Watering Coco Coir

GrowSis(9B Inland Empire,CA)June 13, 2012

Jodik says:

The coir might look dry on top, but down in the center of the pot, it could be quite moisture-laden! I have found it helpful to insert little wooden skewers carefully into the soil to about root level, and leave them there... I take them out and press them against my cheek to test for dampness... if they feel at all damp, I wait to water... but if the skewer comes out dry, it's time to water.

My coir is 4" deep in a closed pot. I put the skewer to the bottom of the pot. When I take it out how many inches of bone dry top "soil" should there be before it's time to water again? Is it 1", 2" or 4"? I just went 10 days without water and only 1" of the top was dry so am I supposed to water this direct sun pot once every two weeks or so to avoid over watering, really? And how much water for my 6" closed pot? I had been watering 1 1/2 cup or so once a week and my plant was fine but I'm now worried that was too much so I'm re-evaluating. I know what conventional wisdom says (water deep, not shallow) but that advice doesn't seem to apply to my situation.

Also how long should it be before I see new leaf growth in the summer time (first season outside)? My 18 month old Red Lion so far has only grown new leaves once a year. At potting and at dormancy end.

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I assume that by a closed pot you mean no drainage holes. If you have your bulb in a plastic or ceramic glazed pot with no drainage holes then you may have a problem with your bulbs ability to dry out properly and the roots won't be able to breath. Clay is best, put plastic is OK if the roots are able to dry out..of course the very best thing would be to plant directly in the ground.

I've had several bulbs that once outside for the summer they sulk for many weeks before sending up leaves..each bulb has it's own timetable..but this doesn't happen often. My two Misties are doing that currently..did nothing all blooming season inside, no leaves, no flowers and now outside and still doing nothing. The bulbs are still hard as a rock, so I guess they are just finicky but, Red Lion is a work horse and should be raring to grow...if it were mine, I'd re-pot as stated above..just my opinion though..good luck.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 9:13PM
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At the time I wrote that, I was experimenting with cocopeat, but I have found it to be very detrimental to healthy root formation and plant growth. I have abandoned using coco products of any kind, for a few different reasons.

First, they are not the "green" products they're touted to be, unless you already live where coconuts are produced. There's a large energy footprint involved in processing the material, and shipping it to various places around the globe.

Second, it's normally processed using seawater and other chemicals, I believe... and one must spend a good amount of time rinsing it free of anything harmful to plants.

Thirdly, it holds onto moisture at a higher rate than I'm happy with, and roots require an exchange of produced gases and fresh oxygen in order to maintain health.

I use a medium made from fir bark pieces, granite chips, turface, and coarse perlite... with all pieces comparable in size.

There is a very good article on mediums and water retention at the Container Gardening Forum, written by a professional called "tapla". I suggest you go there and do a search within the forum for "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention", and it will give you all the information you need to know about healthy roots, how soils work, the differences between growing in the ground and growing within containers, soil recipes, and so much more! In fact, it's so in demand that it has been re-posted over a dozen times after reaching the limit of 150 posts.

I don't have a direct link for it, but I know it will be easy for you to locate. The soil I use is called "Al's Gritty Mix", and there's another one dubbed the "511 Mix" which most people use for growing in large pots outdoors. I tweak my medium mixes depending on plant type, where it will be placed, how large or small the pot is, etc...

Everyone has differing opinions on the issue, and there are many variables to consider... but it helps very much to have a wide variety of information so you can make an informed decision on what to use.

I would absolutely change out the pot to one with good drainage... excellent drainage is key. This is one of the reasons I've abandoned coco products and moved toward a gritty, bonsai-like medium for growing in containers. It's much healthier for the roots, and plants can't be healthy without healthy roots.

While you're at the Container Gardening Forum, I would also suggest doing a little reading and looking around... there are many wonderfully informative threads and posts regarding using a grittier type of medium.

Keep in mind that the gardening industry is like any other... profit is the bottom line. So, what retailers sell is not necessarily what's best for your plants or bulbs. I wish someone had told me a lot more about container growing decades ago... but we simply have to accept that like anything else, there are tons of myths, old fashioned ideas that have nothing to do with plant health, and a lot of misinformation floating around. It took me a while, but after reading the article and doing a little more research on the side, I came to the conclusion that everything tapla said is supported by science, basic physics, and common sense.

