If growing tropical bulbs in containers outdoors in the summer is a bit of a challenge to you, you are not alone.
While the growing conditions for tropical bulbs or even forcing bulbs indoors require one set of rules, the growing conditions outdoors require yet another set of rules.
Everything from water to soil to fertilizer must be dealt with, and adjusted to fit your particular growing environment.
Growing any plant in a pot can provide a bit of a challenge, even for the most experienced grower, but it can successfully be accomplished with a bit of knowledge.
The Five Things You Must Do For Tropical Bulb Success
- Plant them in containers in well-drained soil.
- Provide adequate water during the growing season.
- Keep them warm and dry during dormancy.
- Apply a long-lasting time release fertilizer every spring and use a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
- Prune containerized plants as needed to ensure healthy leaves and flowers.
Use The Right Soil For Tropical Bulbs In Containers
Let´s begin by taking a look at the different choices available for soil.
While a heavier potting soil is great for holding water, what about those times of heavy rainfall?
Even with drainage holes in your container and the right size pot, potting soil tends to retain water and thus causes root rot and eventually will cause your bulb to rot, unless of course, you intend to cover or move your plant under these conditions.
For years, I preferred a soilless mix to grow my plants and bulbs in.
Not only does it allow the roots plenty of room to grow, but it also dries out fairly quickly, even with large amounts of rainfall.
The drawback to this type of mix is that you must water, sometimes daily.
Another favorite trick of mine was to mix 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 vermiculite, and 1/4 perlite and pot my plants up.
They did seem to fair ok, but I still preferred the soilless mix.
However I now make my own potting mix and adjust the ingredients to suit the type of plant I am growing.
This mix has worked great for cannas, bananas, elephant ears and more.
Here is what is in it:
- Peat moss – or seed starting mix depending on the quantity of soil I need.
- Fluval stratum
Your growing environment will also affect your plants and the amount of care that they need.
Tropical Plants Love To Be Watered
Let’s face it, tropical plants love water.
Plants grown in containers need more water than those grown in the ground.
While I do not water my tropical plants every day, I do try to water every other day.
Don’t stress this however because there have been times my tropical bulbs in containers did not get watered for a week.
While I do not recommend doing this on a regular basis, sometimes it’s just not possible to water every few days.
The good news is unless you have extreme heat, the tropical bulbs are going to be fine.
When I do water I fill the container clear to the top and then allow the water to drain through.
I repeat this process two more times for each container grown plant.
What this does is flush any excess fertilizer out of the soil, helps to get fresh water which contains oxygen to the plants roots and makes sure the soil is fully saturated.
Watering during the early morning hours is recommended.
Evening watering is not recommended because it can encourage disease.
Tropical Bulbs In Containers Need Fertilizer
Fertilizer is a necessity if you truly want enormous leaves and tropical plants.
In the ground, a plant can absorb many things, but in a pot it will quickly absorb its nutrients.
Rather you use a liquid fertilizer or a time released fertilizer is completely up to your preferences and the time you have to tend to each individual plant.
The best method is actually to use both a time release fertilizer and a liquid fertilizer.
While I prefer to use a liquid fertilizer just because I like to spend time with each plant, I have learned that adding a time release fertilizer to the soil actually gets better results.
The plants can take up the nutrients as they need them and not rely on me to provide just the right amount of fertilizer.
I do still like to use a liquid fertilizer as directed on the fertilizer label, though typically at half strength.
This way I can spray the fertilizer on the leaves of the plant which results in quicker absorption.
While there is a possibility I could over fertilize, paying attention to the plant and backing off on the liquid fertilizer if I see signs of fertilizer burn is my personal choice.
It is hard to know when the fertilizer in the soil is used up and while time release fertilizers do give a recommended date to reapply them, you still do not know if the plant has used the fertilizer up faster.
Move Your Tropical Bulbs In Containers Indoors And Outdoors
Although tropicals are known for surviving in hot, dry conditions, once you take them from their native environment into your own, you must adjust their care.
In the winter, most of us keep the same basic temperature in our houses, and of course, there is no wind………..but summer conditions include rain, wind, and sun, so we must condition the plants to stand up to these extremeties after they have been used to calm conditions.
Providing shelter in the first few weeks they are outdoors, or even providing stakes so that the plants cannot fall over works fairly well.
Another must is to keep an eye on them daily until you know just exactly which plant needs what when.
Another idea is to make sure the bulbs are just showing signs of life and then immediately move the containers outside or keep the bulbs dormant until you are ready to plant them in the container.
Many times bulbs will loose their initial leaves and have to re-grow them if they are moved from one condition to another during their growing period.
Sometimes it is just easier to allow the bulb to go dormant in the pot and store the whole thing over-winter.
I do remove any dead foliage and typically water a couple of times during the winter months when the bulbs are left in the container so the soil does not wick all the moisture out of the bulb and kill it.
Learning to grow tropical plants in pots can be very rewarding, and you will find once you have a routine down, very effortless.
Getting in the routine is the hardest part.
I know you will be glad you did once you try it though.