Mandrake with gritty mix?

pumilusAugust 26, 2011

Hello, I just joined after finding out the gritty mix and I'm wondering about a proper mix for my mandrake plant as the peat has already compacted considerably and I'm worried about my plant.

Yesterday I checked it's roots and while it's growing, the root structure seems undeveloped with almost cero little strands of roots shooting radialy from the two main roots.

I have found mixed opinions on what type of susbtrate is ideal for the mandrake. They all agree that this plant does not like gravel in it's soil though which reminds me of another plant that a friend gave me a week ago, it's growing on a sand-clay like soil (I have found info stating that mandrake likes a more sandy substrate but I'm doubting it needs it), I'm not sure if it was uprooted from the wild, but I'd bet it was, this other plant is commonly called huevos de toro (bull's balls, but it sure looks more like dog balls lol) I think it's from the Tabernaemontana family.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There is no reason the plant won't do very well in the gritty mix, and I can't think of any reason that anyone would exclude gravel as a potential soil ingredient; after all, no one screened the soil where in situ plants are anchored, so it's very doubtful it is absent any gravel.

What a soil is made 'from' is far less important than how it's structured. Your plant needs a fast draining soil that doesn't support much in the way (preferably none) perched water. I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to settle it in a deep container of gritty mix, though I'm sure you'd be happy with the 5:1:1 or other soils that drain equally well and are well-aerated.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 7:00PM
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Thanks for the help, I feel very fortunate to know about the gritty mix, me being a gardening newbie... I started with the old world mandrake :)

Last weekend I wet out of the city to hunt for gritty mix substrate and all that I was able to find is some red volcanic rock (turface substitute) pumice gravel (I've been told is a source of Ca but now I doubt it) I allmost chuckled when the guy I asked if they carry pine bark and said that they used to but since they got some type of pumice they no longer use bark, they just mix the pumice with some type of fine compost for better aeration. I did chuckle when I saw around 90% of their plants in stunted condition tho.

Now reading through the posts related to the gritty mix, I realized the pumice and lava rock that I've got from them is bigger than the pictures of the mix I've seen here, the meshed bag of the lava rocks it's a little bit larger than the particle size of the gritty mix from what I can recall while the pumice rocks are even larger than the lava rocks. Can I still use them with good results?

The bark, all I could get was partialy composted bark varying in several sizes, I do screen it with a bigger twice the size mesh from the standard insect mesh, the stablishment that do carries an unknown sized pine bark was closed at that time. I do know uncomposted is better.

Could this mix be workable? even if it's for a year or half year?

I've got another question, I hope I'm not stretching it but it's something that has been cycling in the back of my head because of some conflicting information I've gotten around the web when it comes to fertilization. Should we fertilize in the ratio of water to ferts you give all year round, or should we fertilize more in blooming season and maybe drop it a little in dormancy or winter?

I guess the gravel thing I took for granted as a fact by reading an hydrophonic site where they state that smaller sized perlite and volcanic rock should be used in order for the radishes not to be all cramped up in the substrate thanks to the restricted container walls when growing them but the 5-1-1 ratio looks good.

I'll use the wick, container tilting or placing the container in the garden soil trick in the mean time in case the bigger particles are no good for the mandrake roots. even in the 5-1-1 ratio.

Again, thanks for taking your time to answer Al.

Oh BTW! I love your beautiful dracaena draco how old is it? it looks like a not so mini bonsai draco... I'm under the impresion that if it has all that impressive branching it's gotta be very old and BIG! the top of the plant looks like you did something to achieve a very good horizontal line. What would be the perfect specific gritty mix for it? Currently I'm patiantly and sometimes impatiently waiting for some draco seeds to germinate :)

Phew, I tried to make this shorter but here I am... still writting LOL

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 4:33AM
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OK, Getting up to speed with gardening and the gritty mix... I'm reading your big post on fertilizers and now I know it's good to fertilize with the proper mix ratio along with the fertilizer percentaje no matter the season with the gritty mix.

