Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sat, 31 Mar 2012 16:04:18 PDT
Ina wrote,
>I planted the Tecophilaea in a container in a mix of sand and pumice.
>How often should these be watered.  I like to go easy on the watering
>but how do I know when it needs watering?  It is not possible to check
>more than 1inch down.

This is always a problem when we grow bulbs in pots, especially if 
the pot is plastic (clay allows more room for error because of its 
permeability to moisture). A mixture of sand and pumice should hold 
moisture for some time  in the fines of the sand and in the pumice 
itself. I check my seed pots, which are plastic, by lifting them to 
feel the weight.

However, in regard to Tecophilaea, as long as the pot drains well, it 
can take frequent watering during its growth period from late winter 
to late spring (when, in nature, it receives snowmelt as well as 
rain), and then it can be left unirrigated until the next fall as 
long as it is plunged to the rim in something (e.g. sand) that will 
moderate its environment in terms of moisture and temperature. You 
should also top-dress the pot with some small pebbles or similar 
material to moderate moisture loss. Tecophilaea's storage organ is a 
corm with a white fibrous tunic that limits moisture loss very well.

I think too much anxious emphasis is sometimes placed on how to water 
bulbs. Many of them tolerate quite a range of moisture levels, as is 
obvious in the many kinds that are flowering now in my rock garden 
and even the saturated lawn, having been literally thrown there when 
I was putting in the new garden and had baskets of mixed bulbs 
salvaged from the plunge material in the old bulb frames. The main 
thing I feel is important is that those from Mediterranean climates 
should never be hot and wet at the same time. Plunging pots and deep 
planting help prevent both overheating and desiccation.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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