Is it Really Possible to Stop Plants from Growing ?  

A Good Example of Growth regulation in Annual Flowers
unregulated on the left, well regulated on the right

The answer is "not really". It is possible to slow down plant growth in the case of many ornamental plants, but to completely stop plant growth is almost impossible. We hear a lot about the term "growth regulators", without which many millions of commercial plants would grow too tall and too rank to be worth selling. Millions of annual plants, Poinsettias, Chrysanthemums , and even flowering hedges are routinely treated with growth regulators to "slow down" their growth to make the plants fuller and denser.

Many Hibiscus sold in retail markets are treated this way, and the results are amazing; the plants are full and compact, with a gorgeous deep malachite-green color, and lots of flowers on a small plant. If you look closely at the stems, however, you would notice that the leaves are almost stacked on top of each other, with a very short internode space between leaves. When the growth regulation chemical wears off, the plants will grow with their normal speed and size. This effect happens with all regulated plants, and the difference can be striking, especially in a bed of annual flowers when the chemical wears off, where the plants may grow at different speeds throughout the bed, yielding some almost comical results of dwarfs-and-giants next to each other.     

A Growth-Regulated Hibiscus,
Ready for Retail Sale
 Plant growth regulators, abbreviated as PGRs, have distinct and predictable properties. The consistent application of these products to the plant surfaces, as well as the timing of the application, are key to producing a well-regulated plant crop. The products are generally not used in landscape scenarios, and rarely available for consumer usage. The products are expensive in many instances, and if incorrectly used could result in stunted and disfigured plants. Several commercial growers, as well as an increasing number of landscapers have found that using too much PGR or too often can lead to disastrous results in some very expensive plantings. as with any chemical, the right product for the right purpose applied at the right rate will have the desired effects.

One of the Most Popular PGR Products

There are PGRs for turf grass culture, especially useful in the golf industry, where height control on golf turf is important. Some of the PGRs can cost $ 500 per gallon or more. In the landscape industry, some companies are seeing the benefits of using PGRs to slow down the unruly growth of some hedges, especially Hibiscus and Ixora. In the right scenario, such products save a lot of trimming costs. For homeowners, the main thing to remember is that some flowering plants purchased at landscape nurseries and retail outlets look "better than reality". This is what I call the Cosmopolitan effect: the person you see on the cover of the magazine doesn't look like that in reality. The plant you purchased will never look as good as the day you purchased it, but will grow into a healthy "normal" plant once the chemistry wears off. This is a good case for "Buyer Beware", but in these instances, there are no hazards or hidden problems with PGR plants, just expect that like kids and baby animals, they'll grow up.      

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