Update on Flowers On Time, a free greenhouse decision-support tool

Flowers On Time is software that assists greenhouse growers in estimating the effects of changing air temperatures on flowering timing for their crops.

As a grower of floriculture crops, you already know that air temperature has a tremendous effect on the speed at which a crop develops and flowers. Some recent research at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota, combined with input from the University of Florida, has led to the development of a decision-support tool called “Flowers On Time.”

According to Michigan State University Extension, this software is a guide only and should be used as a “second opinion” by growers. The tool takes into consideration that plants have a “base temperature,” or a low temperature below which they do not grow, and an “optimum temperature,” or a temperature at which a plant develops as fast as it can.

Plants with a low base temperature (39 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) can tolerate cool temperatures better than plants with a higher base temperature, i.e., pansy versus begonia as an example. Conversely, plants with a high base temperature (46 F or higher) need to be grown at warm temperatures; growing them cool will significantly delay flowering. Aas examples, celosia, salvia and vinca will be flower delayed if grown cool. Figure 1 shows crops that are either cold-tolerant or cold-sensitive.

Cold-tolerant graph
Figure 1. Cold-tolerant and–sensitive crops. Source: Erik Runkle, MSU

The software is simple to use and only requires you input the species or cultivar from a drop-down menu (65 plants), the standard production time in days from transplant to flowering, and your standard average growing temperature. The model then takes that information and provides you with a table and graph of the estimated days to flower at up to 6 F either above or below your “standard” production temperature. This information allows you to determine the impact of lowering your growing temperature to delay flowering or increasing it to shorten crop time.

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Flowers On Time

If you would like a copy of this free software, it is available at the Floriculture Research Alliance website. You will need to register to download the program, but it’s quick and there is no cost.

We hope it allows you to improve your crop production and flower them on time!

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