Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lithops - A New Generation

A New Seedling Generation of Lithops

I grew my first lithops from seed a number of years ago.  Each year I would sow a few more seeds, and sell or give away a few of the older plants, trying to maintain a sensible sized collection of between 70 and 100 plants.  There was no greenhouse involved, and winter brought below freezing outdoor temperatures.  That meant that although all my lithops could be outside from May through October, once the first frost threatened, they all had to come back inside to their windowsill winter home.  In any house, there is only so much available windowsill space.  For me, that meant room for about 100 lithops.  Any more than that had to go to the basement and under fluorescent lights. 

One year, I believe it was 2005, I just stopped growing lithops from seed.  I was always over the 100 limit.  The end of growing lithops from seed also coincided, or maybe caused, a general waning in interest in my older plants.  I had a brief revival in 2010, when I collected a seed capsule from one of my nicer Lithops fulviceps plants and grew about a dozen seedlings.  But the thrill of growing from seed wasn't there anymore.  Actually, lithops don't require a lot of care, but when all you do is maintain what you have, you really aren't enjoying your plants. 

This year is proving to be different.  I met someone, who also grew lithops, and their enthusiasm and excitement in growing their plants once again aroused my love of these strange little plants.  It also encouraged me to again grow lithops from seed.  This time I didn't have to buy seeds, my older plants always produce seed and I collected and few fruits (capsules) and sowed a mixture (which is often not a very good idea) of species. 

That new sowing of lithops seed was three months ago and the resulting seedlings are shown below.  I had forgotten how much I missed watching the seeds sprout and the seedlings grow.  I've had a lot of fun the last three months with lithops again, and although I will still have to deal with too many plants this coming fall, maybe I can find someone to give plants to and create a new lithops enthusiast.  :) 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

An Old Friend Mesemb

Titanopsis calcarea

Woody plants can live a long time, and mesembs ARE woody plants.  Given the proper environment and care most mesembs can be with you for a long time.  My records indicate that the seed that created the T. calcarea shown at the right, was planted in 1995, making this old friend 18 years old.  I have a number of cacti that are older, but I believe this is my oldest seed grown mesemb.  I have a 27 year old lithops but I bought it as a plant.  

Growing Titanopsis calcarea has always been easy for me.  I give it full sun for up to 10 hours in the late spring and early summer, and regular watering from mid spring through early fall.  In winter I give it as much sun as I can, keep it on the dry side, and relatively low night temperatures, often as low as the mid 40's F. (6.5 C.)  I give it some water during the late winter and early spring as it goes into its flowering period.  It is now growing outside in its six inch (15 cm) ceramic pot, and seems as happy as ever.  

In a year or two it will begin to spill over its pot and I really don't want to go to a larger pot.   So, I'll be faced with reducing the size of the plant by dividing it, or at least pruning off parts of it.  For me, the words mesembs and pruning, have never seemed to go together, primarily because I've always had the space to transplant to a larger pot.  Recently I have discussed mesembs with a grower who has very limited space, and practices pruning and dividing as a normal part of their culture.  Sometimes you have to change your growing practices based on the situation and such will be the case with this old friend.  I really won't enjoy cutting it back, but I'll try to do it in a way where you'll never know I did it.  I do have experience pruning trees and shrubs, and mesembs ARE woody plants.        

Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Mesembs

Aloinopsis malherbei

What exactly is a Mesemb?  That's easy.  It is a member of the plant Family Mesembryanthemum.  Well, that once was the case, but now all the members of the Mesemb family have been included in the family Aizoaceae.  Plant classification is always in a state of flux. 

Aloinopsis malherbei is a member of the Aizoaceae ( or Mesembryanthemum) family.  In other words, it's a mesemb.  As with most mesembs, it's a native to southern Africa, specifically South Africa.  It's a succulent, with extra water stored in its leaves and tuberous roots.  Part of the attraction of A. malherbei is the interesting shape and form of the leaves.  But also adding to the attraction are the pretty orange-yellow flowers, which are produced in late winter through mid spring. 

Both plants show at right were
grown from seed sown in 2001.  They are placed outside in full sun beginning in early May and moved to a heated, plastic covered cold frame in the autumn as frost threatens.  Thus, in winter they receive full sun and night temperatures that often drop to a minimum of 40 degrees F. (4.5 C.).   The combination of strong winter sunlight and cool to cold temperatures contributes to a strong flowering display.    

Aloinopsis malherbei doesn't present any serious difficulties in culture as long as the potting mix is well drained and it's given a lot of light.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Overdue Repotting of Lithops

Lithops bromfieldii v. mennellii

Six year old lithops should not be in their original seeding pot!  Therefore I am going to remove these and give them their own pots.  I believe several already have two leaf pairs, but that will be evident when they are unpotted. 

If someone is looking for relatively easy lithops to grow, the bromfieldii group is for you.  They grow fast and seldom cause trouble.  These were under fluorescent lights for two years and have been out in the sun for the past four years.  The leaf markings are vivid and I think this variety is my favorite within the bromfieldii group. 

However, I have several L. bromfieldii v. bromfieldii plants that have a lot of dark maroon in the leaves and are very attractive.  It's always hard to pick favorite lithops.