Riding The Wave Of Spring
Improved crop quality on Wave petunias can be reached with these tips.
June 11, 2008
I am quite pleased to have an opportunity to touch base with the readers during the spring rush. Having been a grower myself for 30 years, I remember how crazy it gets when you're still planting and shipping at the same time. As we get pulled in so many directions at once, it's easy to lose focus on quality aspects. I thought I would talk a bit about Wave® petunias and what you can do make it easier to keep a handle on the quality of your crop. The following tips pertain to all Wave varieties.
When you are getting Wave petunias ready for transplant, here are a few things to think about:
- The week before transplant, Wave plugs should get their last PGR application of B-Nine or Bonzi. This will help in pushing out more breaks after transplant and create a fuller plant at finish.
- Make sure the plugs are fresh. A root-bound plug will produce an uneven crop and poor root development. Have you ever tried to sleeve a grown basket and the whole top pops out of the basket? Chances are all that was holding the plants in the basket were a few "tap" roots coming off the original plug. The plants can grow and look normal from the top but there are no anchors holding the plant in the pot.
- Before the plugs get transplanted, give them a good soaking with feed. This will help jump start them after transplant. It also minimizes water stress and transplant shock. A soaking will tide the plants over from the transplant line to the bench, where they should be watered as soon as possible.
After the Wave crop is transplanted into finished pot or pack sizes, here are a few tips to help with quality:
Water in thoroughly with clear water or medium feed solution, depending on the starter charge in your soil mix. This helps in getting the plug in physical contact with the soil mix. The plugs will send out roots faster when contact is made. This also establishes capillaries in the soil ball for water/air transfer.
Wave petunias have a day length/temperature relationship for flower initiation. If the days are long enough for flower initiation but night temperature is below 60ËšF, you may see some flower delay. Wave petunias are most efficiently grown at night temperatures of 62ËšF to 66ËšF. This will minimize the crop time to color.
All spreading petunias have to grow a certain number of leaves before you see the first flower. They also have internodes between those leaves. These internodes have the potential to stretch if the plants are grown too close or under lower light conditions; for example, under a layer of hanging baskets or in Northern locations like Michigan. The most proactive way to control this internode stretch is with a PGR application.
With Wave petunias, we recommend a Bonzi drench a week or two after transplant. The active ingredient clings to the soil particles. As the plant grows into the fresh soil, the roots are constantly picking up the active ingredients. This, in turn, controls the internode stretch over a longer period of time. One Bonzi drench application can give you internode control for two to three weeks, depending on the temperature. The other nice thing about drench applications on Wave petunias is that it has less of an effect on flower size and delay compared to the spray applications.
Wave petunias grow and tone best under higher light conditions. During the spring, growers try to get as much light as possible into their greenhouses. Remember that as you fill the upper levels with baskets, you sacrifice the light quality below. The best Wave crops are grown with minimal baskets above.
Our industry has been growing petunias for many decades. Over the last four to five decades, we have learned to manipulate the growth of hybrid petunias with culture by growing on the dry and lean side. One difference we have learned about spreading petunias is that they don't react the same way to this "lean and mean" way of growing.
Multiflora petunias, for instance, can be grown cool and hungry for weeks, and five days before we need them we could warm the crop up and pump them full of feed and out they go. Spreading petunias take much longer to come out of this treatment. The grower has to think, schedule and grow differently. Wave petunias react best to a growing regime of moderate level constant feed, neutral to negative DIF and PGR applications. Basically, a "steady as she goes" mentality works best with the Wave crop.
The Right Wave For The Right Container
Make sure you grow the right Wave petunia series for the container or purpose you're after.
For growers who grow and finish for early season (March to April), the Shock Wave and Easy Wave series are the least day length sensitive. This makes them the best choice for growing under short day conditions. These also perform best in 306 packs, 4-inch and 6-inch pots and hanging baskets.
The original Wave series and the Tidal Wave series are excellent landscape performers. If your business deals at all with the landscape trade, these series are a must to grow and promote. Original Wave petunias also work well in mid- to late-season baskets and Tidal Wave varieties work great in large patio containers.
Thirteen years after their first introduction, Wave petunias are the leading spreading petunias in the world, and the buzz keeps building. With four All-America Selections Winners, numerous university trial awards, a strong focus on marketing and multiple touch points in our industry and in the consumer market, the Wave brand is one of the best-known plant brands in the business. Consumers ask for it by name in garden centers because they know and trust it, and an all-new consumer marketing campaign in spring 2008 will encourage people to look for Wave petunias in their recognizable pink packaging. It's also the only flower with a fan club. Launched just two years ago, the Wave Fan Club now includes more than 12,000 members who have joined the online community at www.wave-rave.com.