What have you got to lose? :-) Give the article a read... and see if it doesn't make you think a little bit more about what you grow in. I learned a lot, myself, just through that one article, and it made me really want to learn more!

Hope this helps! :-)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 8:49AM
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GrowSis(9B Inland Empire,CA)

Thank you both so much for answering. I will do the research you suggest. In the meantime I will drill drainage holes in my pot.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 7:02PM
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GrowSis(9B Inland Empire,CA)

Decided pot change was best for now. Roots are healthy, not overgrown, and not disturbed. I will do the major renovation in the fall. So no food and no direct sun for a whole month (rats for winter bud), right? Or is that only true after pruning?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 8:51PM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

pruning?? please clarify!

PS...Hi Jodi...long time no "hear"!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 3:43PM
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Hey, Kristi! Hope everything is going well for all the bulb lovers!

Pruning? I don't do any pruning, either, so I'm a bit confused.

I think it's safe to say that there is not only a lot of misinformation floating around about growing in general, but also about growing Hippeastrum bulbs. We must remember that most of today's hybrids are prepped at the grower to be forced for Christmas, and are normally sold in the USA at that time.

One certainly can keep the forcing going so they have Christmas blooms, but a few of us have allowed our bulbs to revert back to their natural blooming schedule, according to nature. Bloom time will be spring to early summer, normally.

In fact, I have a beautiful red, a Red Pearl or Benfica... it might even be a Red Lion rendition with very deep red... I believe, sitting in the overhang of a garage, east-facing, getting ready to bloom as I write this.

I've got it potted in a rather large light colored plastic pot with plenty of good drainage holes. Since this one sits outdoors, I've potted it in my usual gritty mix, and I've added a handful of a light, airy professional potting mix... just to give it a bit more moisture retention.

Every fall, I check it for insects, add a small handful of systemic just to be sure, and bring it indoors before frost. It sits in a north window resting most of the winter. It might grow a leaf or two or three over winter, but doesn't do much of anything else. I keep it a bit drier.

In spring, I bring it outdoors and keep it in a dappled shady area until it can get used to the light of full sun, but even then, I carefully move it slowly closer to a sunny area. The leaves will burn otherwise.

The only cleanup I do is removing any dead leaves, and occasionally cleaning up the dried outer layers of papery husk that die, which helps keep any hiding places for bugs at a minimum. We call it general cleanup.

Whenever I buy a bulb kit from a local store, the first things I do are get rid of the coco coir disk that comes with the kit, and obtain a larger pot with drainage holes... preferably unglazed clay, but plastic will do.

How each grower approaches growing these particular bulbs will differ a bit according to their environment, climate, when they want blooms, what's available within their area, etc... in other words, no two micro-climates will be identical, so you really must learn a bit about the general keeping of healthy roots, and you want to learn a bit about Hippeastrum bulbs in general.

I have found that "Hipeastrum, the gardener's amaryllis" by Veronica Read is an excellent book to have. You can find it at Amazon. And then the articles I mentioned in the Container Gardening Forum. If you can read and obtain those sources, you'll be ahead of the growing game!

I'll try to post some photos as soon as I get them off my camera.

My best to everyone... it's been a hectic year... not to mention a very unusual one, weather and climate-wise!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:56AM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Jodi, be careful about using the systemics and then bringing the pots indoors. Very harmful to breath I would imagine. Most say don't use them in the GH (I can see you passing out...thunk).

That's all you would need!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 2:30PM
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GrowSis(9B Inland Empire,CA)

Re: Pruning the roots which I did not do.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 12:13AM
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GrowSis(9B Inland Empire,CA)

Thanks, Jodik for being so great. I know I have a few questions but don't feel obligated to answer them all personally. I just wanted to ask you about the Coco (answered) and the skewer. Best to you to.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 12:43AM
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I also made the same mistake when I was learning gardening facts. Its good that you are using Cocopeat in potting mix. It is really helpful in plant growth. And the tips given by dondeldux is great.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 3:10AM
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Can anyone identify this cybister type?

It is not one of the better known ones like Lima or La Paz.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 6:24AM
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