Thursday, May 30, 2013

In The Winter Hardy Bed

Delosperma cooperi in flower

Not all my succulent plants live in pots.  I have devoted a small section of Cactus Hill to a planting of winter hardy cacti and other succulents.  The planting is located on the south side of a gentle hill.  The existing soil was a sandy loam, quite good as a starting point for a succulent.  I worked in liberal amounts of coarse sand to improve the drainage, and brought in a lot of large rocks for landscape aesthetics.  We have no rocks in Southern Maryland, only gravel. 

One of the most successful succulents in the winter hardy planting is Delosperma cooperi  (shown above).  It is native to South Africa and is one of the most cold hardy succulents.  Plants in my planting have easily survived low temperatures of 5 degrees F.  When happy D. cooperi makes a wide spreading, attractive ground cover, and is covered with inch wide flowers in late spring and early summer.   I'm going to try and add several more delospermas to the planting this year, and when that occurs you'll read about it here. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's All About the Light

Giving Lithops Their Light

To grow great succulents there is no substitute for giving them plenty of light.  

Lithops need at least 4 hours or more of direct sunlight daily.  If you give them less, they will stretch and grow unnaturally tall.   I do not have a greenhouse, but there is plenty of sunlight available outside during the frost free portion of the year.  My lithops spend the frost-free part of the year outside, where they receive about 6 to 8 hours of direct sun daily.  While lithops can handle all the sun you
can provide, they cannot handle all the rain. 
To control the amount  of rain they receive I put my lithops on a wooden shelf I made, and cover the shelf with a piece of plastic.  I can remove the plastic (bottom photo) whenever I want to work with the plants or allow them to be rained on. 

I don't have hundreds of lithops, just enough to fill the shelf.  The reason I don't have more lithops is winter.  In mid to late October my night temperatures begin to go below freezing and all lithops have to come back inside the house.  There they spend the winter on several sunny windowsills.  This limits how many lithops I can grow, but 50 or so plants is fine for me. 

Not all the succulent plants I put outside in the summer come back inside the house in the winter.  During the past 8 years I have devised a way to over-winter plants in a special structure I call a heated frame.  I'll discuss my heated frames in an upcoming post.   Thanks to the enthusiasm of a lithops grower in Germany I have begun to sow lithops seed for the first time in five years.  I'm enjoying it tremendously, but now I have to come up with a plan to add more lithops to my collection, or, maybe give some of my existing plants away.  We'll see. 



Monday, May 27, 2013

Visiting Old C&S Friends

Lithops bromfieldii var. insularis 'Sulphurea'

This is my oldest lithops.  It is also one of the few lithops I have that I did not grow from seed.  It was purchased as a single headed plant in 1986 from Ed Storms nursery.  It cost $3.50 at that time, which seems rather expensive in that you can purchase plants today from U.S. nurseries for only $4.00.  

While the size of the clump looks impressive, remember, it is now 27 years old, and this is a cultivar that clumps extremely fast.  Steven Hammer describes it as having a manic disposition and clustering uncontrollably.   It is also very slow at shedding its old leaves and is a pain to water correctly in the spring.  In some years half the heads have their new leaves and half are way behind.  But now, after 27 years it is an old friend.  It survived the tornado that hit my home in 2002 when more than 200 other succulents did not.  It always brings surprise reactions from the public when I enter it in our local C&S Society shows.  The photo above was taken last year and I think I'll have to repot it next year, as this year it is almost going over the sides of the pot.  My next largest lithops is L. bromfieldii var insularis at eight heads.  I don't have a current photo of that plant but I'll try to get one soon.  

Although 27 years is certainly an OLD friend, it is not my oldest plant.  But I'll save that old friend for another post.  Happy succulent growing.        

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Collecting Haworthia truncata seeds

Haworthia truncata

This is one of the most popular haworthias.  It's unusual for the very truncated leaves.  It looks as if someone has purposely cut the tips of the leaves off.  At plant shows in which this plant has been entered, I've had visitors believe that I HAD in fact cut the leaf tips off. 

While H. truncata does offset, it does so very slowly and thus propagation material is at a premium.  Combine this with the over all slow growth of the plant, and H. truncata is difficult to find in the succulent trade, and when you do find it, it is often quite expensive.  

What About Growing From Seed?

