Archive | January 2014

Mammillarias and Their Halos

I suspect I may have written about mammillarias before, but I never get tired of their pretty little halos of flowers. And they are blooming now, so I will share them with you again. All varieties of mammillaria flower but don’t all produce the circle of flowers; however, most of them do. Most are in some shade of pink, but they come in other colors as well.

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Mammillaria cacti are named that because of the nipple shape of their areoles, which is like a branch on a cactus, and the spines at the ends of the areoles are the cactus equivalent of leaves. The fat body of the plant would be its trunk. All of this evolved to help cactus survive in their usually harsh habitats.

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But I digress; all that is another story. Right now just enjoy the flowers.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Prune Your Jade Tree

Crassula ovata, commonly referred to as a jade tree, is one of the more popular and easily grown succulents. If it is given the right growing conditions. With enough sunlight and correct watering and trimming, crassula ovata will grow into a lovely plant shaped like a tree, hence the name jade tree. If the plant has to reach for the sunlight, however, it will reach out desperately, becoming leggy and misshapen, and the only way to fix it is a major pruning session. Which is the case for all light-deprived succulents. But I digress-that’s another story for another day.

So, back to this jade tree: years ago I gave a cutting to a friend who placed it in front of a less than adequate small south window in his office. The little tree grew but never really had enough light to develop properly. For a crassula to grow up to look like a tree, it also has to be trimmed and shaped as it grows, which this one was not. Time passed and my friend grew weary of the plant, which by now had gotten pretty big. But it was all over the place and uprooting itself out the pot. He asked me if I wanted it back. Well, I had no choice but to take it back as it was begging for some attention.

I brought it home and promptly cut it back to nothing but its fat trunk. And unfortunately, I did not have the presence of mind to take a picture of it before pruning and repotting so I would have a true before picture. What I trimmed off filled a 5-gallon bucket and then some. When I finished pruning and repotting, this is what it looked liked:

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That was about three weeks ago. Alas, I also failed to document the day I brought it home, but that sounds about right. And now it has started to put out little new crowns that will become the new branches and leaves. By the end of the summer it will look like a different plant and will begin to take on the correct jade tree shape.

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And some day will grow lush and full like this jade tree, which I have had for too many years to count and which has been cut back to nothing but a trunk at least twice.

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Be cautious when putting a jade tree out at the beginning of the warm months; it will need filtered sunlight at first so it can acclimatize to the sun or it will sunburn. But even after that, I would give it some protection. I never put mine out in full unfiltered sun. In West Texas, that is just too strong and hot for best results.

My friend is going to want this jade tree back when he see it this summer. But I’ll probably keep it…

The Thelocactus Macdowellii Sees Sunshine

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In my December 29 post, I mentioned that my thelocactus macdowellii bloom had not opened fully because there had not been enough sunshine? Well, between then and this latest Arctic blast, we actually had some sun, and it did open.

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And then I was tickled to discover that on one of the other specimens in that pot, I have about six more blooms to look forward to. I suspect there are others under this flower, too, but I’ll have to admit I forgot to look.

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Thelocactus are native to Central and Northern Mexico and Texas. The macdowellii variety was introduced in the 60s and with its nice white spines and bright green body, you still have a nice-looking plant to enjoy while it matures to about five years old before blooming. However, once it does start blooming, you will discover it is one variety whose blooms last longer than just one day, and that’s a plus.

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Thelocactus are grown from seed since they do not produce plantlets. My cluster is simply three seedlings that I did not separate.  Being presented with large pink flowers in the greenhouse in the brown month of January will make that five-year wait worth it.