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Re: [Aroid-l] commercial mixes- get real, learn how to grow!

  • Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] commercial mixes- get real, learn how to grow!
  • From: Ken Mosher ken@spatulacity.com
  • Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 23:08:30 -0500

Derek,

I thought maybe you were just in a bad mood! That happens to me all the time. I agree that too many choices in soil may be a bad thing if it leads to too much confusion. Not to besmirch the advice of anyone who's answered, because many of the answers have been as informational as I'd hoped, but I'm leaning toward one of the bark-based mixes. There is evidence from other northern growers that it doesn't cause the problems here that it apparently does in the south.

As for your friend who grew cacti in peat with no drainage - I don't doubt it. I've (mistakenly) grown cacti in all sorts of inappropriate soils and had them live for a long time. One guy on another list grew some cacti hydroponically just to prove a point! Like most genera, some Astrophytums are easy and some are hard. I've killed multiple asterias and capricorne. I don't know if I'll ever try them again, but I probably will just because I persist in believing I'm smarter than they are.

Why do I give repeated waterings to a dormant tuber? The answer to that question is too embarrassing for me to admit. All the gentle readers of this list are voicing their own version of the same thought...

These last couple of days of discussion have reminded me of a mini-lecture I gave last year about cactus soil during our club's annual sale. There were some novices sitting there with great hope in their eyes that I would import priceless wisdom unto them. There were also a couple of much more experienced growers from my club in attendance (for the chance to heckle me). I started the talk by saying that the longer I grew cacti the less I knew on the subject. I admitted that I couldn't possibly count the number of plants that I'd killed. Then I told them there was no answer to the question "what kind of soil should I use." Then I told them all about how their choice of mix depended on watering, pot size & shape, plastic vs clay, weather, growing on windowsill vs greenhouse, and of course the requirements of the species they were trying to grow, etc.

The great thing is that when I take all the excellent answers that have been posted in reply to my query and apply them to my conditions I think I have a good idea which direction I'm going to go. I hope there were some others who needed those answers, too, and benefitted as much as I did.

-Ken

Derek Burch wrote:
Ken,

Yes to all your points. I love the amount of slack that many of new mixes
give, and, of course, realize that there are times when you cannot observe
plant growth closely enough. But I don't think that 1000 choices are a
blessing, and that even ten for any one group of plants (i.e. ten for cactus
and succulents or ten for aroids) can cause confusion in the grower's mind.
I shoehorn all my terrestrial aroids and gingers into one mix, and do the
"detail" in the watering. Not with complete success - and I don't do
anything very rare or difficult. Remind me again, if I ever ask about
Astrophytum, that I should definitely stay away from the whole group.

On your specifics, though - I might ask what you are doing giving repeated
waterings to a corm that has not broken dormancy or pushed above the
surface? But let that snide comment go, I don't want to be get into a
slanging match with another grower.
One thing that did influence my thinking on this: many years ago when I
worked at Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the gardeners delighted in
growing cactus in bowls with no drainage, and in pure sphagnum moss.

So, on with the sharing - yes, it is a great group at aroid-l with only a
few snots like me to through a little grit into the bearings.

Derek
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