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Gossypium 'Red Leaf'
Purple ornamental cotton is a showstopper. It bears rich purple heart-shape leaves and delicate hibiscuslike flowers in a soft, creamy pink color. If pollinated, the plant will develop purple cotton bolls filled with white cotton. Although ornamental cotton resembles its agricultural cousin, this version offers more color and a refined growing habit. This annual is tough to find; search out seed sources through online retailers.
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It's illegal to grow ornamental cotton in many cotton-producing states. Destructive boll weevils can take up residence and reproduce in a home-garden planting, threatening acres of agricultural cotton grown nearby. If you garden in a cotton-producing state, check with your local extension service before planting ornamental cotton. Some states offer permits for growing cotton in a residential setting.
Ornamental Cotton Care Must-Knows
Cotton thrives in long, hot growing seasons when planted in rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Site it in an area that receives at least 8 hours of bright sun a day. If drainage is an issue, plant cotton in a raised bed or container where you can better control soil make-up.
In cool climates, start cotton seeds inside 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Plant three seeds in a 4- to 6-inch-diameter pot and water well. After seedlings emerge, water plants regularly and place the pot in a bright, sunny window. Transplant the strongest seedling into a container garden or directly into garden soil as soon as the outdoor soil temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit.