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Response of Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' with Various Root System Development
to Handling and Storage .
R.T. Poole and C.A. Conover'
p 3 0 1994
University of Florida, IFAS,
Central Florida Research and Education Center -l of Flo
CFREC-Apopka Research Report RH-92-12 lorid
Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' (corn plant), are among the foliage plants most
commonly found in commercial interiorscape designs; however, they seem to have more
maintenance problems than other foliage plants installed in comparable settings (3, 5). Some
industry experts indicate that the problems associated with corn plants may occur when plants
are sold with root systems too small to physically support the tops, and are unable to utilize
irrigation water fast enough to prevent over-watering when placed in interior environments
Current recommendations on level of medium moisture at shipping time state that
medium should be about 50 percent of container capacity (2). Some foliage plants are
damaged by high production and shipping air temperatures (1, 6), making air temperature
control a common factor during foliage plant production and shipping. However, in
loading/shipping areas, where plants may be held for several hours prior to being shipped,
air temperature may not be controlled. The following research was conducted to determine
the influence of root development, medium moisture level and loading/shipping area air
temperature during simulated shipping (storage).
Materials and Methods
This 3 x 2 x 2 factorial experiment, with 7 replications per treatment, was initiated on
13 June 1991, using 1 ft and 3 ft Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' cane growing in 10 inch
containers, two (one of each length) per pot. Corn plants were grown in a medium
composed of Florida sedge peat:pine bark:builders' sand (6:3:1 by volume), amended with 7
lbs dolomite and 1 Ib Micromax (Grace/Sierra Co., Milpitas, CA 95035)/yd3. Finished
plants from this group were selected for study based on root ball development using a scale
of 1 = 0 20% of root ball covered with healthy roots, 2 = 21 40% of root ball covered
with healthy roots, 3 = 41 60% of root ball covered with healthy roots, 4 = 61- 80% of
root ball covered with healthy roots and 5 = 81 100% of root ball covered with healthy
roots. On 13 June 1991, plants were carefully removed from their containers, inspected and
'Professor of Plant Physiology, and Center Director and Professor of Environmental
Horticulture, respectively, Central Florida Research and Education Center Apopka, 2807
Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703.
then quickly replaced after root grades were assigned to minimize medium/root ball
disturbance. Only plants receiving root grades from 2.5 to 5.0 were used in the following
Corn plants were grouped into 3 categories according to root grades. Category 1
comprised plants with root grades of 2.5 3.0, category 2 included plants with root grades of
3.5 4.0 and, on category 3 plants, roots were assigned grades of 4.5 5.0. All categories
were placed in a shadehouse under 70% shade where temperatures ranged from 70 to 95F
and overhead irrigation was performed 3 times/week. Growing medium was top-dressed
with 10 g/10 inch pot 19-6-12 Osmocote (Grace/Sierra Co., Milpitas CA 95035) 3 month
release rate fertilizer on 14 June 1991.
On 8 July 1991, half of the containerized plants included in this test were watered for
the final time before loading and storage treatments started. Three days later, on 11 July
1991, when loading and storage began, medium in these pots was moderately moist, the level
of moisture recommended when shipping foliage. The remaining plants were watered early
in the morning on 11 July, so that medium in these pots was saturated but foliage had time to
dry completely before plants were stored.
At 11:00 AM, on 11 July 1991, corn plants were moved from the shadehouse into
rooms where air temperature was maintained at either 85 or 110F. At 3:00 PM, after 4
hours in rooms, plants were placed in dark coolers, with no air exchange, maintained at
70F to simulate a shipping environment.
After 4 days of storage, corn plants were returned to the shadehouse under 75 % shade
where air temperatures ranged from 70F to 950F. Plants were graded based on a quality
scale of 1 = dead, 2 = poor quality, unsalable, 3 = fair quality, salable, 4 = good quality,
salable and 5 = excellent quality plant material, on 4 September 1991.
Results and Discussion
All corn plants were determined to be of excellent quality when graded on 4
September 1991. Corn plant quality in this test was not influenced by root development,
time of last watering before storage or air temperature during the 4 hours they spent in
rooms. These results agree with previous research by us showing medium moisture and
similar pre-shipment temperatures did not affect post-shipment plant quality grades of corn
1. Buck, L.T. and T.M Blessington. 1982. Postharvest effects of temperatures during
simulated transit on quality factors of two Ficus species. HortScience 17:817-819.
2. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1986. Shipping suggestions. Interior Landscape
3. Johnston, J. 1985. Handling mass cane. Interiorscape 4(4):18.
4. Hamilton, D.L. 1985. Foliage vs. roots. Interiorscape 4(5):34,41.
5. Morey, J., C. Morey and J. Johnston. 1987. The cane question: answered.
6. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1981. Influence of maximum air temperatures and
irrigation frequencies during high temperature periods on growth of four foliage
plants. HortScience 14:556-557.
7. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1987. Effect of environmental factors on
Dracaena 'Massangeana' during shipping. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 100:340-341.