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Re: CULT: drought stress

From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>

> Most of the rhizomes are still ok at the moment, but this has to be
> using up energy reserves and making it hard to set flower buds.

Strangely, drought stress can actually bring on heavier bloom the following
season, provided the rhizomes do have time to reach blooming size before
suffering the stress.  This relates to the habitat of the ancestral
species, where wet springs (when most growth occurred) were followed by
very dry, hot summers.  The same biological idea is behind the improved
survival and bloom of thoroughly cured (as opposed to soft and green)
rhizomes.  However, there has been a great deal of (probably unconscious)
selection for plants that stay green during the summer and can survive wet
summers--the conditions in most of our gardens.  So the idea doesn't always
work.  But I can vouch for the fact that well-cured rhizomes with much dry
foliage and stringy roots establish quickly and bloom reliably the
following spring.  This year, for example, I had good bloom on all new
plants but one, and that one had its terminal damaged by a deer stepping on
it during the winter.  I always delay shipping and planting until
September, and since many growers dig their plants in July or August, this
means nice dry, hard rhizomes to plant.

Obviously this strategy will not work very well in the north, where
September planting may not provide enough time for establishment.

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (804)223-6374

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