CONOPHYTUM, CRASSULA & ADROMISCHUS 

 

Growing guides and ex-situ cultivation

Conophytum, Crassula and Adromischus are all popular plants to grow in cultivation. They all grow in the same areas of South Africa and are often found growing together in nature, so one might think they would all require the same methods, techniques and environment to grow well. In some aspects that is correct, but in others there are differences which need to be addressed to grow them well.

I've written 3 growing guides (links below), one for each genus where you will see similarities as well as some major differences.

These South African succulent plants have been grown in cultivation ever since the first botanists arrived in the Cape and took samples back to Europe in the late 18th century. Conophytum minutum was first described in 1803 and there are still living examples in cultivation of some conophytums collected in the 1930's.

What is ex-situ cultivation? As time goes on, the plants we grow are facing more and more pressures on their natural habitats. It's almost all due to human activity. Intensive livestock farming has always been detrimental to their survival. New infrastructure of roads and habitation, mining for minerals and plant removal to satisfy collector demand are all increasing year-on-year.

On top of that but not always so obvious, is global warming, which is probably the greatest threat they now face. Recent times have seen continuously dry winters. In many areas, rain the plants depend on no longer arrives. Fog rolling in from the ocean to drench the plants no longer happens. Subsequently, plant populations in the W and N Capes are visibly dying.

Computer modelling has predicted it will get worse and do so within the next 50 years or less. Unless the plants can adapt and migrate, they will, in many cases, die out.

Ex situ conservation literally means, off-site conservation. The main objective of ex situ growing is to support conservation by ensuring the survival of threatened species and the maintenance of associated genetic diversity.

I believe we can all play a part. By growing and propagating what we already have in cultivation, we can all contribute to the survival of threatened species.

Growing Conophytum
Growing Conophytum

GROWING CONOPHYTUM, a beginner’s guide.

What are they?

Conophytum is Latin for cone plant and pronounced konnofytum. It is often abbreviated to “cono” (singular) and “conos” (plural). They only grow in the winter rainfall areas of South Africa and southern Namibia. Summers are hot and dry. In nature, even in winter they can endure periods of drought, so also survive on moisture from fog, mist and morning dew. They grow on open, stoney plains, in cracks in rocks, in grit pans and on mountain tops.

Conophytums basically consist of a fused pair of leaves (known as heads or bodies) which in most cases will divide and increase to produce clusters or clumps in time. Most of them will produce their flowers in autumn but a few will flower in winter and late spring or early summer. They are extremely variable in size, shape and markings. There are more than a hundred separate species and almost two hundred different ones when subspecies and varieties are included.

How do I grow them?

Conophytums are easy and rewarding to grow if you take the time to learn and understand their needs. Due to their origins, they have a specific growth cycle which is really important to follow and to appreciate why they do what they do.

In the short, darker days of autumn and winter they are actively and visibly growing. During the longer days of spring and summer they need a “resting” or dry period. This is how they have adapted to survive in their natural habitat and how they grow best in cultivation. So they need water while growing but little or none when resting. When resting, the old leaf pair slowly dries up, forming a sheath to protect the new leaves that are growing inside.

A common mistake beginners make is watering the plants too soon in summer. Some species will sheath earlier than others but that doesn't mean they can be watered sooner. Neither does it mean you can peel off the dry sheath, as doing that will expose the next leaves too early and they may burn in the summer sun. The new leaves will be quite happy inside the dry sheath until the days get shorter and cooler and they will often break out by themselves when they are ready to accept water again.

When growing they need just enough water to keep them turgid. Too much water and the leaves can split or push out the immature leaves too soon. So really, resting is not an accurate description as they are, in fact, continuously active : it's simply that you can't really see what's going on inside the old drying leaves. If you water them in the summer, before the old leaves are completely dry, you will usually end up with unsightly, multiple (“stacked”) leaf pairs. Some species have tougher skins than others so they don't all sheath at the same time.

Be patient. Growing conos is not really a hobby for those who are not.

Where should I grow them?

Conophytums are quite tolerant and will grow in a greenhouse, on a windowsill or under artificial lighting. They will grow in whatever country you live in, be it in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, as long as you stick to the summer-winter growing regime. Depending on where you are and your individual conditions, there will be local differences in the timing of growth and resting periods as well as in flowering times. Even within the same country and believe it or not, between locations just a few dozen kilometres apart, timings can vary by several weeks. So you really can't say conos grow from one specific date until another because it depends on your seasons and individual growing conditions. Fortunately, the plants sense what to do and if you are observant, their state of growth will tell you what they need and when.

Regardless of where they are grown they still need the same annual cycle.

Conophytums need good light, especially when growing in autumn and winter. If they are grown in natural light some sort of shading is often beneficial in summer. They can be killed by scorch in a just a couple of hours if they get too hot, so air movement with a fan can help with cooling. In habitat they can tolerate freezing conditions for short periods in winter, but there it invariably warms up during the day. Elsewhere in cultivation, winters can remain cold for long periods so less water will be needed by the plants then. A minimum winter temperature of 3C will suffice. Anything over 35C in summer can cause serious damage.