Unfortunately, H. truncata is generally not self-fertile, and therefore you need two different clones in flower at the same time to pollinate the flowers and produce fruit and seed.  While the plant shown at the top of this page often produces fruit and seed without cross pollination. I fortunately do have other clones and try to cross pollinate flowers as often as I can.  I pollinated quite a few flowers in late March and early April and have been collecting the fruit for the past two weeks. Today was seed harvest day.  The photo at right shows the dried fruits and the collected seeds - paper clip for size reference.   I'll plant these in the next few days.  Haworthia seeds germinate much better when they are fresh and seeds more than three or four months old germinate poorly, usually less than 20 percent.   Hopefully in a month or two I'll have a few new H. truncata plants to work with.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Porch Plants

Summer quarters for my primary collection of cacti and other succulents is a small porch, shown at left.  These plants are my Permanent Collection Plants.  I have divided my C&S collection into three groups.  My older, nicer plants are in the Permanent Collection Group.  Plants I use for propagation purposes, to produce cuttings, divisions, or seed, are in the Propagation Group.  Plants I intend to sell or give away as part of activities of the National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society,  which I belong to, are in the Sales & Giveaway Group. 
  I keep records of the plants in the Permanent Collection Group.  I enjoy knowing the history of these plants, such as when and how I acquired them, when they first flowered, and when I lost them.  Yes, I have had quite a few plants move on to that Great Compost Pile in the Sky, but I keep their records, which usually includes a photo, and  enjoy looking back at plants of the past. 

I plan to use this blog as another method of recording information and images of these plants.  I will also discuss plants in the Propagation Group and Sales & Giveaway Group. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Flowering Cucumber Cactus

Echinocereus viereckii var. morricalii 

I grew this cactus from seed, planted 10 years ago.  It has wonderful flowers and very few, if any spines, which make it a most enjoyable cactus.  Yes, it is a little cramped in its, not so beautiful pot, but I plan to rectify this soon.  I will put it in a larger clay pot, and as I usually do with clay pots, seal the inside of the pot with a pot sealant such as polyurethane.  This prevents the salts in the water from coming through the pot and leaving those ugly white stains. 

This variety, morricalii, is native to the State of Nuevo Leon in Mexico.  It's a cliff-forest ecotype of E. viereckii. 

My cacti spend the summer out in the open in full sun.  My only concern is thunderstorms with hail.  I have most of my better plants on a porch (no roof) where I can through a plastic cover over them if bad weather threatens.  I post a photo of this arrangement which has worked well for me over the past 20 years.  Of course, when cold weather arrives, the plants have to go into winter quarters, and that another story. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Red Titanopsis?

I had a pot of seedling Titanopsis calcarea that I hadn't given the best of care, and decided to rectify that by transplanting them into their own pots.  Most of the seedlings look normal but several had a distinct reddish color - such as the two in the photo.  Normally I might think this was a wonderfully colored genetic mutation, but I really suspect that this is the result of stress caused by my poor care over the past year.  Often nutrient stress (deficiencies) will cause some discoloration in plants.  So, they are potted and will be watered properly and we will see if the color remains red, or reverts back to a more normal T. calcarea color.   Or, maybe they won't survive, but they look relatively good now. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I haven't sown lithops seed in nearly five years.  I've been concentrating on other plants, primarily the cactus genus Astrophytum.  However, since discovering the Lithops Stories blog a few weeks ago, and reading through many of the blog post, I planted a pot of lithops seeds 8 days ago.  I collected a seed L. lesliei vhorniicapsule from Lithops lesliei v. hornii C364 (shown on the right) and planted about 50 seeds in a 7 x 7 cm pot.  Yesterday the first 4 seedlings came up.  It is simply exciting to see those tine green specks begin to show up between the small pieces of seed germination media.     The capsule was the result of open pollination so I'm not certain these seedlings will be pure L. lesliei v. hornii but it will be interesting to see what develops. There were several other plants of L. lesliei vhornii in flower at the time.  Now I will have to be tough and control the urge to sow even more seed.  I will keep telling myself, "there's no more space, there's no more space."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Just Starting

I started growing cacti and other succulents 35 years ago.  Over those years most of my plants have been grown from seed or cuttings.  I have a mixed collection, although it's a bit top heavy in cacti.  I have a modest collection of Lithops, about 70 plants, haworthias, and recently Astrophytums.   I also have a modest collection of winter hardy cacti and succulents.  I live in Southern Maryland, about 35 miles SE of Washington, D.C. 

I am the newsletter editor of the National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society, the C&S society of Washington, D.C.

I started this blog to share my interest and experiences in growing these wonderful plants, and hopefully to meet others with a similar interest.