Archive | November 2013

Cactus and Snow

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The first major cold front of the season blew in November 21st and two days later brought a blanket of snow. I had to kick up the setting on the heater in the greenhouse to keep the temp up to 42 during the two coldest nights which were in the low 20s. Today we may have reached 40 degrees outside and the greenhouse was at 50 most of the day.

The cold-hardy cactus outside have shut down for the winter now, insulated by a covering of snow anywhere from eight to twelve inches deep and more in some places. For those of you in the far North, that doesn’t sound like much, but for those of us who grew up on the Gulf Coast, that’s a boatload of snow. And when we have snow, it always seduces me outside to take pictures. So I thought I would just share a few scenes with you.

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All of these pictures were taken the day before the snow hit. Today they are completely covered; the cactus bed looks like small rolling hills of snow. I didn’t even bother to walk out there for fear of stepping on a plant covered by the snow.

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The cactus that I brought home from Wyoming should feel right at home. I’m sure their relatives still in Wyoming stayed covered in snow all winter.

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You can see the Wyoming cactus nestled in the rocks in front of the wheelbarrow. This picture was taken Saturday.

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And this picture of the wheelbarrow was taken Sunday after the real snow hit.

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But in the greenhouse plants are blooming and doing just fine, thank you very much.

So enjoy the icy beauty of winter and cheat by checking out your greenhouse when cabin fever sets in.

A New Split Rock Bloom

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I recently rescued this little split rock from one of the big box stores, and it rewarded me with this purple bloom. Most of my other split rocks and other plants of this type tend to have yellow or orange flowers, so this was a nice change.

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As you can see, this specimen has a split in its body, and I am not sure if I did that or if it was there when I bought it, but it seems to be doing fine. I think those splits come from growing too fast, perhaps due to fertilizing at the wrong time. I don’t think it comes from overwatering since overwatering simply causes them to rot.

If you check the Internet, you will find various suggestions for a watering schedule. I have also been told that when the body of the plant starts to wrinkle or shrivel a bit, that is when to water it. I have found that no water during the summer other than what they might get naturally from rain-and I actually try to protect them from getting too much water from a rain-light water in the early fall, little if any during the winter, and some in early spring works pretty well for me. Feeding might be best in the fall since they will bloom in fall and winter.

I have also read they can grow in full sun during the summer, but full sun in a West Texas summer is different to full sun in other places, so I give mine some filtered shade. And I don’t consider them cold hardy here and bring them in during the winter. You will just have to adjust to your climate.

I suspect every collector kills some of these little gems before finally getting the hang of keeping them alive, so don’t give up. They really are fun to watch grow and bloom.

Aloinopisis Aloides

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These little South African succulents always surprise me when they bloom. I never seem to realize there is a bud getting ready to open, and then there it will be. They bloom in the fall here since they originate below the Equator and their seasons are not the same as ours.

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Be careful with these plants. I think overwatering is what you have to be careful about. I have had this one for a while and it seems to be doing well, but I will have to admit I have lost a few. But they are worth your time and attention, and there are many varieties to try.

Good luck.

Rooting Succulents

Have a succulent you really like and want another one or two just like it? Seeds are an option, but I don’t seem to have much luck with that method. Instead, I rely on cuttings and rooting leaves. I googled the subject of rooting succulents and came up with all kinds of directions and methods for starting new plants. I just know what works for me, so I will share with you what I do.

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Grapetoveria bella hybrid.

You might must want to trim up a plant that become leggy or just want more specimens of a particular plant. Another reason you might want to root a cutting is because over time the stems on some succulents seem to just play out and wither away. The crown of the plant stays viable but the bottom of the plant, the roots and stem, dry up and die. So the thing to do is cut the good top off and root it. No matter what else you do, the first thing you need to do is let the cut dry up and scab over. This keeps fungus and bacteria from infecting the cutting. And it just makes for a more successful rooting. I usually let mine dry for a day or two and then plant the cutting in my regular cactus soil, a mixture of crushed limestone, composted potting soil, and perlite.

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I have had good results from this method, but a variation of that is to not plant the cutting until it has sprouted roots. This may take several days, maybe even weeks. I have never kept track of how long it takes for the roots to show up. Once the roots appear, the cutting can be planted.

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Grapetoveria bella and pachyphyllum cuttings.

While I am waiting for those roots to show up, I like to position the cutting so that it is upright; otherwise the crown will start curling up to be upright and makes it awkward to plant when the time comes.

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Grapetoveria bella leaves.

Another way to propagate is by letting a leaf sprout leaves and roots. This takes a while, too, but the leaf can just sort of be set aside and forgotten, and then one day, boom! you will see those little new leaves and roots appear, after which you can position it in a pot to take root and grow.

Good luck.