Succulent of the Week

String of Buttons (Crassula perforata)

I love these because they have the renowned resiliancy that make succulents famous, but will remain small if planted in a smaller container.  They have a great architectural growth pattern that works really well in tall, vertical containers.  The non-scientific name is particularly easy to remember, as it’s pretty darned accurate visually.

Fun fact:  apparently they can grow to a height of approximately 45.0 cm (that’s 1.46 feet for us Americans).

Both the web and I agree on water.  They do prefer to be watered sparingly, although I approach it as a ‘all or nothing’ full bathing followed by a complete dry-out period.

 

 

So many succulents, so little time!  Their wonderful variations and diversity are what attacts so many of us to the strange world of succulents, yet we then become confused by that very thing.  Sigh. 

Let’s keep the momentum of learning going, slowly immersing ourselves week by week into the weird world of succulents, shall we?  

 

Wait just a minute – that’s not a succulent!  That is a purple passion vine, which has just today started blooming on our front porch.  Like succulents, they are bizarre and Dr. Suess-ian looking and smell just like grape juice!  We planted it there as food and egg laying (ovipositing) stratum for the beautiful Gulf Fritilary butterflies… you know, the largish orange ones with enchanting silver under-wings?  Sorry to get off track.  Here’s a real succulent:

Kalanchoe Tomentosa:  This is another wonderful example of what happens when techtonic plates leave one another for millions of years, this hails from Madagascar. Forms a shrubby plant with long oval shaped leaves that are densely covered in fuzzy felt. There are many cultivars (color variants), but the “true type” has dove gray leaves with reddish-chocolate margins and tips. Flowers are small, but are a quite attractive and unique furry bell-shape with yellow and brown predominating. Prefers bright light to full sun. Can be planted in patio plantings or even in garden beds in areas with temperate climes. Prefers a porous soil with adequate drainage. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Protect from frost.  I personally have found these plants very challenging to keep happy outdoors.  I probably will not therefore be offering them to customers and friends; however I found a version called Kalancho Digremontiana, or Maternity Plant, to be fantastic keeper, both indoors and out.  They have thinner, dryer leaves – more reptilian than their furry cousins – with lovely reddish/brown variants in color.  I will be offering several of these in coming weeks. 

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As promised, I am working on creating a comprehensive sheet with most of the plants we sell for handing out to customers at future shows, broken down into light and water brackets.  (the most commonly asked questions!)

But for now, let me introduce you to one of my favorites….

Blue Chalk Stick (Senecio mandraliscae)

Senecio mandraliscae is a spreading succulent from South Africa that grows to 12″-18″ tall with 3″-4″ long blue gray pencil-like fleshy leaves and small white flowers in mid-summer. Drought tolerant but tolerates regular irrigation. Plant in full sun to light shade. A great groundcover with an unusual blue glow.  My experience is that this plant is *very* easygoing, doing well both in bright and filtered/low light; liking lots of water or even tolerating neglect and cold temperatures like a champ.  I have had one for well over a year in a medium-sized concrete pot and it’s almost doubled in size.  Very good plant! 

This weeks’ Succulent:  Sedum hernandezii, or Jellybean Plant

Sedum hernandezii, native to Puebla, Mexico, is related to Sedum furfuraceum. Forms clusters of stems to 4″ in height with very chubby emerald green leaves that have the same “cracked” epidermis as Sedum furfuraceum. Large, star-shaped yellow flowers appear in winter and spring. Sedum hernandezii is one of the “Jellybean” sedums so named for their exceedingly plump and colorful jellybean shaped leaves. A very low grower, this sedum does well as a potted specimen, great for dish gardens, windowsills, wreaths or small area ground cover, and works well in the nooks and crannies of a rock garden landscape. They like to be moderately moist but never overly wet. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Almost any good potting mix or porous soil with adequate drainage will suit these succulents. Sedums like good air circulation, and little or no fertilizer is required. Outdoors provide partial sun to light shade, but they will be unhappy and lose their characteristic color and shape unless given lots of bright light when kept indoors. It has excellent drought and cold tolerance but protect from frost to prevent scarring.

This weeks’ succulent is Lithops, or “Living Rock.”

Family : Mesembryanthemaceae
Common names : living stones, stone plants

Lithops are one of the most popular of all the succulents. These cheeky fat little succulents plants have been grown for decades by amateur and professional succulent lovers alike.  Lithops is from the Greek word, lithos, meaning rock. 

Lithops are dwarf mimicry succulent plants comprising two, thick, fleshy, semi-translucent leaves (they mimic stones). These leaves fuse together at soil level where they taper down to a single carrot-like structure which eventually becomes the root. The flattened top part of the leaf (apice) is window-like. This window performs a very important function, allowing light to enter the plant body where the sun’s rays activate cells which assist with the photosynthesis process. The upper surface of the plants are of a varied and translucent nature: some have speckled lines, are grooved, or even spotted. Lithops plants come in a variety of patterns and colours.

Despite their ubiquitous availability all over the world via cultivation,these actually hailed from South Africa, ranging up to Namibia.  They are true survivors, tolerating extreme heat (above 42°C), and relatively low winter temperatures of -5°C.   They have been known to survive in cultivated environs for up to 50 years, or in the wild for about half of that time. 

Thanks are due to Ian Oliver, of the Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens, South Africa, July 2005.  

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