PGRs on Perennials: Configure on Lobelia cardinalis

By Joyce Latimer, Virginia Tech

With the crazy spring we’ve had this year, some of your perennials may be needing a little help to get ready for market, especially if you are using a bedding plant production model to fast-track your herbaceous perennials. If you haven’t already applied Configure (BA, Fine Americas), or, even if you have, you might want to consider another application. Configure has significantly improved pot fill in many of our perennials, which can result in earlier and greater pot fill, thereby enhancing early sales. Lobelia cardinalis is one crop that has been especially responsive to this branching agent.

In a series of screening trials with commercial liners, we applied Configure 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 once, about two weeks after potting, at which time the plants had resumed active growth and roots had reached the edge of the pot. Plant height and number of branches were measured every 2 weeks until flowering or market-ready.

Configure increased the number of basal branches in the pot with differences evident at 2 weeks after application, with treated plants averaging 13 basal shoots per pot as compared to 4 shoots per pot in the untreated control plants (see Photo 1). By increasing plant branching, Configure increased pot fill earlier in the production cycle and improved plant symmetry and appearance.

At 4 weeks after application, the untreated plants had added three additional basal shoots, but development was significantly delayed compared to those plants treated with Configure (see Photo 2). At the conclusion of the study, 6 weeks after application, plants treated with Configure averaged 16 shoots per pot as compared to 11 shoots per pot in untreated control plants.

Key Points to Applying Configure:

  • Make sure that liners are actively growing before the first application. Rates range from 150 to 600 ppm.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Do not irrigate overhead within four hours of Configure application.

Plants should ALWAYS be treated with PGRs under low stress conditions, but products like Configure are absorbed best under low drying conditions, e.g., early or late in the day, cloudy days, or under high humidity. It is very important to be consistent in your applications. Fast drying conditions reduce uptake and efficacy which may encourage you to apply higher rates, which may in turn be excessive under long drying conditions. That’s why the records are so important!