Do you do this to force flower and fruit production? Nurseries do

meyermike_1micha(5)July 2, 2010

I was at a local nursery yesterday and I was having a discussion about peat moss and plants bought root bound. Seems like every time I buy a new plant, it has to be transplanted because it is root bound, yet looks healthy and in many flowers..

In short, do you know what the owner told me.?

The reason why many nurseries keep their plants root bound is to force them to flower profusely as they do! It keeps them stressed and this causes them to produce fruit too. He even went as far as to tell me that my citrus won't produce half the amount they could unless they were kept in tight quarters! Same with gardenias, spider plants, desert roses, avocado, jasmines, and yada yada. He said my spiderplant that is just sending out babies in an undersized pot is doing this because it is in survival mode..No survival mode, no babies!

Hers is another.

He also said the reason why SOME people have success with flowering and fruit production is because peat moss gradually compacts putting stress on the roots, which in turn over a period of time, forces their plants to put out more flowers and fruit than those not stressed..

Mine seem to bedding just as good as those put out by nurseries, and they are not kept like this..

What are your ideas? Does anyone here agree with the reasoning and force theirs to flower too? What do you think about this? Many people wonder this.



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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

To me, this is like stressing a human to become sexually fertile as soon as possible, and then impregnating that human over and over.
It doesn't make sense to risk both the tree and the crop...just to have a couple extra lemons. I believe that this cultural practice -
whether animal or plant - leads a population to its demise.

I also think of this practice as sacrificing the Goose to have a Golden Egg.
Folly upon folly.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 10:34AM
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Good illustration
I am in agreement with you though. ThisI hope is going to be a great discusion, I think..Many different thoughts on this one..You should see the discusiions about this around here..

Seriously, my plants do just as well, if not better in a container with room to grow...You have seen pictures of my plants with lots of fruit and blooms.

You would be suprised at how many people believe what that owner said..Almost every one here at work this am thinks plants should be rootbound to get the best reults..Most think a plant without peatmoss mixes is a joke, until they see mine that is.
I use to think this too, until someone here showed me otherwise, and for that I my plants and I will always be greatful.
In fact, many that come here have felt or still feel this way about containerized plants..

Memebers are saying all over the clivia forums that clivias like to be in tight pots..Mine are not, and doing great.

It is still nice to see what many here think, even if many don't agree..I hope more join in, just for the sake of conversation..:-)

If plants could speak, I wonder what they would say?
I think we know...:-)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 11:18AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

This is simply a "control" issue. Do you control your plant, or does it control you?

I guess it all depends on your reason for growing whatever it is that you grow. You all know that the best coffee beans are grown in high mountains where they struggle to survive. Those beans cost us $$, and we buy them! Who wants wimpy tasteless coffee that comes from beans that have an easy life?

Stress can be accomplished in many ways. I don't like the circling root thing. I'd rather air prune (stress) the root, which is similar to pinching new growth on a branch to force it to put out side branches.

Most of my plants are in ground, and not in containers, but stress works the same with them.

You know I have a small vineyard both in ground and in container, and the stress is important, but I believe in "controlled" stress. I stress mine by controlling the water because less water at certain times during fruiting makes for richer, sweeter, more complex grapes.

I think if you are going to grow plants for food or beauty, it is up to you to "control" their growth and environment. Controlling pests, excessive growth by pruning. Please don't tell me pruning is NOT stressful!!

This reminds me of people who don't control their kids!! Just let em grow like weeds, and then they cry when the things murder somebody or are in jail for gang activities. A little "stress" applied to a kid, helps it grow into a decent, productive adult!

I believe that a little "stress," will not kill the plant, but, in fact, will make the plant happy to be productive, and it's owner happy with the results!!

As far as pests, I got no issue "stressing" them!! None at all!!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 11:39AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Good Morning
Good to see you guys!

Josh, so very well said!! I love it.

I'm here to learn how to give my babies the best. That means,the right conditions, room to grow, happy, healthy, and let them do as they please on their own time.