With the dormancy issue, is it proper to water the plant half of what it normaly recieves while it's growing? maybe less than half?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 8:44AM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

Does anyone ever say why mandrakes aren't supposed to like gravel?

As for dormancy, some quick Googling seems to suggest that they can be a little finicky about their water supply. I don't know whether they NEED a rest, or whether they're opportunists who shut up shop when conditions aren't to their liking. If it's the latter, I'd suggest (if possible) finding a spot outside that they like and letting the weather take care of their schedule. :)

If you don't know how much water to give during dormancy, err on the dry side so long as the root is nice and big. It's a little hard to find habitat information amongst the stuff about hungry dogs and magic rituals, but if it grows in woodland it won't get bone-dry during dormancy.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 6:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Where do you live, Pumilus?

Not sure what you mean about the Dracaena?

I like fertilizing more often at reduced solution strengths while the plant is in active growth phase, so for plants that truly go dormant, fertilizer would be withheld until they become active again. Still, I do fertilize my houseplants with very weak doses - every time I water - all winter long, and it has proven a sound strategy, based on the vitality and o/a appearance of the foliage throughout the winter. It's important to realize that this is possible only with plants grown in soils that you can flush when you water. It also works best with fertilizers that supply nutrients in roughly the same ratio plants use them. After the calculations are done for how P and K are reported, 3:1:2 RATIO (RATIO is different than NPK %s) fertilizers make the most sense because it takes less fertilizer to sustain the plant.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 10:01PM
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Sorry for delay, I've been reading a lot about the gritty mix as I'm sure tapla has already given so much information about it I don't want to be asking questions that have already been answered several times. (the Q&A compilation is a good read BTW) and I've been away some days.

Sutremaine: I think it's also because Mandrakes are suposedly found in the wild in sandy substrate, not letting the roots bone dry sounds like a good idea. TNX.

Tapla: it seems I was under the impression that Dracaena needs to be a lot taller in order for it to develop the numerous branches your's have, this is why I ask for it's age. Suposing I could get a hold of the ingredients from the mix along with the proper particulate size, what mix ratio or sizing do you recomend the most for the Draco? I read the suculent gritty mix and I'm wondering if using that mix would be the most optimal.

I live in Jalisco Mexico, Zapopan to be exact I haven't found the precise zone I'm at though this map says semi warm subhumid with rain in sumer

The substrate where I had the Mandrake already compacted almost by half the original size (it's been here less than six months!)

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:25AM
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I found a pakaged substrate called eco sustrato which has pine bark like fines and some organic strands (idk if they are pine leaves mixed with some type of fiber) it has very good drainage and moist retention it also has some small granite chips. Seems this is a good substitute gritty mix, in the mean time I will be using a turface substitute (tepojal, which it seems to be some type of pumice) also I'll add more granite to the mix. This is just temporary while I manage to find the correct ingredients.

The organic substrate looks good, it does not break down quickly.

I think the mandrake will be happy in his new medium considering the one he's in has the pakaged substrate along with different sized pumice(?), it drains more quickly than without the tepojal (pumice?), in just watering one day and the cotton fabric is almost entirely dry the nex day (the damp part of it it's very near the drain hole while the remaining part of the fabric is completely dry, I have yet to do a good hunt for the non cotton wick.

I'm so glad I found this AL, the mandrake was growing it's main roots very thin and it also started to shoot some roots in the uncovered with soil top part of him, a clear sign it was in serious need for oxigen.

Thanks for enlighting us with the gritty mix AL :)

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 4:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sounds like you're on the right track, since you're prioritizing aeration, drainage, and durability. As long as you understand that in order to arrive where you want to be, particle size is a major player, and finding an ingredient with acceptable water retention (like Turface or calcined DE) that you can combine with the other ingredients is also important.

I still don't know what you mean about the dracaena, unless I shared some pics of something I forgot I even grew. ;-)


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 4:28PM
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