Cuttings in flower after 5 weeks

peterls(N Yorks, UK)December 7, 2007

I am intrigued by my Salvia leucantha cuttings, taken on 30 October, that are now starting to flower after just 5 weeks. The buds are on new growth, rather than being nascent buds from the original cutting material. I must add that the plants are in a light box at 80F with 14 hours of light a day, and looking very healthy.

This raises several questions. Is this normal? How does a plant in a light box know what season it is and hence when to flower? And is it seriously detremental to the plant at this age? - I appreciate it will divert strength away from the creation of foliage, but I am willing to let it continue as an experiment.

I presume that a spring/summer cutting would not be ready to flower after 5 weeks, and that this has only happened because the cutting material was taken from a plant in full flower.

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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

Good luck! I've had cuttings leaf out, flower, and then rapidly keel over and die.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 3:10PM
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peterls(N Yorks, UK)

You have got me worried ccroulet! Did yours really have roots. I have certainly had some cuttings, with growth of leaf and flower, which then died. But on examination they never had any roots. Pelargoniums can appear to be alive for months in this state.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 6:07PM
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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

Cuttings taken from plants in flower will have residual plant hormones that will interfere with rooting, especially if the flower heads are left on. These will be abnormally slow to root and more subject to rotting.

These effects can be overcome by the use of bottom heat and artificially prolonged day lighting. The light intensity won't be equivalent to sunlight in strength unless high-output lamps are used, and the cuttings are near the light source.

I have seen spring blooms try to form on leucantha, involucrata, and others as evidenced by the new leaves segue into bracts, then get thrown into reverse and resume green summer growth. These make for some interesting images showing the transition from leaves to bracts to leaves again.

The effects you are observing are real, but there is a momentum caused by the gradual loss of hormone over time, The changes are gradual, and I could easily digress here to discuss how daylight intensity and duration, coupled with temperatures and other environmental factors affect when sages bloom. I had little autumn bloom on my sages because of our abnormally hot and dry summer, followed by a sudden onset of late autumn/early winter temperatures.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 9:25PM
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peterls(N Yorks, UK)

Many thanks Rich - thats very helpful. What you say makes good sense. I supected that it was a function of the cuttings being taken in late summer. The light levels in the box should be about 2,000 lumens - far less than a bright summer's day, but all the same the cuttings love it. and its definately better than being outside now!

You just touched on a key aspect. How daylight and environmental factors effect flowering. And apecifically how do you kick your plants into flower after winter, and what ultimately stops them. Are there any useful sources on this on the internet?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 5:10AM
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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

All I've found so far are my own crude observations on the relationships I've mentioned. Springtime is the most tricky and variable time for blooming for short-day sages.

As a scientist, I'd like to quantify the observations, but I do not have the capital to invest in equipment to automatically record times, humidity, sunlight, etc.

Environmental conditions vary enough between my cold frames and my greenhouses to affect which plants bloom and when. It would be a nice project for a graduate student, considering how sensitive Salvias are to to changes in blooming period.

First, I am going to have to get my own electric service to my greenhouse for automatic venting, not to mention reactivate my temperature alarm and especially an automatic furnace.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:34AM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

peterls: No, the cuttings didn't develop roots. Rich's explanation for why it didn't happen sounds reasonable.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 12:20PM
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peterls(N Yorks, UK)

One of the things I like about using a light chamber (this is my first time) is that it is a reproducable environment. The light level is constant, and I have a heated propagator with a decent thermostat added. As the box is inside the house the background temperature is pretty constant too.

I am growing a number of different seeds in there as well, given to me very kindly by Robin Middleton, and am keeping records. Seeds will presumably have no previous memory, unlike cuttings. But the problem is that when spring and summer come, I will no longer be able to justify the cost of keeping a second class sun of my own, and so the control will go out of the window!

I find the question of what determines flowering most interesting. I record the flowering times of all the plants in my garden. And am amazed at what good value many are (including Salvias) and how poorly others flower. And also how unaware and unconcerned many gardeners are.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 2:41PM
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Good value? I remember after long discussions with fellow hummingbird gardeners concocting a simple flower scoring system to compare different nectar plants - basically the number of days in flower divided by the number of days in the growing season. Around here a sage like leucantha might get a value of 10% while a microphylla might come in about 75%. Obviously there dozens of other considerations when deciding what to grow - 10% value has never kept me from growing leucantha. By the way, my young cuttings are also blooming a bit.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 4:20PM
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I have had a few strange experiences with over-wintered cuttings taken in late summer, and over-wintered in a frost-free glasshouse. In particular, I have had superb flowers in late spring/early summer of Salvias such as 'Costa Rican Blue' (still probably incorrectly known here as S. guaranitica 'Black and Blue'. ) Also have had some blooms on Van Houtteii, and others. There are some Salvias which really don't know when they should flower. This winter, S. corrugata has been sensational, but flowers did not open until November...last year it flowered in August....2 very different summer weathers! This year, my divinorum now has huge buds, so excited about this, the plants look like crap, but can't wait to see the flowers!

Currently my greenhouse is full of beautiful flowering Salvias...oxyphora, gravida, retinervia, graciliramulosa, littae, and 2 new species from Mexico, yet to be named.

Unfortunately these are not setting seeds, as I would love to share these beauties.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 4:30PM
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Involucrata is another strange one. My first time cuttings bloomed in the basement on and off for most of that winter even though the lights were on 24 hours a day, and that hasn't happened again. Two summers ago they began flowering in July and were rolling by early September - this year they didn't do anything until September. One year, this year, very dry and hot: 2006 was much more moderate.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 6:38PM
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