I'm not about to have one be root bound just to see some blooms,or to get fruit, or force a bulb, or any other ways, to make a plant do something it wasn't planning on doing. ;)

Mike, I haven't forgotten you! Alot going on here! along with computer problems. ;) I will write soon!

Have a great day guys!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 11:47AM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

Well, with orchids you do want them a little pot bound or they don't flower much. They do otherwise tend to put their energy into root production at the expense of flower spikes when they have room to expand.

I've always grown squash in the ground, but last year a stuck an extra start (that would otherwise have been tossed) into a window box and I was stunned at how productive it was.

So I guess it depends on what your goals are. With orchids I'm somewhere in between - keeping them healthy AND flowering. With squash, I don't mind stressing the plant for its short life if it will be more productive.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 11:57AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Some stress is assuredly good...!
Like exercise for the human body. But, as with exercise, there must be a recuperative period.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 1:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

For any who might have missed it:

Myth: This Plant Likes/Prefers to be Root-bound


Here is a link that might be useful: Myth: This Plant Likes/Prefers to be Root-bound

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 1:06PM
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I sort of did that "accidently". I started 4 zuchini seeds in half gallon flower pots thinking not all of them would germinate and then I would transplant just the best seedling to a new container.
Well, after babying the seedlings I could not bear to pull them up. I put the best of them in a large 10 gallon container and left the rest in the half gallon pots thinking nothing would grow.
I have had two zuchini from each of the ones in half gallon pots for every one from the one in the larger container.
The plants in the smaller containers look stressed. They have to be watered more then once a day but, they continue to produce quite well.

Since zuchini are short lived plants anyway-yes I will stress them a bit to get better immediate production.

I would not stress trees that I hope will live and produce for many years.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 1:48PM
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drudadunat(9b Tampa FL)

While I won't be deliberately stressing my plants, I agree with the premise of why they flower when they are stressed. The plant recognizes stress as something that may kill it, so it wants to reproduce as quickly as possible in the greatest quantity possible.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 6:56PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

drudadunat, WELL SAID! And not only does the greatest quantity result, so does the quality! Here is a link to a vineyard in Australia. The video is in very easy to understand chart form, that shows the 3 phases of life, and explains why they stress their vines. This is for in ground plants, and not containers, so surely the stress would need to be modified for container growing. I think it is more like "managed" stress. Do they hate their vines? NO!!

With me, my fruit trees, and grape vines are my children, and as with my children, they do not get to do as they please. They get what is best for them, and in return they are healthy and productive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mollydooker Irrigation Model

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 10:52AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

But remember, "what's best for them" (plants), might not be to produce the "greatest quantity."

That's the entire premise of this Thread.
There is a balance between Grower Convenience and what's *actually* best for the plants.

I think we need to keep that in the fore of our discussion.
Enthusiasm and good intentions aren't necessarily enough to keep plants healthy. :-)
And, as growers, if we decide to sacrifice a bit of health for wealth, we ought to be
clear that we have made that decision - for the sake of other growers who might seek
to emulate our methods (without the benefit of our experience).


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 11:16AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Well said Josh.. :)


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 12:50PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks, JoJo!
You must be sweltering over there in Arizona!
Plant (and person!) stress is virtually a given in desert environs...! ;)


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 12:55PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hi Josh,
Were warm, that's for sure.! about 105 today.. LOL!
Humidity is kicking up as monsoons are growing.

We manage pretty good though. And protect our plants as best we can.

Have a great day!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 1:20PM
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In many ways humans respond in a similar way to this discussion about plants. After disasters like hurricanes and terrorist attacks, people often started paring off and getting married at a higher rate. Research showed this to happen following Hurricane Hugo hitting South Carolina in 1989. It seems that when humans feel their survival threatened, we often increase our reproductive behaviors. Following the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, doctors in New York observed a significant increase in the miscarriage rates among their patients. While marriage rates often increase following disasters, so do the rates of divorce and miscarriage.

Similarly in plants, when they are stressed to the edge of survival, they often begin blooming more prolifically, even if this increased bloom activity may hasten the demise of the plant. As for me and my plants, I try to keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible. This may result in fewer flowers and/or fruit in the short run, but in the long run I hope to reap the benefits of repeat harvests.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 3:12PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

gtippitt, I agree. It's not rocket science! It's biology!

