Alberto Castillo
Fri, 25 Apr 2003 11:14:24 PDT
Dear Mary Sue:
                          The images of Tropaeolums in the wiki are 
                          Ernie’s comments are no doubt from experience as 
Tropaeolums like Alstroemerias and Rhodophialas and a number of other genera 
are frantic for great depth for their tubers.  Propagation is only from seed 
as they are impossible to dig whole. On the plus side, they can not be 
plundered by “modern day plant explorers”!. Once the seed germinates as the 
small tuber starts to develop it searches for the bottom of the container 
and when it reaches it it starts to fatten and develop. And every year it 
does the same, going deeper and deeper. They are not really plants for small 
containers particularly the group you are interested in : incissum, 
polyphyllum and others. These come from the foothills and mountains in the 
Andes of Patagonia and S. Chile. They are really plants for cool climates 
and although in summer when the plants are in full growth day temperatures 
can be hot at night they are pretty cool. Yes, they spend the long winter 
under snow so are really only half hardy. When the spring is well advanced  
and with the defrost they start growing. Besides the profuse flowering 
mostly in shades of ochrish yellow, it is the greyish foliage that makes 
them very attractive. Their climate is not really rainy but quite dry, hence 
their grey leaves.  In autum they go dormant as temperatures descend.
Ernie mentions their second important demand: a proper mix. In the wild they 
are invariably  found in screes on slopes. This group is only really 
suitable for cool climates and where their long dry winter dormancy could be 
respected. Under such conditions they are not difficult. I imagine Jane or 
John L. could grow them well under “gladiolus culture”. The tubers of all 
species of Tropaeolums are extremely brittle and if damaged will rot and 
die. And, they can not be stored without a covering of peat, soil,dry sand, 
etc. as they dessicate rapidly in the air.
Of course it must not be watered while dormant in winter and not given 
warmth there. Just frost free conditions would be adequate.

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