If you have no natural daylight and want to grow them, LED lighting is the way to go, but that's a whole different game of which I have no experience. However, in theory, it should be very successful as both light and temperature can be controlled to provide the necessary conditions.

What do I grow them in?

Growing medium, soil, compost, substrate......all terms for what Conophytums can be grown in. What they grow in best is often the topic of much opinion and debate. Some growers will only use a mineral blend, others prefer a soil and grit mixture. It really depends on what you can find and buy locally or get delivered. Essentially the growing medium just needs to hold water for a short period before drying out, so needs to drain well and not stay wet for days. It's interesting to experiment and see what works best for you and your individual growing conditions.

Most people find standard plastic pots are fine but others prefer ceramic or even fancy ornamental ones. Again it doesn't really matter as long as the container drains freely and the basic growing principles are followed. Whatever type of pot you choose need not be large. I grow my plants in 5cm (2 inch) plastic pots to start with, then only pot on to something larger as required. In nature Conophytums often grow in very shallow depressions which flood when it rains then dry out quickly. They really can't use and have no need for large or deep pots. It's getting the drainage right that matters most.

Conophytums are not heavy feeders. Feeding depends on what growing medium you use. If it's inert like pumice then they will appreciate occasional weak low nitrogen liquid fertiliser. If grown in a grit-soil mix or a commercial compost, they really need very little additional feed because it's already present in the mix. Some growers advocate a half strength feed at the beginning and end of of the growing season, to give them an early boost and then to help them recover from flowering and to produce seeds.

Where can I get them?

Most people buy their Conophytum plants online these days. This can be risky, as due to their ever-increasing popularity, prices have increased, supply is limited and many sellers are only in it for a quick profit, selling poor quality and often wrongly-named plants. So do some research before buying. Find recommended sellers. Perhaps join one or two Facebook `groups` to see what others are doing and ask for advice.

You should only buy conos when they are growing, so be sure they are actually in growth in the country you are buying from. If purchased when they are resting they have insufficient vigour to re-establish and if watered, may not accept it, or if they do, will start to grow too early. This results in the afore-mentioned “stacked” leaves, where the old leaf pair has not dried away before the new leaves start to grow.

Please beware of buying plants taken (poached) from their wild habitat. It's often not easy to tell the difference between nursery-grown and ex-habitat plants and unscrupulous sellers may tell you they are not poached when in fact they are. Poaching is a huge problem reaching epidemic proportions and many habitat conophytums are now endangered and potentially at risk of extinction due to human greed. Be especially cautious if purchasing plants from China and Korea as many poached conophytums are sent there.

Can I grow them from seed?

Certainly. Growing from seed is interesting and rewarding but perhaps not easy for the inexperienced. Again, seeds are in great demand and it can be disappointing to order some from eBay or Etsy and end up with a pot full of grass. Do your research (which is often half the fun) and find reliable sources.

Assuming you have obtained good seeds, you need to understand a few basics for success. Once again there are many opinions and methods of how best to proceed. Some growers sow in autumn but others have success sowing in spring, so both will work.

The seeds are tiny, so treat them carefully. The same growing medium you use for plants can be used to sow seeds, although some growers prefer to sieve out the mix of larger particles. Some advocate sterilizing soil before sowing but others consider it detrimental. I know many successful growers who microwave the sowing medium on high for 5-10 minutes and letting it cool before sowing.

A variable temperature range of 15-20C (60-70F) during the day to 5-10C (40-50F) at night works well for germination as it mimics what they experience in habitat. Small pots or trays may be used. Sow the seeds evenly and gently water them from above or let the pots or trays stand in water until the surface is wet. Some growers sow onto a shallow top layer of fine grit. Fine sand is not recommended as it can harden or “cake” when it dries out. If sown onto fine grit, the seeds should be carefully washed down between the particles. This is my preferred method as the grit supports the seedlings as they grow and also inhibits any growth of moss or algae on the surface. The pots and trays will benefit from being covered by either clear plastic or glass, to maintain the humidity. They can also be put inside plastic bags. Whatever is used should then be shaded from the sun. Under the right conditions healthy seeds will usually germinate within a week to ten days. Any cover should then be removed otherwise the tiny green seedlings can rot. They appreciate air moving over them with a small fan and should be kept out of direct sunlight for the first few months.

It's all about experimenting and seeing what works best for you in your conditions.

Keep them growing by lightly watering all the way through their first year. They should be kept moist (but never wet for long periods) and as they increase in size can dry out for a day or so between watering. After this they should be large enough to be treated as adults, with a dry summer period in the second year.

Taking and rooting cuttings....

