Forget-me-not as a Potted Plant

May 7, 2002 - 11:10

Looking like scorpions with mouse ears, forget-me-nots have been successful as flowering potted plants in local markets, and their scarcity could mean higher profit margins for growers. A recent study at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks examined day

During the Victorian period, flowers were associated with
emotions, strengths or moral qualities. Several legends in the naming of the
flower forget-me-not suggest everlasting friendship, remembrance and eternal
love. These correlations are still strong, and forget-me-not is often requested
to acknowledge, celebrate or commemorate romance, appreciation or
companionship. Forget-me-not is also the state flower of Alaska and, therefore,
generates additional local demand from many visiting tourists, hotels, restaurants
and public establishments.

Forget-me-not is a familiar plant to gardeners and has been
grown for years in borders or groundcovers. The flowers are less than one inch
in diameter and open in succession on a curled spike or cyme inflorescence. As
each flower withers, a seedpod is left behind. The curled flower spikes
resemble the shape of a scorpion and sometimes the common name “scorpion
grass” is used instead of forget-me-not. The delicate flowers are usually
blue with a lighter eye. Flowers in white or soft pink occur naturally and are
also available.

The scientific genus name of forget-me-not is Myosotis
because the leaves in some species look a lot like the ears of a mouse. The
Myosotis species are biennial or perennial and grow naturally in moist, shaded
or partly shaded areas. True forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) is a
short-lived perennial, while the most commonly cultivated species is the
biennial garden or woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica). The garden
forget-me-not has leaves that are 2-3 inches in length and grows to a height of
6-12 inches. Myosotis alpestris is similar to M. sylvatica, and it is difficult
to distinguish the two species. Seeds of forget-me-not are sold under both
names, although most M. alpestris is likely M. sylvatica.

Forget-me-not as a cut flower is best-suited for small
floral pieces, miniature nosegays, corsages or chaplets for the hair. Other
marketing opportunities include flowering potted plants. Seed is available for
various cultivars such as ‘Snowsylva’ (white),
‘Rosylva’ (pink), ‘Bluesylva’ (mid-blue), Bobo series
(blue), ‘Compindi’ (deep blue), ‘Indigo’ (blue),
‘Miro’ (mid-blue), ‘Musik’ (deep blue) and
‘Victoria’ (azure blue). Bluesylva and Victoria have, under our
growing conditions, been naturally compact with profuse flowering. The Bobo
series and Indigo have longer-flowering shoots than Bluesylva but still make
nice plants in 4-inch containers. Compindi and Miro are short, ball-shaped
plants with heights of six inches, while Musik grows to a height of 10 inches.
Snowsylva and Rosylva are suitable to meet the demand for white and pink
forget-me-nots.

 

Propagation and early development

Germination takes 8-14 days at 68-72° F. Information on
light requirements for germination varies in the literature; we have had
excellent germination of uncovered seed under approximately 500 foot-candles
(fc) for 16 hours each day. A cold treatment or vernalization significantly
promotes or is unconditionally required for flowering in biennials and many
perennials. Most herbaceous perennials sense vernalization at temperatures
between 32 and 45° F. For low temperatures to be effective, plants need to
remain active; therefore, low light is required during vernalization. A
suggested level is 25-50 fc. The minimum required period of vernalization
varies from a few days to several weeks and depends on species, cultivar and
physiological age of the plant.

 

Cold treatment

Seeds of several cultivars (Bobo series, Indigo and
Victoria) were germinated, and seedlings Á were grown at 68° F,
approximately 500 fc (100 µmol m-2s-1) for 16 hours and fertilized from
the first true leaf stage with 100 ppm nitrogen from a complete fertilizer
containing micronutrients. The plants were transplanted into 4-inch pots filled
with a peat-lite medium. Six weeks after seeding, the temperature was dropped
to 42° F. Irradiance was 100-125 fc (20-30 µmol m-2s-1) for 16 hours daily.
To determine the vernalization requirement, plants were moved from 42° F
after three, six, nine or 12 weeks. Recommended environmental conditions
following the cold treatment are similar to those of pansy production. Plants
were, therefore, moved to 60° F, 16 hour day length and 750-800 fc (8.6 mol
day-1m-2). Increasing the fertilizer rate following the cold treatment to
150-200 ppm nitrogen is expected to be beneficial.

