Calcium to enhance Austin roses' sex appeal and epsom salt

strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)October 26, 2011

There's a thread in Roses forum where Mike from MI wrote that he's in his seventies: doesn't want to spray and want to explore Kordes. Michaelg wrote this to convince Mike to stay with Austins: "I am really glad Kordes and other growers are getting serious about disease resistance, but if flowers lack fragrance and sex appeal, I'm not that interested." That was funny.

I'm posting the results of how calcium enhance Austin' sex appeal, to convince Mike further - so he will be the Guinea pig for the next batch of Austins. Michealg gave us useful info. about calcium to prolong vase life, and its anti-fungal property to prevent balling, or botrytis. Many thanks, Michaelg.

The first two pictures are Mary Magdalene and Radio Times cut at 50's dry weather, in tap water. Below is day 2 in tap water, with weak necks:

Below is day 3 vase life in plain water, with Mary faded to ugly white:

The next series of pics are Mary Mag. and Radio Times cut in rainy 30's weather. Once they are fully opened, I shaved calcium citrate with a scissor into the vase, 1/4 tablet per cup of water. People use Tums to prolong vase life of carnation, but I prefer calcium citrate since it's not salty like Tums, and best absorbed by the human body. Calcium Carbonate is cheaper, but absorption in the body requires acid (taken with juice).

Below is Mary Mag. at 2 days vase life and Radio Times at 3 days vase life before addition of calcium citrate:

I added 1/4 tablet of calcium citrate in 1 cup water. Below is picture taken one day after calcium addition:

Below is picture taken with 4 days of vase life for Mary, and 5 days of vase life for Radio Times (changed water with 1/4 calcium citrate):

In the summer, Mary shatters in the vase at day 2, and I throw away Radio Times at day 3. Using calcium citrate plus cutting at cool rainy weather doubled the vase life.

My next experiment was putting Epsom salt in the vase, to test Heirloom Roses' idea that Epsom salt enhances and deepens the bloom's color. Another of Heirloom' idea is putting horse manure at the bottom of planting hole (that was a disaster for me, I had to replace the soil).

There's Heirloom idea of putting bone meal in the planting hole. A decade ago I burnt many geraniums with bone meal, plus killing a white pine. This is from Colorado State University: "CSU research has shown that Phosphorous from bone meal is only available to plants in soils that have a pH below 7.0" There's the risk of bone meal killing beneficial soil bacteria that suppress pathogenic fungi like black spots. High levels of phosphorus, from bone meal or other sources, inhibit growth of beneficial mycorrhizal Fungi, which helps roots extract phosphate from soil.

The next pictures are 2 Radio Times cut at 60's temp., soaking wet with rain. The one in the glass vase has tap water (my tap water is high in calcium). This opened easily with a delightful Damask scent. The one in the short plastic vase has 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per 1 cup of water. At bud stage it smelled like diarrhea. Epsom salt is used as laxative, and the magnesium in Epsom salt is to relax muscle. Radio Times went limp with weak neck. I added 1 more teaspoon of Epsom salt to see if the color deepens. The scent went from diarrhea zone to sewage zone, and the leaves turned slightly yellow. Below is picture of droopy Radio Times in Epsom salt, next to the normal one in water.

I rescued the limpy Radio Times by dumping out the epsom salt water, and replace with tap water plus 1/4 calcium citrate tablet. Within a few hours, Radio Times petals went from limpy to firm, its neck perked up as well. I will post pictures of both once they are fully opened, to see if the bloom color deepens.

The above showed that calcium helps with E-thing in blooms. I'm prudish so I use E-thing, which stands for erection in blooms. Question: is there any exhibitionists who used the same method? I mean people who display roses with their clothes on.

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Wow - what a difference! I will have to try that the next time I cut some roses. Thanks very much for the info.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:03PM
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Thank you for being so experimental, Strawberryhill. I appreciate your sharing new knowledge with us all. And, I think you're a hoot! Kim

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:30PM
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How many mgs of Calcium Citrate are in the tabs that you are quartering. I take Cal Citrate in its pure powdered form (NOW brand, Tbsp = 1260 mg), so I need to figure out the equivalent amount to use.