But stress a little and then relieve, will achieve both ends. high production, and a happy plant!

This thread was originally about plants being root bound to create stress and thus make the plant bloom. I am not sure that that this will help a plant, and I have said many times, air pruning will stop root boundness, and encourage side branching, thus encouraging more roots to absorb nutrients.

I still say, and I'll stick by it! Managed stress will get you what you want. No stress will have you whining over here because your plant doesn't bloom or fruit.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:00PM
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Hi everyone....

Suzi, you said you manage the stress you give your plants right?

When do you say it is time to stop stressing your plants? This is hard to do for many if not most, before they die, or are overworked andvitality is compromised..In fact, many that buy their plants new, tend to not repot and loose their plants to a host of problems in the meantime, hoping for the same harvest they had when it was first bought, or repot, and never get thier plants looking like it was the day they bought it anyway..

I don't thin many are willing to take the risk of loosing a plant due to undue stress, and are willing to sacrifice a few flowers and fruit for an overall healthy and vibrant plant..
Some do, as I have been reading, and that is free will I they know when to step in and stop the stress process is beyond me.. If my uncle had stopped putting undue stress on his knees as he was warned, he'd be walking today..My other uncle was putting undue stress upon himself, and I no longer have him today due to a heart attack..
It is interesting though, to see what others feel about this, their viewpoints, and how they treat their plants..

My plants produce lot's of fruit and flower even when their is room for root growth...I have Clivia that are producing flowers for me in which many said couldn't happen unless root bound, and citrus in full flower and fruit with lot's of fruit in roomy pots..The difference is, they are not dying on me after a year or so from putting unneeded stress upon them to produce what they already do for me, as many, including nursery owners have said I should do..I was even told at the citrus forum that unless I kept my citrus in tight pots, I could forget about fruit..

Just a few pictures to show that is not true.Plants do not have to be pot bound to get good results in my case anyway..They are all planted in a loose airy mix also, devoid of almost any peat, peat being only a fraction of some of these..

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:58PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

OK! You have a special touch!! Any plant in a container is experiencing stress!! You seem to feed the stress well, as do I. Your plants look great in their plastic containers. Would you want to live in a plastic world?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 5:16PM
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You almost got

But the whole thread is only about compacted roots due to peat, and roots being root bound, that is all..


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 6:17PM
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Suzi, just to clarify even further. This thread I started is about roots stressed from compaction due to peat moss, and stress caused from plants being forced to be root bound, in order to force flower and fruit production...I hope I m not causing a stir in you, I apologize if so. :-). I enjoy this conversation with you and everyone..

We all know what I am talking about right? Just because many will use" these two" methods to force their plants to bend the way they want, doesn't make them bad people. In fact this is what I always use to do..But what I am saying is that one "does not" have to do so to attain great results...

Great discussion and different views are always appreciated..Have a great 4th and hot one at that, if you are getting my weather everyone..

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 6:29PM
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I think in part it comes down to goals for each plant.
My zuchini are only going to live another month or two anyway. I am leaving them in very stressfull conditions seeking the highest possible yeilds-not the healthiest longest lived plants-possible.

I also have container blueberries (tophat) and a mini orange those I will be much more careful of and will stress much less. I want them to have many productive years. Different goals yeild different treatment.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 9:25PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

I think the main reason nurseries use a peat-based mix is to reduce weight for shipping.

There's very little nutrient value in peat but it makes a great blotter for holding quantities of force-fed nutrients in an environment that bears little similarity either with a garden or with a home.

If you are just buying 'colour spots' as some sort of living bouquet then the fact that the plant will become root-bound, run out of nutrients, become excessively thirsty, doesn't really matter to many because it was only ever intended to be temporary.

As soon as I buy anything that's not a Sarracenia, planted up in peat, it is taken out and shifted to what is, for me, a 'regular' potting mix - one based on composted bark with the addition of pumice or quartz chips to increase drainage.

