Many producers are using a bedding plant production model to fast-track their herbaceous perennials, many times in quart pots. The use of branching agents, like Configure, can significantly improve pot fill which can enhance early sales, improving the “fit” of these plants into the bedding plant production system. This report includes a variety of herbaceous perennial crops (for results with Echinacea, see http://www.fine-americas.com/blog/configure-is-ideal-for-branching-your-echinacea).
In a series of screening trials with commercial liners, Configure was applied once after plant establishment and resumption of growth, about two weeks after potting. Configure was applied as a foliar spray at 600 ppm at the label-recommended volume of one gallon per 200 square feet using a hand-held CO2 pressurized sprayer. Plant height and number of branches were measured every 2 weeks until flowering or market-ready.
Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ was very responsive to Configure with an increase in basal branching at 4 weeks after application (Photo 1). Notice the large number of new laterals and leaves on the treated plants. This increase in branching improved pot fill of the plants which enhanced marketability. Root growth was not noticeably different between the untreated control plants and those treated with Configure.
Lobelia cardinalis also had a significant increase in the number of lateral branches at 4 weeks after the Configure application (Photo 2). Again, there was an improvement in pot fill and symmetry of the plants, both of which enhance marketability.
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ provided a very interesting example of how Configure improved pot fill with a small increase in the number of branches (Photo 3). The small increase in branching significantly improved pot fill and symmetry of the plants, both of which enhance marketability.
These three crops are examples of basal branching crops that are very responsive to a single application of Configure. However, through subsequent research, we recommend two applications of Configure. The first application should be made in the liner stage, during liner production if you are producing your own liners or to commercial liners before planting. The second application should be made shortly after transplanting – but at least 2 weeks after the first application.
The use of branching agents, like Configure, can significantly improve pot fill which enhances early sales, but before offering these young plants for sale, always check to assure that root growth is also sufficient for landscape planting.
Key Points for Applying Configure to Herbaceous Perennials
- Make the first application when liners have broken dormancy and are actively growing.
- Liners should have 2 to 4 leaves at the time of spray applications.
- Repeat application within one week after potting but at least two weeks after the first application.
- Use the recommended spray application volume (1 gallon per 200 square feet) to thoroughly wet leaves.
- Good coverage is critical since Configure is primarily taken up by the leaves and the buds in the basal crown as well.
- Apply Configure foliar sprays when plants are under low stress conditions.
- Add a good surfactant to your spray solution.
- The Configure label permits but does not require additional surfactants. While we have found excellent results without it, others have successfully used Capsil with Configure. Use a surfactant labeled for your crop and follow label directions.
- Keep records of your applications and results.
- Always keep notes to aid in improving your results with subsequent crops. Include notes on the environmental conditions as they affect drying time.
Joyce Latimer is an Extension Specialist for Greenhouse Crops at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Joyce has been evaluating plant growth regulators (PGRs) on herbaceous perennials for over 25 years. Her passion is improving plant quality and ease of production for producers while improving the quality of these plants for the home garden.