine whether Si absorption could improve plant growth. Liners from 39 plant species were potted in peat and pine bark-based soilless media and grown in a shaded greenhouse. Plants were fertigated with a Peter's 24–8–16 water-soluble fertilizer containing 0, 50, and 100 mg·L–1 of Si. Once marketable sizes were reached, plants were harvested and fresh and dry weights determined; Si and other nutrient elements in roots and shoots were measured. Results indicated that 32 of the 39 evaluated species were able to absorb Si, with large quantities further transported to shoots. Of the 32 Si-responsive species, 17 showed significant dry weight increases, whereas the other 15 only exhibited Si absorption and translocation with no apparent growth responses. The seven non-responsive plant species showed no significant increases in neither Si absorption and translocation, nor dry weight.

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Jianjun Chen, Russell D. Caldwell, and Cynthia A. Robinson

Gynura aurantiaca is a colorful foliage plant with creeping stems and velvety purple hairs that cover the green leaves. It grows rapidly, but is cultivated primarily for those attractive purple leaves. Annually during the spring, this plant produces prominent flowers both in appearance and smell, gaudy and malodorous. Flowering coupled with acquiring an over-grown leggy appearance have been key limitations in its production and use in interiorscaping. This study was undertaken to determine if an available commercial plant growth regulator could inhibit flowering. A-Rest (ancymidol), B-Nine (daminozide), Bonzi (paclobutrazol), cycocel (chlormequat chloride) and florel (ethephon) each diluted to three different concentrations were sprayed in two applications in early spring at 2-week intervals. Flowering and bud numbers and plant growth (number of lateral shoots, vine lengths and internode lengths) were recorded. Results indicated that applications of A-Rest, B-Nine, Bonzi and Cycocel, regardless of treatment concentrations, were ineffective in suppressing the flowering of this plant; whereas, florel completely suppressed flowering at the three concentrations used. The florel-treated plants also grew more lateral shoots, which produced a compact and dense bush-look, indicating that appropriate concentrations of florel application not only will stop flowering of purple passion but can also improve and prolong its aesthetic value as a potted or hanging-basket interior plant.

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Qiansheng Li, Jianjun Chen, Russell D. Caldwell, and Min Deng

This study evaluated the potential for using cowpeat, a composted dairy manure, as a component of container substrates for foliage plant propagation. Using a commercial formulation (20% perlite and 20% vermiculite with 60% Canadian or Florida peat based on volume) as controls, peat was replaced by cowpeat at 10% increments up to 60%, which resulted in a total of 14 substrates. Physical and chemical properties such as air space, bulk density, container capacity, total porosity, pH, carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, and cation exchange capacity of the cowpeat-substituted substrates were largely similar to those of the respective control. However, the electrical conductivity (EC) increased with the increased volume of cowpeat. The 14 substrates were used for rooting single-node cuttings of golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens ssp. oxycardium) and three-node cuttings of ‘Florida Spire’ fig (Ficus benjamina) and germinating seeds of sprenger asparagus (Asparagus densiflorus) in a shaded greenhouse. All cuttings rooted in the 14 substrates, and the resultant shoot and root dry weights of golden pothos and ‘Florida Spire’ fig 2 months after rooting did not significantly vary across seven Canadian peat- or Florida peat-based substrates. Shoot dry weights of heartleaf philodendron were also similar across substrates, but the root dry weight produced in the Canadian peat-based control substrate was much greater than that produced in the substrate containing 60% cowpeat. Root dry weight and root length produced in the Florida peat-based control substrate were also significantly greater than those produced in substrates substituted by 60% cowpeat. These results may indicate that cuttings of golden pothos and ‘Florida Spire’ fig are more tolerant of higher EC than those of heartleaf philodendron, as the substrate with 60% cowpeat had EC ≥ 4.16 dS·m−1. Seed germination rates of sprenger asparagus from cowpeat-substituted Canadian peat-based substrates were greater than or comparable to those of the control substrate. Seed germination rates were similar across the seven Florida peat-based substrates. The root-to-shoot ratios of seedlings germinated from both control substrates were significantly greater than those germinated from substrates substituted by cowpeat. This difference could be partially explained by the higher nutrient content in cowpeat-substituted substrates where shoot growth was favored over root growth. Propagation is a critical stage in commercial production of containerized plants. The success in using up to 60% cowpeat in rooting and seed germination substrates may suggest that cowpeat could be an alternative to peat for foliage plant propagation.

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Jianjun Chen, Richard. J. Henny, Lance. S. Osborne, Russell D. Caldwell, and Cynthia A. Robinson

Potted anthurium is becoming an important indoor flowering foliage plant because of its unique attractive appearance and continuous growth and flowering under interior conditions. However, an interior environment, with controlled optimal temperatures and relative humidity and living plants, is an ideal niche for pest development. Pests such as thrips and two-spotted spider mite on Anthurium have been great challenges to the interiorscape industry because many pesticides have been rigorously restricted for interior use. Thus, exploiting the genetic potential of cultivar resistance may be the best approach for the control of these pests. In this study, eight of the most popular Anthurium cultivars were evaluated for their resistance to a natural infestation of thrips (Hercinothrips femoralis) and two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) under three light levels: 4, 8, and 16 μmol·m-2·s-1, temperatures of 23.8 to 26.7 °C and a relative humidity of 60%. Results indicated that significant resistant differences exist among cultivars. The cultivars most resistant to thrips were not the most resistant to mite and vice versa. Cultivars that exhibited moderate resistance to thrips were also moderately resistant to mite. Low light intensity appeared to be a factor influencing thrips infestation since control plants that grew under a light intensity of 200 μmol·m-2·s-1 had no observed thrips damage. On the other hand, two-spotted spider mite infestation was not influenced by light intensity.

