Cotton, the most commonly used natural fiber in the world, is most often seen growing in large fields for industrial use. But although it isn't often featured in home gardens, cotton can be grown on a small scale as a uniquely beautiful ornamental shrub. In summer, the plant blooms in pretty white blossoms and then bursts into fluffy cotton balls that look great in flower arrangements. And it is relatively easy to plant and cultivate. However, cotton is a hot weather plant that should only be cultivated in USDA growing zones 10 and above.
Work the soil in early spring. Cotton can grow in a variety of soil types provided it has adequate nutrients. Spread 4 inches of aged organic compost over the planting area. Then use a hoe to loosen the soil to a depth of 8 inches, turning in the compost as you go. Finally, tamp the soil down with your feet.
Check the soil temperature. Stick your soil thermometer 8 inches into the soil, every morning at 8 a.m. Write down each morning's temperature in a daily log. When the soil's 10-day-average temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit or more, it is ready to receive the cotton seed.
Place your cotton seeds on top of the soil in groups of three to four (due to relatively low germination rates of seed), and allow at least 1 1/2 feet of space between neighboring groups of seed.
Cover the cotton seeds with 2 inches of soil but do not pat the soil down or otherwise compact it. Cotton seeds need oxygen to germinate.
Water the seeds so that the soil is moist to a depth of 6 inches, but take care not to flood the soil. The seeds will take 1 to 3 weeks to germinate and should be kept moist until they do. After they germinate, continue to water them regularly until the young cotton plants flower. Then, water only when the soil dries out or the leaves wilt.