The popularity of succulents is at an all-time high. New species with varying colors and fantastic forms make them hot garden plants. Researchers have conducted extensive studies on succulents in order to improve pot fill and flowering. In the 1990s, Dr. Thomas Boyle of the University of Massachusetts determined that benzyladenine foliar sprays could be used on Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii) to increase branching and flower bud production.
Benzyladenine is the active ingredient in Configure (Fine Americas). Our research at North Carolina State University highlighted rates and timing of applying Configure to improve both branching and flowering of Christmas cactus. Configure is also an excellent plant growth regulator (PGR) available to help growers improve the appearance of succulents.
The Effect of Configure on Flower Stalks
Earlier work conducted by Dennis Carey during his master’s program at North Carolina State University investigated the use of Configure on succulents. A number of species responded to the Configure applications and results are listed in Table 1 (see slideshow).
The optimal response range for Configure foliar sprays is between 100 ppm and 400 ppm, but it varies by species. For example, with Sempervivum ‘Rubicon Improved’ the use of Configure foliar sprays increased the number of offsets (chicks). The sempervivum went from having just one chick on the untreated control plants to 12.4 when 400 ppm was applied, a 1,240% increase (Figures 1 and 2, see slideshow).
To increase the number of offsets or flower stalks, we recommend starting trial rates in the 200 ppm to 400 ppm range. By starting with a few plants at this rate, it allows you to find what rate gives you the best response, as growing conditions vary and plants will respond differently. We did not find that rates higher than 400 ppm provided a significantly greater benefit on many plant species, and not all succulents responded to the Configure foliar sprays.
Growing Recommendations for Succulent Applications
Given that each plant is unique and will respond differently to applications, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you succeed.
• The plant has to be physiologically ready to begin offset or flower stalk development. For most plants, shoot development does not occur until the root system is established. So after transplanting the cuttings, apply Configure when the cuttings are well rooted. This will usually be two to four weeks after transplanting.
• In addition, benzyladenine is not easily translocated within the plant via the phloem, so complete spray coverage is required, especially for pots containing multiple cuttings.
• Finally, benzyladenine does not have a long residual activity on the plant leaf surface. Research has reported that most of the impact for benzyladenine occurs within five days of application. Therefore, multiple applications, spaced two weeks apart, may also improve results.
With succulents being all the rage, the use of Configure foliar sprays will help to improve pot fill and offset production of stock plants. Consider establishing a trial in your operation to determine the optimal recipes to follow for your greenhouse.