Tecophilea repot/ pot size

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 26 Jul 2005 17:12:14 PDT
John Lonsdale wrote
>Flying in the face of expert advice I recommend under-potting bulbs, at
>least smaller bulbs of the 'alpine' persuasion.  I don't grow anything
>bigger than Muscari macrocarpum in a pot.  I standardize in 2 1/2", 3 1/2"
>or 4 1/2" square Kordlok pots, or bigger round pots if necessary, the latter
>adding extra width but not much extra depth.  All are plastic.  Everything
>goes into a mix of 50% perlite, 50% BioComp BC5. ... I'm
>always mortified when I see the size of Jane's pots - so she can tell us how
>her system works so well for her.

There are a lot of differences between John's style of growing and mine; as 
he notes, I use clay pots from 4 inches diameter up to 10 inches, and also 
some larger plastic mesh bins about 12 inches square and deep. These pots 
are plunged to the rim in plain sharp sand in frames, and I feel the mesh 
ones in particular offer an environment not very different from growing in 
the open ground. This is reinforced by the fact that my potting soil is 
totally different from John's: 50% sharp, coarse sand from a mountain river 
at some elevation, 25% ground horticultural pumice with fines, and 25% 
sieved forest loam. In other words, nearly a scree mix. I'm sure the pumice 
has a lot to do with it and apologize in advance to everybody who can't get 
it in the quantities we use it here (I just ordered 12 cubic yards to be 
delivered next week, which should last me at least 3 years). I think that 
John has to water more than I do, because my frames draw up groundwater in 
a normal winter and I may not take out the hose for 3 or 4 months, even 
though the plants are all covered. We both use liquid fertilizer delivered 
through an in-line tank system, but I believe I apply it less often. Also, 
I repot only every other year; the collection is so large that that's all I 
can manage. By the time I empty a pot, the humus content of the soil 
appears greatly diminished.

As long as the nutrition is there, however, it shouldn't matter if the 
plants are restricted in space. One reason I use large pots is to get the 
depth, as John also suggests. Another is that I like to grow a lot of bulbs 
in one container to save space in the frames, and to produce an attractive 
flowering group. The English, with their plant shows, like to have very 
crowded pots--and so do I, but I also allow for increase because of the 
two-year cycle of potting.

I'm just beginning to repot the current year's bulbs and have extracted 
some Tecophilaea for the surplus list already.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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