Soil and fertilizer requirements
It is very tempting to buy a 98-cent 2 sq ft bag of top soil in garden center, but it will definitely kill your expensive exotic plant. Tropical plants require a special soil for successful growing. In the Nature, most of them grow in conditions of rainforest, in a loose, porous medium contained of bark and light organic matter. This medium provides good drainage which is a must for healthy roots. In most cases you can use any GOOD potting mix you find in nearest Home Depot/Lowes/etc. By "good" we mean it has to be good peat-based soilless mix. Potting soil can't cost $1 for 30 lb bag. It's something wrong. Expect to pay $6-7 for Scott/MiracleGro/etc. names. General potting soil already has peat moss in it, so you can use is straight from the bag.
For our tropical plants, we prefer to use our own custom mix, made with professional components that you can't get from local retail garden center. TopTropicals professional potting mix is a very close substitute for natural medium. This is a soilless mix that includes also a professional kind of slow-release fertilizer with micro-elements (active for 3-4 months) and is ready to use. TopTropicals Potting mix available at our online store.
Never use heavy soils in pots. You don't need compost, manure, etc. in pots. The problem number one with tropical plants is overwatering and poor drainage, especially, when you use compost/manure.
|It's good to use a soil conditioner. It is a "soil improvement", a fine mix of bark pieces, peat moss, etc. You can mix it with peat moss and perlite (use real perlite, not styrofoam imitation) and vermiculite. We make our own mix for all plants that consists of soil conditioner, peat moss, perlite and special fertilizer. It works great.|
Sometimes you can get processional mixes, like pro-mix, metro-mix, etc. They are great too, however, they are usually expensive in retail quantity.
|Instead of peat-moss you can use GrowCoir
(coco-based fiber), which is superior to traditional peat moss. We use it
for our houseplants.
In pots, you should use Osmocote (or similar) slow-release fertilizer according to the manufacturer directions. Add it to the soil mix before you put plant in the pot. My advice is to use fertilizer with micro-elements. Tropicals need lots of iron. If you're going to put plants in a hot, sunny spot, you can increase dosage and use "shorter" fertilizer. When you get our plants you'll notice that we put a lot of fertilizer, which is OK in our hot and humid climate.
It's beneficial to use water-soluble fertilizer like Peters, Miracle-gro, etc. Especially, if you want to induce blooming. Spray foliage with fertilizer solution. The plants will love it. And it's better to use weaker solution more often than full blast once a month.
Of course, do not use liquid fertilizer right away after plants arrival. They need time to adjust after shipping to the new conditions.
Check with your local "advise center" about to fertilizing plants during winter. Do not overfertilize them, especially, when temperature is low (of course, you'll have to bring plants inside. They are tropicals and won't survive cold) - you can easily destroy root system.
And, again, do not overwater. Tropical plants like water but they hate having wet feet. That's why drainage is so important.
See also: planting in ground
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