The cotton plant belongs to the genus Gossypium of the family Malvaceae (mallow family); the same family as hollyhock, okra and hibiscus. It is generally a shrubby plant having broad three-lobed leaves and seeds in capsules, or bolls; each seed is surrounded with downy fiber, white or creamy in color and easily spun. The fibers flatten and twist naturally as they dry. There are different species of Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum, Gossypium barbadense, Gossypium herbaceum and Gossypium arboreum, the first two species being the most commonly cultivated.
Cotton is of tropical origin but is most successfully cultivated in temperate climates with well-distributed rainfall. All western U.S. cotton and as much as one-third of Southern cotton, however, is grown under irrigation. In the United States, nearly all commercial production comes from varieties of upland cotton (G. hirsutum), but small quantities are obtained from sea-island and American-Egyptian cotton (both belonging to the species G. barbadense). G. arboreum and G. herbaceum are cultivated species in Asia.
How to grow cotton?
Grow cotton at home or indoors?
Cotton is a perennial plant but mostly grown as an annual as it cannot withstand frost. Cotton needs a lot of sunshine, warm conditions and 4-5 months of frost-free temperatures to mature and produce cotton. Not all regions are lucky to have long warm summers, however cotton can be grown indoors too. You can not only greatly extend your growing season for the cotton plants, but you can also better protect the plants from damaging winds and heavy rains. Cotton can be successfully grown indoors in the Northern states of USA, as well as Canada, UK and many other European countries with some care.
1. Plant 2-3 cotton seeds in 4-inch wide peat pots with soil and compost. Plant the seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch deep into the peat pots.
2. Place the peat pots in a sunny location near the window. Keep the seeds warmed to about 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Water the peat pots lightly every other day to keep the seeds slightly damp at all times.
3. Thin out the weaker seedlings in each peat pot after the cotton seeds germinate and begin to sprout. Allow one strong, healthy cotton seedling to remain in each pot.
4. When the cotton plants outgrow the peat pots, cut the bottom of the peat pots and transfer them into 12-inch diameter planter pots. Fill the planter pots with a loam-based potting compost mixture, not one that’s peat-based.
5. Place the cotton plants outdoors in full sun during days when temperatures are well above 65 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s no heavy rain. Bring the plants indoors and place them in a sunny window when temperatures are cooler.
6. Feed the cotton plants once each week with a liquid plant fertilizer that’s high in Potash (Potassium) or use a Tomato Food or Rose Food available on the market. Follow the fertilizer dosage instructions on the label.
7. Cotton does not like too much water. Water the seedling and mature cotton plants two or three times per week to soak the soil around the roots, allowing the top layer of potting mixture to dry slightly between waterings.
8. Large yellow flowers appear in 45 days from sowing. Flowers wither off and form bolls which crack open to form fluffy cotton in about 130-150 days from sowing.
Growing cotton outdoors in your garden?
Cotton is a perennial plant but mostly grown as an annual as it cannot withstand frost. Cotton needs a lot of sunshine, warm conditions and 4-5 months of frost-free temperatures to mature and produce cotton.
1. Work the soil to 3-4 inches deep to eliminate weeds.
2. Incorporate compost into the soil to provide nutrients for the cotton plant.
3. After all danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures have warmed up to 60 degrees, its time to plant cotton seeds.
4. Plant cotton seeds in moist soil, in groups of three seeds, 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart.
5. Cotton seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days if soil temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius).
6. Cotton does not like a lot of water. So water once in about 7 days. Water more frequently in summer months if leaves show signs of drying.
7. Feed the cotton plants with a granular or liquid plant fertilizer like a Rose Food available on the market. Follow the fertilizer dosage instructions on the label.
8. Large yellow flowers appear in 45 days from sowing. Flowers wither off and form bolls.
9. Stop watering 16-18 weeks from sowing when bolls have been formed, so that the plant begins to dry and shed their leaves, and the bolls will split open to form a fluffy ball.