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What are Plant Growth Regulators (PGR's)?
Short and Sweet ...

Plant Growth Regulators are chemicals that can inhibit the growth of plants so they look nice and chubby on the sales bench at Garden Centers.  Some control height, some control branching, some control bloom time and some control other things but we're primarily discussing those here that keep plants short and tight.

Well, looking good and tight and chubby doesn't sound so bad.  Is it?

Yup, it sure is!

"Thank you so much for the article on PGR's. I have posted it on our Facebook page. We have been preaching on the misuse of these chemicals for several years now and trying to educate the public about how ubiquitous they are. I'm so pleased to find someone that grows plants properly. I gave you a plug on our page, thank you for what you do."

8/1/13  Staff High Performance Flowers on Facebook

"This is the best and most comprehensive explanation of plant growth regulators that I have ever seen. Buying plants at a garden center or a large retail chain will be certain to have chemical additives applied. We (High Performance Flowers) will never use them on our plants and we believe that separates us from our competition. Thank you Lazy S's Farm Nursery!"

These chemicals (like Alar that was pulled off the market for use on food crops because it showed up in the Apples our children were eating!) can remain in the plants for years and years and often the plants don't grow properly.  Many are not good for the environment.  I've never known a pair of scissors that hurt the environment!  It's easy to over-apply or apply the wrong product (there are hundreds to choose from) -- see link below for the problems that can result.

Pruning/cutting plants back with pruners and scissors, the way we do it, is slow, time consuming, and occasionally leaves plants looking a bit scalped and/or naked BUT it's the healthy, right way to grow plants.  They grow back tighter and compact but their overall ultimate size and growth habit hasn't been altered the way it can be with Plant Growth Regulators.  It may mean, especially in summer, that our plants have been cut back -- possibly very hard.  If your plants arrive that way, embrace them -- they're living proof the plant has been cut back in a way that assures it's long term health and growth!  Not sprayed with some chemical!

I'm sure there are probably acceptable PGR's if used properly.  Surely there must be because they are used Industry Wide.  It is the rare grower that doesn't use them (so folks have come to expect tight little stocky plants and often find ours 'leggy') but when you look at this page from North Carolina State University and look at the problems that can result from their use or misuse, you're not going to talk us into to even considering their use purely for keeping plants compact!  We're happy with our scissors and pruners and letting plants bloom when they want even if it's earlier in the greenhouse and the customer doesn't get to see them this year.  And our plants are happy about this too!

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/floriculture/Rx/PGR%20Overdose%20Guide.pdf

You can pretty much assume that unless you're buying from a Nursery that grows and sells it's own plants (not a Garden Center -- please differentiate - Garden Centers just sell plants) , that you're getting plants sprayed with PGR's.  And there are very few of us anymore -- true Nurseries that grow and sell their own plants direct to the public!  Mass producing is just easier and cheaper, so there are businesses that just grow plants and businesses that just sell them.  Very few of us old timers that grow the healthy, old-fashioned way and then sell those plants direct to you.

"The use of PGR's in modern horticulture is well established. Indeed certain fields of horticulture such as asexual propagation are heavily dependent on the use of synthetic PGR's. However "chemicals" and chemical use are being received less favorably by the consuming public, particularly if these "chemicals" were used to produce, or are present, on a commodity they plan to consume!"

International Society for Horticulture

 

Why have I never heard of Plant Growth Regulators before?

 

I was surprised to even read the above quote in print!  ("being received less favorably by the consuming public")

Think about who is actually going to know and complain about this:

     1.  Not the companies producing the chemicals

     2.  Not the growers using the chemicals

     3.  Not the public as a whole because they don't even know about them!

     4.  That leaves food consumers -- and, even then, a small percentage of those people who are into Organic Food and/or at least into healthy food without chemicals.  If it weren't for them (and of course, now us on this page) you wouldn't know anything about PGR's!   There ARE groups concerned about PGR's sprayed on FOOD crops.  But how about non-food crops?

 

I can't find anyone with a quick Google search who seems to be concerned about having them sprayed on non-edible plants but WE are and just aren't going to use them.  If for no other reason than potential environmental impact.   We don't want them leaching into the creek behind our greenhouses and into the water table where are well water comes from!  We're not going to eat the trees in our greenhouses, of course, but we are going to drink our well water and we want the creek water down stream from us to be un-contaminated.  Your child may be playing in it!   Your dog may be drinking it!  Ours sure do!

 

To our knowledge, there is no benefit to the plant in using PGR's to reduce height and promote branching.   So we're sticking with scissors and pruners!  We hope when you get a plant that looks a little naked or a little awkward in shape from pruning or clearly even just  'pruned' back that you appreciate our decision to grow old-fashioned, healthy plants and control height and promote bushiness with scissors and pruners and not PGR's. 

 

AND ALSO... Early in the season, if a plant looks leggy to you (like some Geraniums and other plants do) just like a new born colt -- that doesn't mean it's weak -- leggy and weak aren't synonymous -- it's just a normal growth phase in the life of a healthy living thing, especially when growing tightly packed in a greenhouse, 'elbow-to-elbow' with their neighbors so there's nowhere to go but up! 

 

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Lazy S'S Farm Nursery

2360 Spotswood Trail, Barboursville, VA  22923   

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