May 22, 2008

Well Drained, Rich Soil: What Does It Mean???

The majority of plants we sell do best in well drained rich soil. Although many experienced tropical gardeners are aware of this there are a few that are unsure as to what it means. This article is intended to enlighten our customers on how to get the best results with our plants.
As a general rule most heliconias and gingers originate from tropical rainforests. These rainforest soils are generally teaming with life and rich in organic matter and nutrients in the form of leaf mulch and decaying vegetation. Heliconias and gingers are quite literally built for top feeding with their shallow root systems from these rich soils. Although they can be grown in a range of conditions,the closer you can come to duplicating these soil conditions the better your results will be. There are a few things that can impact negatively on growth and flowering. Lack of water and humidity is one of them. Poor drainage is another.Torch gingers and a few heliconias like Standleyii will thrive in poor drainage but for the most part good drainage is a necessity.
Practically speaking, if you have sandy soil you'll find that by adding organic matter, watering regularly, mulching and fertilizing a few times a year(spring and summer) that your plants will do best. In heavy clay soils you'll need to add gypsum and lime to break up your clay (which increases drainage) and raise your PH (which will help make nutrients more available to your plants)
When in doubt MULCH!!! You can never underestimate the value of good preparation when creating your tropical garden. Like the saying goes, there's no point in putting a twenty dollar plant in a twenty cent hole.
Happy Gardening!

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