Lavandula Ruffles Series By Chris Berg

The Ruffles series was bred by Australian plantsman Steve Eggleton to put out maximum color and fragrance in a time when Australia was facing its worst drought in history. As many parts of the United States seem to be facing these same challenges, Ruffles offers growers and gardeners a solution. A natural choice for summer color, these Spanish lavenders boast large bract petals with a distinctive ruffling along the margins providing added whimsy and texture. Each selection in the series has a unique duo-toned color scheme with the bract colors being distinctively different from the flowers themselves.

Due to the powerful impact of the flower and bract size, these plants make a real splash at retail. Consumers are astounded by the variety of shapes and colors of the flowers and are lulled by the aromatic scent of the plants. As most lavenders in general, these are great impulse items at retail.

As a premium florist's crop, Ruffles will bring weeks of enjoyment for consumers indoors. Outdoors, the compact and neat habits of these plants can find a home anywhere in the garden and make wonderful additions to mixed containers. The flowers stay right above the foliage, without the long wiry stems typically seen in this class, yielding a total height of 24-30 inches. As a native to the Mediterranean, plants are drought tolerant once established and more tolerant of humidity and clay soils than other lavenders. Once planted, they require minimal maintenance from the gardener. An occasional shearing helps to rejuvenate the plant's bloom cycle.

Propagation

Vegetative cuttings can be planted directly into cell sizes ranging from 105 up to a 32-cell. Root in a well-drained medium including coarse sand or Ellepots for air circulation around the base. The medium should have an EC of 0.75 and a pH of 5.9-6.2. A rooting hormone application is beneficial for earlier, more uniform rooting.

Apply a preventive fungicide spray immediately after sticking to prevent foliar diseases that could develop during misting periods. Keep soil substrate levels at 70-75¡ F, and maintain constant moisture levels while cuttings are initiating roots. Because lavender's foliage is susceptible to rot when wet, keep mist levels low — just high enough to maintain turgidity. Alternatively, cuttings can be placed under a tent and misted even less frequently for seven to 10 days. Provide 1,000 foot-candles of light.

As cuttings begin to initiate roots, begin a feed of 14-0-14 every other irrigation at 100-150 ppm. Allow plants to dry down, but not wilt, between waterings. Reduce mist as soon as possible and increase light levels up to 2,000 foot-candles. Temperatures should be maintained at 65-75¡ F. As liners are being hardened off, apply calcium/potassium nitrate to keep liners tough and stocky. Plants can be pinched for stronger branching, while leaving four to six active internodes. Rooted liners should finish in five to seven weeks.

Finishing

Lavenders require a well-drained medium and high light for growing. Ruffles work well in quart and 6-inch containers and do especially well in the summer months when grown in larger patio-size pots. If not previously done, pinch the liners before planting to encourage early branching. Keep plants under long days for most uniform flowering.

Grow plants in a well-drained substrate with a pH of 5.9-6.2, and provide moderate light levels of 5,000-8,000 foot-candles. Maintain day temperature at 65-75¡ F and 55-65¡ F at night.

Allow plants to dry down between waterings and never leave the media saturated, as this can lead to Pythium or Rhizoctonia. Plants should also never be allowed to wilt. Fertilize with 50-75 ppm with 20-10-20, alternating with 15-0-15. An occasional application of a calcium-based fertilizer can help with overall strength of the plants.

Cultural Problems

Lavenders have very few insect problems. Occasionally, plants can be infested by fungus gnats, but this is more an issue with watering practices on the crop. As mentioned above, over-watering can also cause Pythium or Rhizoctonia issues, so plants should always be grown in a well-drained medium.

Excessive vegetative growth with a lack of flowers can be a sign of overfertilization or low light conditions. Foliage necrosis can also occur because of high buildup of soluble salts, so regular leaching is recommended.

Chris Berg

Chris Berg is business development and marketing manager with McGregor Plant Sales. He can be reached at cberg@mcgregorps.com or (760) 431-1006.



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