Looking for something unusual to add to your garden? Have I got an extraordinary beauty for you – black cotton plants. Related to the white cotton one thinks of as growing in the South, black cotton plants are also of the genus Gossypium in the Malvaceae (or mallow) family, which includes hollyhock, okra, and hibiscus. Intrigued? Read on to find tips on how to grow black cotton, harvest the plant, and other care information.
Planting Black Cotton
Black cotton is an herbaceous perennial that is native to sub-Saharan Africa and Arabia. Like its white cotton plant relative, black cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigra’) care requires plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures to produce cotton. Unlike regular cotton, this plant has both leaves and bolls that are dark burgundy/black with pink/burgundy blooms. The cotton itself, however, is white. Plants will grow 24 to 30 inches (61-76 cm.) in height and 18 to 24 inches (46-61 cm.) across.
How to Grow Black Cotton
Black cotton specimens are sold at some online nurseries. If you can acquire the seeds, plant two or three in a 4 inch (10 cm.) peat pot to a depth of ½ to 1 inch (1-2.5 cm.). Put the pot in a sunny location and keep the seeds warm, 65 to 68 degrees F. (18-20 C.). Keep the growing medium slightly damp. Once the seeds germinate, thin out the weakest, keeping only one strong seedling per pot. As the seedling outgrows the pot, cut the bottom out of the peat pot and transplant it into a 12 inch (31 cm.) diameter pot. Fill in around the seedling with a loam-based potting mix, not a peat-based. Put the black cotton outside on days when the temps are over 65 degrees F. (18 C.) and with no rain. As the temps cool, bring the plant back inside. Continue hardening off in this manner for a week or so. Once the plant has matured, black cotton can be grown in either full sun to partial sun.
Black Cotton Care
Planting black cotton in the northern states will undoubtedly require either growing it indoors or depending upon your region, at the very least protecting it from wind and rain. Do not overwater the plant. Water two to three times per week at the base of the plant. Feed with a liquid plant fertilizer that is high in potassium or use a tomato or rose food per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Harvesting Black Cotton
Large yellow flowers appear in the late spring to late summer followed by the gorgeous burgundy bolls. The eye-catching bolls are lovely when dried and added to flower arrangements, or you can harvest the cotton the old-fashioned way. When the flowers wither, the boll forms and, as it matures, cracks open to reveal the fluffy, white cotton. Just grasp the cotton with a forefinger and your thumb and gently twist out. Voila! You’ve grown cotton.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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