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Tijana Blanusa, Eleni Vysini and Ross W.F. Cameron

The primary objective of this research was to determine how the presence of more than one plant and more than one species in a container influence plant quality, particularly when the volume of water given to the container is reduced. Petunia ×hybrida ‘Hurrah White’ and Impatiens ‘Cajun Violet’ were chosen as typical bedding plant species. Plants were grown in 2 l containers either under “100% ETp” (i.e., replacing all the water lost by evapotranspiration in the previous 24 h) or under a moisture-restrictive regime of “25% ETp,” in which plants received 25% of the “100% ETp” value. An ancillary experiment investigated whether low watering resulted in floral buds being aborted. Results demonstrated that watering requirements of Petunia under “100% ETp” (i.e., replacing all the water lost by evapotranspiration in the previous 24 h) were on average 30% greater than those of Impatiens. However, when two Petunia plants were growing in the same container, the volume of water required to maintain soil moisture content at container capacity was on average only 10% greater than for a single plant. Under a “25% ETp” regime in which plants received 25% of the “100% ETp” value, flower number, plant height, and flower size were reduced by 50%, 33%, and 13%, respectively, in Petunia compared with “100% ETp.” For example, flower numbers decreased from an average of 71 to 33 flowers per plant in “100% ETp” and “25% ETp,” respectively. Petunia plants in the “25% ETp” regime, however, were more efficient at producing both biomass and flowers in relation to the volume of water applied. Petunia plants that experienced both competition from other plants in the container and lower irrigation rates had enhanced efficiency of flower production (i.e., more flowers per unit biomass). For Impatiens, however, the growing of single plants at “25% ETp” was plausible, but the addition of a Petunia plant at “25% ETp” was detrimental to plant quality (Impatiens flower numbers reduced by 75%).