Time to flower and growth habit following the cold treatment
varied both within and among cultivars. General trends were, however, similar,
and flowers appeared faster after a longer cold period (see Figure 1, right).
Increasing the cold from 3-6 weeks reduced time to flower by approximately two
weeks. Another three weeks of chilling reduced flowering time by seven more
days, and 12 weeks of chilling, yet another seven days. On average, 21 days
were required at 60° F for the first flowers to appear after 12 weeks of
cold, and 49 days with three weeks of cold. These results suggest plants can be
kept at cold temperatures for long periods and forced for special occasions and
markets. Plants grown at 60° F without any chilling did not flower within
the seven months of the study.

 

Light during cold treatment

Recent studies with herbaceous perennials suggest a cold
treatment at higher irradiance will more efficiently induce flowers in some
species than the recommended 100-150 fc. Plants were grown at 42° F and 100
fc (one mol day-1m-2) or 900 fc (10 mol day-1m-2) during a 16-hour day. As a
comparison, plants were also grown at 60° F and 100 or 900 fc. After six
weeks, all plants were grown at 60° F and 900 fc until flowering.
Snowsylva, Rosylva and Bluesylva were included in this experiment.

Increasing the irradiance during the 42° F phase from
100 to 900 fc did not result in faster or more efficient flowering. Earliest
flowering at 60° F was observed for Snowsylva after 15 days following the
six weeks at 42° F and 100 fc. Bluesylva and Rosylva required 3-4 more days
to first open flower. For plants exposed to the higher irradiance during cold
treatment, flowering was delayed 8-10 days in all three cultivars. With the
exception of limited sporadic flowering, plants kept at 60° F and 100 or
900 fc did not flower.

The number of shoots and flowers was higher at 100 fc rather
than 900 fc during the cold treatment. Bluesylva and Snowsylva produced
approximately 30 and Rosylva 20 flowering branches per plant using the 100 fc
and 42° F environment. In contrast, the branch number decreased to 18 for
Bluesylva and 12 for Snowsylva and Rosylva when 42° F was combined with 900
fc. The flower cymes and stems, however, were sturdier, and the plants more
compact with higher irradiance during the low temperature exposure. Keeping
quality and duration of flowering may, therefore, vary depending on conditions
during the cold treatment.

 

Plant management

Pinching the top growing point to release apical dominance
induces branching and more flowering shoots. Since the effect of pinching
varies from one plant species to another, experiments are required to determine
proper timing, procedure and scheduling. Forget-me-not Compindi and Musik were
pinched either immediately prior to or at the end of the 6-week exposure to
42° F. Time to flower and number of flowering shoots were recorded at long
days and 60° F following the cold treatment.

The number of branches per plant increased to between eight
and 12 with either a pinch prior to or at the end of the cold treatment.
Without a pinch, plants produced, on average, 3-4 flowering branches. Pinching
plants at the beginning or end of the 42° F exposure generally resulted in
faster flowering compared to intact plants. The faster flowering was
unexpected, as pinching is known to slow overall rate of growth and flowering
in most other plant species.

 

Conclusion

Initial studies on the opportunity to produce forget-me-not
as a flowering potted plant are promising. For best plant development and
flowering, day length, temperature and light condition following the cold
treatment still need to be evaluated. Consumer acceptance of locally produced
flowering potted forget-me-not has been overwhelming. The demand for special
occasions and the scarce availability suggest consumers are willing to pay a
premium price for flowering potted forget-me-not.

About The Author

Meriam Karlsson is professor of horticulture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She may be reached via phone at (907) 474-7005 or E-mail at ffmgk@uaf.edu.

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