The Flower Trip – AutoPot at Plantasia

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With AutoPot it’s not just about fruit and veg. You can inject stunning colour into your life using a watering system to form fantastically flamboyant floral fancies. Transcendent blooms! An irrigation system’s capacity to get flowers right is a fact we’ve been itching to demonstrate for too long, until this summer at Plantasia. The secrets of our Oxfordshire R&D facility’s knockout flowers are frankly too good not to share. Now petal yourself down and read on – for tips galore!

Above: A snatch of the all-enveloping colour at Plantasia this summer

One literally couldn’t move for dramatic colour at Plantasia this summer. At every turn the eye was met by mountainous ranges of dahlias, chrysanthemums, osteospermums, zinnias, rudbeckias, echinacea, and cleome spider flowers – to name just a select few. However, with all that dramatic colour comes equally dramatic, finely balanced requirements. It needn’t be difficult but you must start with the right substrate, a versatile feed that delivers, and a capable, responsive means of watering. Knowledge is flower, people!

Above: easy2grow modules providing all the responsive watering and adjustability the flowers need

Take dahlias for example, in a system you’ll be needing an ultra-free-draining substrate, something with 50% minimum of perlite or similar. It mustn’t get soggy and it mustn’t dry out. The roots want deep watering on a regular basis, to the extent that hand watering may prove ineffective. But they don’t want water to excess or else the tubers, which are delicate in their sprouting infancy, will rot. On top of which you’ve got to very careful with water anywhere near the stalks or foliage, especially once the plant is in bloom. 

Above: Dahlias are most particular about watering, Plantasia pulled these off with aplomb in AutoPot Watering Systems

In these respects the 1Pot XL and Auto3 XL modules, as used by Plantasia, proved ideal in that they provide the roots with ready, on-demand access to water and nutrient solution from the module tray below. At 25 L / 6.6 gal the pot is a sufficiently large container in which to grow such expansive plants. With the module meeting all the plants basic needs it was just down to Ben and the team at Plantasia to tweak feeds and conditions. In the past we’ve found that dahlias prosper with an EC of 1.8-2.2 and a pH of 6.3-6.5. A close eye has to be kept on humidity which can be a critical factor, experience has shown that beyond 45-50% the plants really start to struggle.

Above: Named after Roald Dahl’s ears (possibly) these whomping great plants require a decent-sized pot if grown in a watering system 1Pot XL is happy to oblige

Keeping ‘mums can be a similarly high wire act. Although a little more adaptable to a variety of substrates, chrysanthemums also appreciate a free-draining mix. Equal moisture throughout the substrate is important, as is space. Despite their unassuming size when planted, chrysanthemums will want to spread out plenty as they grow. Being modular, the easy2grow, 1Pot XL and Auto8 systems Plantasia used for these plants could easily have a pot, or a complete module, removed or repositioned with ease. Layouts can be adjusted with zero disturbance to the rest of the system because AutoPots do not recirculate or require drainage plumbing. 

Above: Plantasia’s secret weapon with these subtle beauties? 1Pot XL! But shhh! Chrysanthe-mum’s the word!

Zinnias, osteospermums, rudbeckias, and echinacea all enjoy a bit of space too, so modular adjustability was equally important for them. In fact it’s essential to ensure that, as they grow, there’s sufficient air circulation to reduce the chance of powdery mildew spreading. A long-lasting splash of colour, the plants benefit from deadheading to stimulate a right nice bushy bloom. They’re not as thirsty as dahlias, especially when fully grown, but therein lies another benefit of a watering system that can cater to each plants individual needs. Because the AQUAvalves in the modules are plant controlled there’s no need to compromise with a watering regime or revert to hand-watering anywhere.

Above: A sublime incline – rudbeckias, zinnias, osteospermums, and zinnias at Plantasia

The zinnias, osteospermums, rudbeckias, and echinacea all thrived on the same Mills feeds and substrates which were deployed across this years entire floral selection. A variety of pH levels was necessary in order to cater to the different plants needs. Yet this clearly proved no obstacle for the nutrients. Likewise, even the most substrate-sensitive plants such as dahlias flourished in the same Mills media used on more resilient beasts elsewhere in the greenhouse – beasts like the spectacular cleomes.

Above: Mills nutrients and substrates proved highly adept at catering to a broad spectrum of plant needs

Vivacious volleys of coral pink, the cleome spider flowers at Plantasia were understandably all the rage. Normally three to four feet high, the plants have taken the gardening world by storm in recent years, providing as they do an excellent focal point. That kind of average-sized thinking was never going to cut it where Ben’s greenhouse was concerned, yet no one really expected the nine and ten foot examples on show. Despite their astonishing appearance these really aren’t too fussy where conditions are concerned. Moderate, regular feeding and watering from their 1Pot modules allowed them to really take wing and soar to the ceiling, the lion’s share of maintenance being support for the stalks.

Above: Lit up like the fourth of July – cleome spider flowers take wing in 15L / 3.9 gal 1Pot modules

Even suggesting that you should expect great things from Plantasia in 2022 seems utterly redundant but, nonetheless, if you want your mind blown by horticulture you really need look no further. If you see them tagged in an Insta post or offering tips to growers then seriously, seriously get your heeding glasses on! Their advice has helped many a grower, rookie or advanced, to get the most out of their plants and their work in the greenhouse has been instrumental in AutoPot development. Huge thanks for having us down to gambol around SAS-style (in our minds) whilst getting our super snaps, we look forward to next year’s breathtaking blooms!

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