Pots vs. In Ground Culture

totototo@telus.net totototo@telus.net
Sat, 07 Oct 2006 10:35:34 PDT
On 7 Oct 06, at 14:51, Alberto Castillo wrote:

> ...growing [bulbs] in pots is a lot less satisfactory. Most of us
> are witness of the same results. BUT, what the post was all about
> from the beginning is that what makes pot culture insatisfactory is
> the bonsai effect produced by small pots. And that by using really
> big containers you can mimick free range conditions a lot. 

However, if you haven't room for BIG pots, there are still things you 
can do to ameliorate the situation.

Based on my own experience, I'd single out these:

1. Protecting the pots from direct sun that overheats the soil. A 
simple wooden frame as high as, or slightly higher than, the pots 
will provide more or less adequate shade.

2. Plunging the pots in a bed of sand. This is especially effective 
with terra cotta pots because their porosity allows the sand bed to 
buffer the moisture level. Overwater and the sand soaks it up; 
underwater and the sand provides a backup water supply. (It may be 
that capillary contact via the drainhole is more important than the 
porosity of the clay pot.) A plunge bed also keeps the soil cooler.

3. Fertilization. In a smallish pot, there is a limited amount of 
nutrition available. Once it is utilized by the bulbs or leached out 
by watering, your bulbs are starved, growing in too lean a mix. It 
doesn't take a lot of fertilizer to give good results. I once had a 
number of 4" (10 cm) clay pots holding crocus seedlings, all neatly 
plunged in a sand bed. They sat for years with no flowers. I finally 
fed them with a low-nitrogen soluble fertilizer, just once during 
active growth, and next spring the majority flowered for the first 

I'm not sure what time of  year I did this, but I have a dim 
recollection that it was in late summer, just as root growth starts.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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