Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Suppport the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 08, 2008

From: Wasco, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation
Title: Altering the flowering time of Phacelia tanacetifolia
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have been using Phacelia tanacetifolia as a forage plant in a 1 acre and 6 acre enclosure to mass rear the Blue Orchard Bee,(BOB), Osmia lignaria for use as a managed pollinator of almonds in California. I would like advice on how to advance flowering of the Phacelia so that it is in bloom roughly at the same time as almonds - mid February to mid March. There are two reasons for wanting to do this: 1) BOB's do better at the cooler temperatures prevailing when the almonds are in flower and 2)it means that populations reared on Phacelia are roughly in developmental synchrony with almond bees and thus can be processed at the same time. I hope you can help. Best wishes, Chris O'Toole

ANSWER:

Your question is reasonable, but it's largely outside the scope of our work.  

The flowering time of plants is often a complex function of the effects of weather, moisture, and night-length.  Depending on the species, some or all of these factors may play a role in flower bud initiation and development.  Greenhouse growers have for years taken advantage of these trigger mechanisms to artificially produce the conditions necessary to induce flowering at a desired time.  Christmas poinsettias, Christmas cactuses, Easter lilies and Valentine's Day bulbs are all plants that are induced to flower at a particular time by controlling temperature, soil moisture or night-length in a way to achieve the desired results.

Controlling environmental conditions in the field is another matter altogether.  In fact, the complexity and cost associated with such an endeavor seems too great to attempt.

However, it might be possible to approach the problem from another direction.  The flowering response of any plant species is at least partially hardwired in that species genetic code.  If you wish to induce Phacelia tanacetifolia to flower earlier, it might be possible to identify the earliest-flowering plants in a wild population, cross and re-cross those early-bloomers through several generation and thus develop a stable population of early-flowering plants.  Then again, that may not work.

The problem sounds like one that would make an excellent and potentially very beneficial scientific project for a graduate student.  You might talk to your county's Extension Service agent about who might be interested in organizing and conducting such an experiment there in California.

 

More Propagation Questions

Native bulbs for the northeastern U. S.
November 23, 2007 - What native bulbs could we plant in the Northeast? Can they only be planted in the fall as Dutch bulbs are?
view the full question and answer

Stubs of Texas Star Hibiscus in Abilene, TX
March 26, 2009 - We have cut back our outdoor Texas Star Hibiscus for 4 years and now have a large number of old stubs that the new growth must navigate around. Will it kill the plant if we dig up the old stubs? At so...
view the full question and answer

Lilies not blooming from Austin
May 03, 2013 - Last December 8, you published a letter in the Statesman that I had written to you regarding Rain Lilies, Oxblood Lilies, and Copper Lilies. The were sprouting in my garage in a bag. You recommended...
view the full question and answer

Grafting edible plums onto Cherry Laurel in Austin
May 18, 2010 - Grafting edible plums onto Cherry Laurel - possible? Insane? What? Could I do that? Could I graft, say, Green Gage Plum, or Mexican Plum, or Saturn Peach, on a Cherry Laurel and have any success? I ha...
view the full question and answer

Germination and propagation of bluebonnets
April 25, 2005 - I live in Austin. Last fall I spread a load of dirt on my lawn to provide soil contact for the 2 pounds of bluebonnet seeds I subsequently spread (this was in early November). The germination rate a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.