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Jianjun Chen, Dennis B. McConnell, Svoboda V. Pennisi, Cynthia A. Robinson, and Russell D. Caldwell

Tissue culture plugs of Aglaonema `Cory', `Maria', and `Silver Queen' and Dieffenbachia `Panther', `Snowflake', and `Sport Lynn' were potted singly in 15-cm pots and grown in a shaded greenhouse under a photosynthetic irradiance (PI) of 100 mmol·m–2·s–1. Eight months after potting, 27 plants of each cultivar were placed in nine interior evaluation rooms under three different PI levels (three rooms per level): 4, 8, and 16 mmol·m–2·s–1. In addition, three plants of each cultivar were maintained in the original greenhouse for the duration of the experiment. Number of leaves, plant height and width were monitored monthly. Recently matured leaves were removed at 3-month intervals for 9 months for determination of fresh and dry weight, leaf area, and percentage leaf variegation. Variegated leaf area was assessed using digitized leaf images. Interior PI levels affected growth parameters, but the degree of response was cultivar-dependent. Smallest leaves developed on plants grown under 4 mmol·m–2·s–1 and largest leaves developed under 16 mmol·m–2·s–1. Leaf area of Dieffenbachia `Sport Lynn' showed the greatest response and Aglaonema `Maria' the least response to PI levels. Percentage leaf variegation of Dieffenbachia `Snowflake' was least affected and Dieffenbachia `Sport Lynn' was most affected by PI levels. Fresh leaf weight of unit area decreased as PI levels decreased from 16 to 4 mmol·m–2·s–1, however, the decrease in unit area was most pronounced in cultivars that maintained the highest quality ratings. Based on the results of this study, Aglaonema `Maria' and Dieffenbachia `Snowflake' had the most satisfactory interior performance within their respective genera.

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Jianjun Chen, Dennis B. McConnell, Cynthia A. Robinson, Russell D. Caldwell, and Yingfeng Huang

Three composts, derived from municipal solid waste with biosolids, yard trimmings, and yard trimmings with biosolids, were mixed by volume with sphagnum peat and pine bark to formulate 12 substrates. After characterizing physical and chemical properties, the substrates, along with a control, were used for rooting single eye cuttings of pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and terminal cuttings of maranta (Maranta leuconeura) and schefflera (Schefflera arboricola) in enclosed polyethylene tents. All cuttings initiated roots with no significant difference in root numbers per cutting 14 days after sticking, but root lengths 21 days and root-ball coverage ratings 45 days after sticking were significantly affected by substrates. Five of 12 compost-formulated substrates resulted in root lengths of cuttings equal to or longer than the control. In addition to desirable physical properties such as bulk density, total porosity, and air space, common chemical characteristics of the five substrates included low concentration of mineral elements, initial electrical conductivity ≤3.0 dS·m-1 based on the pour through extraction method, and pH between 3.8 to 5.0. The five substrates were formulated by combining composted municipal solid waste with biosolids or yard trimmings with biosolids volumetrically at 20% or less or composted yard trimmings at 50% or less with equal volumes of sphagnum peat and pine bark.

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Jianjun Chen, Yingfeng Huang, Zhen Yang, Russell D. Caldwell, and Cynthia A. Robinson

Containerized ornamental plant production represents extremely intensive agricultural production. An average of 200,000 containers may occupy 1 acre of surface area, to which a large amount of chemical fertilizers will be applied. Because of the use of high-drainage soilless potting mixes coupled with excessive fertigation, a great amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, are leached, which increases the potential for ground and surface water contamination. Over the past 2 decades, research has been centered on developing fertigation delivery systems such as nutrient film techniques, ebb-and-flow and capillary mat systems, for reducing leaching. Relatively limited research has been conducted on improving potting medium substrates to minimize nutrient leaching. The objectives of this study were to determine the adsorption isotherm of six different zeolites to ammonium, nitrate and phosphorus, identify and incorporate desired zeolites in a peat/bark-based medium for reducing nutrient leaching in ornamental plant production. Results indicated that the zeolites possess great holding capacities for ammonium, nitrate, and phosphorus. Compared to control, ammonium leaching was reduced 70% to 90%, phosphorus 30% to 80% and nitrate 0% to 60% depending on zeolite species and quantity used per pot. Zeolite amended media caused no adverse effects on plant growth. Conversely, biomass increased significantly when compared to that of the control.

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Jianjun Chen, Dennis B. McConnell, Richard J. Henny, Kelly Everitt, and Russell D. Caldwell

Fire flash (Chlorophytum amaniense), a member of Liliaceae, is attracting considerable attention in the foliage plant industry as a new addition for interior plantscaping. Coral-colored petioles and midribs contrasting with dark green leaves make it a sought after specimen. Originally collected from rainforests of eastern Africa in 1902, it has remained largely obscure for a century. Recently, studies on fire flash's propagation, production, and interiorscape performance have been completed. This report presents relevant botanical information and the results of our 4-year evaluation of this plant. Fire flash can be propagated through seed, division, or tissue culture and produced as a potted foliage plant under light levels from 114 to 228 μmol·m–2·s–1 and temperatures from 18 to 32 °C. Finished plants after being placed in building interiors are able to maintain their aesthetic appearances under a light level as low as 8 μmol·m–2·s–1 for 8 months or longer.