Saturday, November 21, 2009

Propagation and Cloning of Phalaris Grass


Growing phalaris grass is easy enough for any grower to do successfully. Occasionally, people will have trouble getting grass seed to germinate right away, but here are some tips for getting the most phalaris grass growing as quickly as possible.

You can grow phalaris in clumps or in patches. For clumps, you will want to choose a large, deep pot. For patches, aluminum roasting pans work well. With each pan, you will be able to start a patch of phalaris grass larger then the area of the pan by creating plugs.

Phalaris basically only needs steady moisture to get going. While phalaris seeds can be germinated outdoors, you should be able to speed things up by starting indoors. Some outdoor grows seem to be halted because moisture control is tougher to accomplish. Diligent watering is required, which can be offset by strong sun or wind. Wind also has a tendency to blow your seeds away.

Start out by moistening all of your soil. Then press it flat without any significant compacting. Sow your phalaris seeds on the surface of the soil and press them into the moist soil so they can soak in the moisture more easily. You may cover your seeds with a thin dusting of soil, although we typically do not. We do recommend covering your soil with clear plastic wrap because it allows for better moisture control, which, as mentioned before, is the key to the quickest germination. In a side by side, comparison with phalaris brachystachys seeds, we found that a pot that we covered with clear plastic germinated 1-2 days more rapidly with a higher percentage than seeds in the pot that was not covered.

Once your phalaris seedlings begin growing, you should then sprinkle some loose soil in between each blade to provide support. You no longer need the plastic cover once you are sure most of your phalaris seeds have germinated. Allow your phalaris clumps or pans of seedlings to fill in thoroughly under artificial lights. You may also keep them outdoors in a shady area, but you must take care not to let the soil dry out. You will also have to worry about other seeds getting into the soil. In some cases, a screen may be helpful to keep them out. When growing phalaris grass, it is important to develop a good root system before any transplanting into the ground. While they are indoors your phalaris seedlings do not have to worry about competitors, and it is a good idea to give them a good foothold before introducing them to an environment where invaders exist.

When you are sure that your root system is well-developed, it is time to start your phalaris patch. If you only want clumps, your job is pretty much done by putting them in the ground. For patches, it is best to till the soil to loosen it and remove any competing weeds. Then, go ahead and divide up your tray in to a number of smaller clumps. A 4”x 4” clump should be suitable. Now, plant your phalaris plugs in your prepared area using a spacing approximately half the thickness of the clump. So, a four inch clump will be given two inches of space. Keep the area well-watered, being sure to remove any weeds or other grass species. The spaces in between your phalaris plugs will eventually fill in as the roots spread out, and you will have a large phalaris grass patch. You may then go on to separate clumps out from the patch and plant them in a similar manner to expedite the expansion of your patch even further.

This process is possible because phalaris grass rhizomes spread and send up new blades. Each phalaris seed has its own genetics, but every blade sent up from the root system of the same seed is part of the same phalaris plant. In a batch of phalaris grown from seed, you will have several different sets of genes mixed in from each of the different seeds. Now, let’s say you have a blade that grows especially fast or has unique coloration. If you isolate an individual blade, it will multiply so that every blade has the same code. You may then proceed to clone this grass by making plugs from the patch that develops using the method described above. The resulting patch will have phalaris grass blades that all have the same characteristics. The seeds of these blades may have similar genes, just like a parent has similar genes to his or her child, but they will still have some variation. Phalaris “Big Medicine” and “Yugo Red” are examples of reed canary grass specimens that have been reproduced by cloning. To have true specimens of these varieties, you must have gotten them as clones.

Nobody would say phalaris is hard to grow in the first place. But now you should be equipped to maximize your potential and create a patch that will be exactly as you want it to be, whether in terms of size shape or genetics.


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