Saturday, February 8, 2014

Flash Back to Sunny Days


Frithia humilis


This is not a recent photo, all my plants now are tightly bundled up in the winter quarters.  This is a photo of sunnier and warmer days a few years ago.  However, as I begin to think about some of the succulent seeds I want to order for the late winter, I like to look back over plants I have grown over the past few years and enjoy some of my past successes.  I want to build up my confidence before I begin my seed sowing for 2014. 
Frithia humilis is a real charmer amongst the mesembs.  Unlike it's bigger brother Frithia pulchra, it is easier to grow, especially in terms of watering.   In fact, most growers have trouble with F. humilis because they keep it too dry.   You have to have a well drained potting media, but this is a mesemb that does not enjoy going dry for extended periods of time.  
I grow Frithia humilis in lots of sunlight.  From mid May until the end of September it receives at least 8 hours of direct sun daily.  This is another reason I give it special attention in terms of water.  The results of strong sunlight are leaves that take on a very attractive (at least for me) reddish purple coloration.  The strong sun has also resulted in good flowering.  
Frithia humilis is a small plant but with time and good growth it can make a respectable sized clump.   The photo below also demonstrates one of my quirks in growing small cacti and succulents.  I like to put them in a somewhat large pot and try and make the plant look as if it were growing in its natural habitat.  I have no idea whether or not I succeeded with F. humilis because I have never had the good fortune to visit its natural habitat.  Nevertheless, it looks nice to me. :)


  1. Hi I enjoy your blogs with detailed description & pictures. I have a hard time growing frithia pulchra. My one is going to die soon since it hasn't rooted in the bigger pot I transferred. I regularly give it light spray of water with a little bit fertilizer, but not sure why it's not growing. (P.S. it grows in a greenhouse ) Do you have any advice?

    1. Hello steppsierosie. Thank you for the nice comment. A lot of people have a hard time growing Frithia pulchra! Despite the fact that a lot of the literature often says it is easy. In general Frithia pulchra follows the pattern for most summer growing mesembs, a gritty, sharp drained potting mix, lots of sun, regular and generous watering during the May to September growing period, and a cool, dry winter. The importance of good potting mix drainage can't be over-stated. However, once you have a well drained potting mix, don't be afraid to give plenty of water once the soil begins to dry out from the last watering.

      Another thing that also helps is to use water that's slightly acidic (pH range of 5.5 to6.5), especially if you live in an area where municipal or well water is alkaline (pH greater than 7.0). It's been my experience that poorly drained soils plus too much water kills plants rather quickly - the roots and lower stems just rots. Plants that are given too little water languish and die slowly over a long period.

      You might want to remove your plant from the pot and check the root system. If the roots are in poor condition or gone, you should dry the plant off and try to reestablish the root system by potting in a small pot and using a pure pumice or gravel substrate that is kept slightly moist. .

      As for fertilizer, only plants that look good and are in active growth should be fertilized and even them fertilization is minor concern. Any plant that is having trouble should never be fertilized.

      I'd be glad to answers any questions or discuss any comments you might have. We have all lost plants, and we only learn by continuing to try and then discussing the results with others. Fingers crossed for your Frithia.

  2. Thank you very much for this entry. I'm very fond of F. humilis and your flowering plant is just a perfect example of how it should look like. From what I saw on the habitat pictures online this is definitely the appropriate stone arrangement, too ;)

    Among the mesembs F. humilis was my most rewarding experience growing them from seed. Mine haven't flowered yet but the overall appearance is very satisfying. How old were your plants when they flowered for the first time? Your conditions and growing skills are much better than mine so I'll be counting at least +1 year XD

    1. Hi Rika,
      I'm glad you enjoyed seeing my Frithia humilis, and gave me a vote of confidence in my efforts to make a reasonable looking habitat pot. Thank you. :) I really can't remember how old it was when it first flowered. This was one of the plants I sowed seed of right after our tornado damaged house was rebuilt in spring of 2003. That makes it 11 years old this coming spring. I couldn't find any record or notes of when it first flowered, however I know it has flowered for the past five years, but I really have no record earlier than 2009. My best guess would be it flowered when it was five or six years old.

      Yes, my growing conditions (sunlight and cool winters) are better than yours but I think your skills are as good as mine in growing these plants. Just wait until you get that greenhouse. ;)

  3. Lovely plant. I have always found it one of the more difficult to grow and was very pleased to flower it last year

    1. Thanks Alain. Everyone has those few plants that gives them lots of problems, while others seem to grow them easily. And, everyone has those plants they can grow with ease while many other struggle to keep alive. Don't understand how that happens, but it does. Glad yours flowered last year and hope it's the first of many more years of flowering.