I'll do this even with plants I intend for the garden because if the peat dries out it is extremely hard to rehydrate and the plant can drought to death in the midst of plenty. Too, it seems to encourage wicking if any of it is left above the soil.

I prefer my plants to be sturdy to stand up to my climate (windy and wet - often). I don't want juicy and vulnerable. I do want a very active root mass for anchorage and food foraging. Peat doesn't doesn't do that once a plant is older, in my experience.

Plants grown in a gardening environment are usually going to be treated 'unnaturally'. They'll be watered when it's dry and fed to produce more than would be 'natural' and pruned to balance production with replacement and renewal. 'Civilizing', I suppose.

I agree on the Citrus and the Clivias. They're both inground items in this zone and, guess what, their roots roam - with no diminishing of their productivity.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 10:42PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

You almost got

But the whole thread is only about compacted roots due to peat, and roots being root bound, that is all..


Mikey!! I think you need to control everything!! You can not control me because you do not have permission, but the plants should listen to you!! Don't you think? Now, how about your recipe for the dry rub for ribs on the BBQ

Take care!


    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 12:16AM
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meyermike your plants are beautiful. The foliage from the top to the bottom is uniform in color and leaf size. A true sign of consistent nutrient and water availability, and an indication of a healthy root. Much citrus and clivia are container grown here as both are on the edge of winter hardiness. I regularly see citrus with much fruit on plants suffering from malnutrition, the fruit dry and runty. The owners are quick to point out the number of fruits, overlooking the quality. The sparse foliage with the yellow color rather than green are assumed, by them, to be normal for citrus.
Vetivert8 as usual I agree with you and your view regarding the use of peat. This has been an interesting thread with useful comments from many. Al

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 9:37AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Yes Al,
Mike does have beautiful plants. :) I keep threatening to take a trip and steal them all. ;)

You've mades some great points Al. I've tasted citrus from tress like you say. Dry and awful!

As Josh said.."It doesn't make sense to risk both the tree and the crop...just to have a couple extra lemons" ;)

I think Mikes "Special Touch" that desertdance made a comment about, is that he's learned well from many here and knows how to give his plants the very best!

I have several fruit trees in containers this season, and will have citrus soon too.
I would much rather they be healthy and beautiful, than a big harvest.

all my plants for that matter...

""No stress will have you whining over here because your plant doesn't bloom or fruit.


No, I don't think it will. We choose not to stress plants for the sake of harvest or flowers, and know it could take longer to get them.

"You can not control me because you do not have permission, ""

Something tells me Mike's got better things to do.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 10:25AM
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I wound up here because I was trying to find out how/why nurseries force their plants to bloom so early. I enjoyed watching the mollydooker vineyard irrigation vid.

Anyway I bought this little salvia black and blue plant and its not very big at all in a little4" pot its maybe 3" tall but compact, but it is blooming its little ass off. At least now I no why. Of course most plants people get this size will be rootbound from nurseries. I guess I will soon be unstressing it and production will slow down and it can start getting its true growth in.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:07PM
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I did understand that rootbound plants were stressed. I understand that people in general do not buy plants without flowers. That's why they cover bagged bare root stocks in brightly retouched photo-labels.

The younger plants always make the better transplants. When shopping, I'll find the colors I want in the flowers, then pick through the flats, turning them over to check for roots at the bottom. If I can see them, I put it back. If the plant is leggy or floppy, I put it back and if the plant is flowering already i put it back. If the soil is dry. I put it back.

I want my plants stocky, young, moist and plain. Yes it's more expensive to shop this way. It means won't get the cheap "six packs" where one or more are guaranteed to languish. But in the end it's worth it.

Flowering plants quickly spend all their resources in the garden centers. I'm not sure about the more specialty centers, but I know that plants are not getting fertilizers at the big box store. So the flowering plant people take home is likely starving and thirsty as well as stressed.

The two annual red-leaved begonias I purchased from Meijer on the other hand had no flowers and were tiny things when I bought them. With the 5-1-1 mix, an ideal location and constant watering and fertilizing, they've more than doubled in size in a mere few weeks and are full of buds.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:06PM
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