What is Enough?
By MG Calla Victoria
Key West Tropical Forest Botanical Garden
How much soil is enough?
We hear so many different suggestions when it comes to planting, but what really is the bottom line? We are told that we should increase the pot size as our plant grows, however I have a friend who has a large Dieffenbachia seguine which has grown to over seven feet in height. It is so tall he has to stake it and tie it to keep it upright. One would assume this plant is in a very large pot; but oh contraire it is in a 12 inch diameter, 6 inches deep terracotta pot that is only half filled with soil, yet this is the largest dieffenbachia that I have ever seen.
While watching Garden Smart, one of my favorite gardening shows, the host visited the amazing Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. This garden is thick with lush healthy foliage, as you can see from the images in this article. Everything is flourishing, tall trees, dense shrubs, etc. I was in shock when the horticulturist there stated that everything was growing in only 6 inches of soil because the entire island sits on coral rock. So in spite of what we have heard, read, or been told, only six inches of soil seems to be more than enough soil for plants to flourish. As you can see from the image to the bottom right, a plant is growing in a gutter and we have all seen plants growing out of concrete.
How much care do plants require?
We try to create perfect environments for our plant material hoping that they will flourish and do well. Not remembering that before there was any of us, unless you were back in the garden with Adam and Eve, plants flourished happily on their own. Take a long road trip and you will notice wild flowing plants and lush tall trees lining every highway; and no one is tending to them but the heavens. My neighbor, who lives on the north side of my home, I call her "the non-gardener," she never waters or fertilizes anything, granted a lot of plants don't make it. However I have learned a lot from "the non-gardener." I have a purple crinum plant and it was not doing well. I notice a plant in "the non-gardener's'' yard near my fence, a plant with large green foiliage and it was blooming. I took a picture of the plant and posted it on one of my garden club's Facebook page asking for a plant ID. The non-gardener did not know what it was as it just volunteered in her garden. To my surprise it too was a crinum. So immediately I stopped watering my crinum and let God take care of it, and now it is doing great. Also the non-gardener planted a grapefruit tree near her back fence a year ago, she has never done anything else to that tree but now it has little baby grapefruits growing on it. So stop coddling your plants already, give them what they need according to the care tag instructions, add some time released fertilizer, mulch, make sure they get a good weekly drink of water, and let them be.
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Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!