Effects of Transplant Season and Container Size on Landscape Establishment of Kalmia latifolia L.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia L.) is relatively difficult to establish in landscapes. One experiment tested the effect of container size on the water relations of pinebark substrate embedded in field soil. Two other experiments tested the effects of transplant season and container size on landscape establishment of nursery-produced mountain laurel. Experiment one compared volumetric water content of embedded substrate of five sizes (4-L to 100-L) to adjacent field soil at two depths with time domain reflectometry (TDR) during a dry down cycle. Available water was calculated by subtracting unavailable water (estimated with pressure plates) from volumetric water content (TDR measurements). Adjacent soil contained more available water than embedded substrate. The middle depth held more water than the top. Larger pinebark substrate volumes retained higher volumetric water content than smaller volumes. The second experiment consisted of 7.6- and 19-L containers of Kalmia latifolia L. ‘Olympic Wedding’, transplanted into field soil in October or May. Larger container plants generally had lower xylem potential than smaller plants, but better visual ratings. Root growth into surrounding soil was negligible for all treatments. Leaf area was higher for spring transplants than fall transplants. Experiment three was a rhizotron study with 19-L plants, transplanted in October or May. Canopy growth of spring transplants was greater than fall transplants, but fall transplants had longer roots into the backfill. Overall, our data suggest that fall transplanting will potentially allow faster plant establishment than spring transplanting. The effect of container size on plant establishment could not be determined.