The demand for groundcover plants for landscape use is increasing. Plantable containers are becoming available in sizes appropriate for groundcover plants. Landscapers are seeking ways to decrease the time required to prepare and plant groundcover beds. Studies were conducted in 2011 and 2012 to evaluate plantable containers for a variety of groundcover plants. The study has shown that ‘Bronze Beauty’ ajuga (Ajuga reptans), ‘Herman’s Pride’ lamiastrum (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), ‘Beacon Silver’ lamium (Lamium maculatum), ‘Immergrunchen sedum (Sedum hybridum), ‘Red Carpet Stonecrop’ sedum (Sedum spurium), and ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum (Sedum telephium) were grown to a marketable size from 1.5-inch plugs in 8 weeks in Lexington, KY, when transplanted in May through August. ‘Big Blue’ liriope (Liriope muscari) from bare root bibs required 12 weeks. Plant growth in a 90-mm paper container and 80-mm bioplastic container was similar to that of plants grown in standard 3-inch rigid plastic containers and required 20% less time to transplant into the landscape and grew rapidly after transplanting in the field. Peat containers in this production system yielded smaller plants and slower ground coverage after transplanting in the field than plants grown in the other containers.
Increasing demand for groundcover plants and increasing consumer preference for more sustainable products encourage nursery crop producers and landscape management companies to assess efficiency and sustainable practices. Ajuga reptans ‘Bronze Beauty’ and Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ were grown in standard plastic containers or plantable containers (Ellepot and SoilWrap) and 12- or 18-count flats. These production alternatives were presented in personal surveys of commercial industry personnel and consumers to determine their willingness to pay for these attributes. A conjoint analysis revealed an affinity for both groups to purchase flats of groundcovers and preferred sedum over ajuga. Commercial buyers from larger companies were more likely to purchase plantable containers than those from smaller firms. Generally, flats of Ellepots were preferred over flats of SoilWraps and 18-count over 12-count flats by commercial buyers. Price had a negative impact on consumer willingness to pay. Consumers revealed no specific preference for the plantable containers, although preference for plastic containers declined with age and presence of children at home.
The performance of biocontainers as sustainable alternatives to the traditional petroleum-based plastic containers has been researched in recent years due to increasing environmental concern generated by widespread plastic disposal from green industry. However, research has been mainly focused on using biocontainers in short-term greenhouse production of bedding plants, with limited research investigating the use of biocontainers in long-term nursery production of woody crops. This project investigated the feasibility of using biocontainers in a pot-in-pot (PIP) nursery production system. Two paper (also referred as wood pulp) biocontainers were evaluated in comparison with a plastic container in a PIP system for 2 years at four locations (Holt, MI; Lexington, KY; Crystal Springs, MS; El Paso, TX). One-year-old river birch (Betula nigra) liners were used in this study. Results showed that biocontainers stayed intact at the end of the first growing season, but were penetrated to different degrees after the second growing season depending on the vigor of root growth at a given location and pot type. Plants showed different growth rates at different locations. However, at a given location, there were no differences in plant growth index (PGI) or plant biomass among plants grown in different container types. Daily water use (DWU) was not influenced by container type. Results suggest that both biocontainers tested have the potential to be alternatives to plastic containers for short-term (1 year) birch production in the PIP system. However, they may not be suitable for long-term (more than 1 year) PIP production due to root penetration at the end of the second growing season.