Thank you so much for this information

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 3:30PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Yes, if you get four good days out of a cut 'Radio Times,' that's a real improvement.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 4:41PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Jacqueline and Landperson: My calcium citrate tablet has 250 mg of calcium, so 1/4 of that would be 62 mg, mixed with 1 cup of water.

Make sure that your roses OPEN FULLY before you add calcium. All calcium tablets have some sodium in it, and you want the cut flowers to soak up water, and OPEN FULLY, before tighten up cell walls with calcium.

I cut Mary Magdalene as a partially opened bud, threw half a tablet at 125 mg per 1 cup water. That was too much, and I jammed its stem with solutes. Mary drooped instantly, refused to open, and I discarded it on day 1.

Epsom salt made a stink-bomb out of partially opened Radio Times. So I replaced its water with calcium to perk up the bloom (yes, the petals became rigid instantly with stronger neck). However, I acidentally induced balling on Radio Times, either through Epsom salt, or fixing with calcium before the bloom opened fully. So I replaced with tap water, and Radio Times finally opened.

Conclusion: water moves best into bloom to open the petals, when there is NOTHING mixed in, or no solutes to jam the stem. Calcium is good for making the petals and the neck more rigid, after it has FULLY OPENNED with plain water.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 10:10AM
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Wowsers! News you can use! Thanks so much!!


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 4:42PM
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That is really impressive. Thanks for posting the information and the pictures.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 12:40PM
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I have not located the original posts supporting this idea, but I do have to wonder if something else is going on. As a plant physiologist, I have trouble believing that you could get enough calcium into a cut flower, in so short a time, to make any difference. On the other hand, the citrate could be used by the flower as a source of energy, and we know that helps -- commercial flower preservatives almost always have citrate in them for precisely that reason. Also, those preservative solutions almost always strongly acidify the water, which makes we wonder, again, about a calcium-based substance that would at best be neutral pH, but in most cases, alkaline. So I'm wondering if the effect being seen here may be due to the citrate. That would still leave the question of why Tums works (CaCO3) -- I tend to doubt that it does, but as I said, have not found the reference about it.

Over the years, we've done quite a lot of research on floral preservatives. Generally the often-recommended aspirin has no effect at all. One of the best materials we ever found was one part Sprite (regular, not diet -- you want that high-fructose corn syrup!) to 3 parts water, then with a couple drops of Clorox in a quart of the solution. That mixture gives excellent life to cut flowers. Sprite has citric acid (Hydrogen citrate), simple sugars, and is rather acidic -- the three things we want in a preservative solution.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 12:50PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Malcolm, I link one of several studies where various calcium salts in the vase water or sprayed on the flower affected botrytis petal blight and/or vase life. Apparently it's the calcium ion per se, and not, in these cases, anything to do with pH.

Here is a link that might be useful: calcium sulfate etc.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 1:37PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I tested both the calcium solution and the Epsom salt twice with litmus paper. They both are neutral. At ridiculously high concentration of calcium citrate and Epsom salt, the Epsom salt came out slightly alkaline. This surprised me, since Epsom salt is 10% magnesium, and 13% sulfur. Epsom salt gave Radio Times' leaves a tinge of yellow.

As a firming agent calcium chloride (extracted from limestone) is used in canned vegetables, in firming soy bean curds into tofu. There's Grafting Paste (white limestone paste) for sealing cuttings: Take cuttings from plumeria, seal the cut end of the parent plant with grafting paste. It has an anti-fungal quality and prevents moisture from getting in the cut end. This is White Limestone Paste from Thailand used in both Thai Cooking and Thai Desserts. Used to make crisp vegetables and in batters for fried foods and pastries."
Gypsum, or calcium sulftate, also serves purposes in the food industry as a firming additive.

Gypsum has actually been used for more than 2,000 years as a tofu coagulant and can also be used to stiffen flour-based dough. Calcium sulfate can be used to keep fruits and vegetable firm by bonding calcium to the negatively charged carboxylic groups in pectin present in the food to increase the water-holding capacity.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Thanks Michael for the reference and comments. I can see that it could affect Botrytis, but in the photos above, there is no apparent Botrytis problem.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:03PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Malcolm, in the study they got longer vase life from the gypsum-infused cut roses, apart from the botrytis finding.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 12:48PM
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