Controlling Growth in Echinacea Hybrids
Grossman, Mara Celeste
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New hybrid Echinacea cultivars, based on crosses of Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench with several other Echinacea species, have generated interest and excitement in the marketplace due to novel flower colors and forms. However, these cultivars vary significantly in their growth habits and requirements from the species. We examined factors in the production of Echinacea hybrid cultivars to provide guidance to growers. Foliar sprays 600 mg·L⁻¹ benzyladenine (BA) increased numbers of branches between 19% and 83% in Echinacea cultivars while 400 mg·L⁻¹ dikegulac sodium or 500 mg·L⁻¹ ethephon did not improve branching. Of several height control PGRs applied to E. ‘Marmalade,’ only plants treated with two applications of 5000 mg·L⁻¹ daminozide were shorter (24%) compared to untreated controls although flowering was also reduced by 70%. Echinacea ‘Harvest Moon’ plants were shorter in response to all of the PGRs applied, with the best results seen in plants treated with foliar sprays of uniconazole (one application of 30 mg·L⁻¹ or two applications of 15 mg·L⁻¹ ), two applications of 5000 mg·L⁻¹ daminozide, or 4 mg·L⁻¹ paclobutrazol applied once as a drench. Supplying N at 150 mg·L -1 during the growing season provided Echinacea cultivars adequate nutrition and maximized numbers of branches and flowers and shoot dry weight. In overwintering, fertilization treatments that resulted in low substrate electrical conductivity going into dormancy, 5.0 kg·m controlled release fertilizer 15N-3.9P-10K or 150 mg·L⁻¹ N using 15N-2.2P-12.5K applied using constant liquid feed, resulted in the highest survival rates of Echinacea cultivars. As a monitoring tool, SPAD measurements were not successful in predicting tissue N levels in Echinacea hybrids. Twenty-one hybrid cultivars acquired as stage 3 tissue culture plantlets were grown under one of three photoperiods (10-hour, 16-hour, or 24-hour) for 10 weeks before being transplanted to larger containers and grown under natural daylength until flowering. Providing Echinacea hybrid cultivars with a 16-hour photoperiod during liner production resulted in plants which flowered soonest without negative effects on growth. The need for height control PGRs varied by cultivar; however, overall height control PGRs controlled flower stalk height and increased market rating.
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