Soil Composition for Tropicals

gardennut1July 13, 2007

I'm planning on purchasing Lychee, Longan, Mango and Dragon Fruit.

Can anyone give me any ideas as to the soil composition of each plant? I got some info from Pine Island, but the soil composition they suggested was for all four plants (80% Canadian Peat, 10% Pine Bark, and 10% river sand) The mix seems kind of strange.

Please give me input as to what soil composition are best for the above four trees from your experience. Thanks.


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JW--i take it you will be growing these in containers as compared to outside?

I personally am a bit surprised that there is that much peat, as (sub)tropical soils often are sandier for excellent drainage and over time, leached cuz of all the rains. I understand the sand and bark, as it is more aerationa nd drainage while allowing nutrients in the peat. Peat unfortunately degrades and compacts comparatively fast (IMO) so repotting may be an ongoing reality.

Here in South FL, I have all you mentioned except the Dragon Fruit in the ground. And the soil is pretty much sand with a layer of organic matter on top 3-5 inches, then sand and hardpan under that. All three trees are prospering, and definitely enjoy a drier winter dormancy (no frosts here) with a wet soil when sun is intense in summer.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 11:17PM
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I'm in middle GA and have recently purchased similiar trees, I have asked for advice from many sources and get as many different answers on whether or not to plant in pots or in the ground....We DO get freezing temps, but not for very long...and usually for a few days in a row...where my trees were purchased, they said that EVERYTHING they sell is cold hardy to 10 degrees!! so if that is indeed true, they should be fine...(I'm still skeptical however)

according to the fact (if it truly is a fact) that these plants will handle some cold....then planting in pots vs the ground would really only have an impact on size, not so much on preservation of the trees? do you agree? I have 2 of each, guava and paypaya and a barbados cherry. any thoughts suggestions etc would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 12:36PM
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I think that nursery is telling you "hardy" meaning at best ROOT hardy. All but perhaps the longan will be hit by freezes and take the plant to the ground when temps even go down to the teens. The others are zone 10-11 plants, and even in coldest zone 9 these tropical trees will die to ground and if not too cold in winter will resprout from bases.

Now, if you create a microclimate in the areas these plants are may have success with rejuvenation from root crown in late spring.

All this depends on what you consider acceptable. If I lived in Zone 7 or 8 and wanted success with tropicals, I wouldn't like having my plants knocked back down to ground every winter (or having to warp them, heavily mulch them, etc. I'd only plant "hardy plants" that wouldn't burn the bracnhes and tips. That's like 1 step forward in summer, then 2 steps back to have it nailed back to roots and then just waterprouts next summer, etc.

Otherwise, keeping them in pots only allows you to bring them in over winter to a sunny cool spot (but not frosts ideally) and then sinkt he pots outside once acclimated again to full sun. Outdoors these plants will encounter bright enough conditions (as well as summer humidity) to give good growth and in time enoughf or flowering and perhaps setting fruit before you need to bring them in again in November up there?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:33PM
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oh, and in addition, your soils there are quite clayey, right?

Those trees' "hardiness" will be negatively affected by heavy slower-draining soils, especially in a cold rain or wet winter situation up there IMO.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:36PM
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I read somewhere that the longan prefers oolitic limestone which will help them grow better. SHould I purchase some limestone from stores and add them to the sand/bark.

Is there a way to make the longan/lychee dormant over the winter. This would probably help them with being brought indoors under a skylight.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 4:16PM
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I wouldn't get preoccupied with the limestone aspect. Miami-Dade county soils are like that, but in Palm Beach county (jsut to the north), we have sandy soils, and longans grow just fine.

Easiest way to induce a dormancy in a tropical plant is reduce watering (to create a dry season while the sun intensity and daylength drops).

You will have a fair amount of leaf drop regardless when you bring an outdoor plant in initially as the light is less and humidity is lower.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 6:26PM
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Longwood, have you heard of using a structure that can be easily errected and then taken down when not needed? would something like that work for my tropicals? I can easily put then into pots or the ground (well amended rich soil, not the clay stuff) and then use temporary as needed mini Greenhouse like coverings? would this work? I will also have them centrally located to an area where I'm hoping to build a new GH..but the problem I see is that if I have these 5 trees in pots, they may not all fit in my GH?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 9:16AM
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Of course it could work. It all depends on how much effort you are willing to do, and how large you are willing to build it and let your plants grow to, etc.

As you grow things in pots, you can bonsai them (by pruning roots annually as well as branches after flowering and fruit set and harvest).

Many people in colder parts of Florida will wrap their tender plants, mainly palms, in blankets or in plastic tents and then wrap or set Christmas lights on the trunk to elevate ambient temps within this "shelter" on nights forecasted to hit 32 or lower. Lots of work, but always doable to a certain level.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:33PM
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can you suggest a reasonable pot size? I really have no idea how big the roots will be to gauge what size pot to put them in. I dont want to go too big or else I wont be able to move them when I need to.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 6:48PM
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Share about the physical size of plants now--1 gal? 3 gal or 7 gal?

Inevitably, i think people choose to pull a pot out of the ground in the fall, and then they simply choose to plant it in ground at that point when it's too heavy/big to move in and out anymore. That's when they resort to more "unique" processes like wrapping or lights for heat, etc.

Initially I can tell you to up-size the pot only by 1-2" (in diameter). The biggest flop with potted plants is too much water, and if you do too large a pot too soon, your watering regime typically results in too much moisture in too much soil. Rot occurs.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:21PM
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