…. is a good way to get new plants faster than growing from seed. Conophytums often lose vigour and look less attractive as they get older so some growers like to break them up and start afresh from cuttings. Breaking up a large, old cluster into individual heads or pieces of 2-4 heads can give you spare plants to sell or trade with other growers, which is often a great way to increase your collection and make new friends. Even if you like large, older plants, you can still carefully remove heads from the lower edges or sides of a plant to make cuttings.

Cut below the heads to leave ideally 2-3mm of hard stem, never cutting into the soft leaf tissue which invariably leads to failure, as does taking them in the resting season. They can be planted immediately into your standard growing mix and kept constantly moist until firm in the pot and obviously rooted. Cuttings root best taken early in the growing season, when they often produce new roots within a couple of weeks. If cuttings are taken later, then some bottom heat will help to speed up the process but rooting takes longer.

What about bugs and other nasties?

Cultivated conos can suffer from mealy bugs both above and below soil level, but most generally available pesticides will control them. A more persistent pest is Western Flower Thrips. They will feed inside flowers and also on new leaf growth and are not at all easy to kill. Acephate is a good systemic pesticide which controls thrips but is not available in many countries due to its extreme toxicity.

Seedlings may be attacked by Sciara flies, also known as mushroom flies or fungus gnats. They lay their eggs in the soil and the larvae eat the seedlings. A general systemic insecticide, especially Imidacloprid, will usually control them. Another problem for very young seedlings is damping off. This is a fungal disease that usually occurs when the soil is too wet and there is not enough air moving over the seedlings which first turn white, then opaque, then die. It can be controlled by using a solution of copper sulphate.

Other pests and animals which can cause serious damage are slugs, snails, caterpillars, crickets, birds and mice. All of them can appear suddenly and unexpectedly, so need to be considered and kept away at all costs.

I'm ready to give them a go. Any last words of advice?

Help them maintain their cycle, watch them and be patient. Remember that all this advice is guidance. Every grower has a different environment and conditions and this will affect how their plants grow, so it's a process, a learning curve. Everyone has successes and failures along the way, but every success is a joy and assuming you discover why, every failure should help to understand more about these plants and how you can grow them better.

You may consider joining the MSG - Mesemb Study Group. Based in the UK they produce a quarterly printed bulletin and an annual seedlist.

https://www.mesemb.org/

-------------------

This guide was produced and edited with thanks to my friends, Catherine Arthur, Trudy Marsden and Andy Young, who, between us, have over a hundred years of experience growing conophytums.

Growing Crassula
Growing Crassula

GROWING CRASSULA(S), a beginner’s guide.

What are they?

Crassula is a large, diverse and widespread genus of succulent plants with well over 200 different species. There are also many hybrids and cultivars. In nature, the majority of 150 or so mostly grow in the Western and Northern Capes of South Africa winter rainfall areas. Some are also found in the Eastern Cape summer rainfall zone and even a few which may receive rain at any time. They can endure periods of drought, so they can survive on moisture from fog, mist and morning dew. Many enjoy the shade and protection of bushes but may also be found in the open, on plains, in and under cracks in rocks, in grit pans and on mountain tops. Many different ones can often be found growing together and they invariably grow with other succulent plants such as mesembs.

Most Crassulas are perennial but there are also annual ones. They are extremely variable in size and shape. Some are dwarf miniatures, some grow into larger bushes or small trees. A few are monocarpic so die after flowering and some grow from corms and tubers. It's a fascinating group of plants to collect and grow.

How do I grow them?

For the majority, in the spring and autumn with cool or cold nights and warmer days, they are actively and visibly growing, producing new leaves. During the longer days of and summer and cold, dark days of winter they prefer a “resting” or dryer period. So they need water while growing but little or none when resting. Those from the Eastern Cape will need some summer watering so it's interesting to research where they grow. You can then look to find seasonal rainfall information which adds more interest to the hobby.

Water well when you do but be sure to let them dry out between watering and if in doubt, don't water. They are succulent plants so survive drought better than being wet for too long. Use rainwater if you can. They prefer their growing medium and water to be just on the acid side of neutral.

When growing vigorously, Crassulas produce lots of new leaf growth which requires food and minerals. They do appreciate some feeding but how much depends on what growing medium you use. If grown in a grit-soil mix or a commercial compost, they need less additional feed at first because it's already present in the mix. If it's inert like pumice then they will certainly need regular low nitrogen liquid fertiliser. Some growers advocate feeding at the beginning and end of of the growing season, to give them an early boost and then to help them through a dryer period. In general I recommend half strength low-nitrogen liquid fertiliser occasionally in the main growth periods of spring and autumn. One has to be careful and watch the plants. If the growth is too green or too soft then don't feed as much.

Crassulas can be very colourful plants but will remain green and soft if they are fed too much. A common mistake is watering the plants during the heat of summer. It's never an exact science, but generally when night time temperatures are never below 15C – 60F, they shut down and won't take up any water. So the roots may rot which then travels up into the plant and kills it.

Where should I grow them?

Crassulas are quite tolerant and will grow in a greenhouse, on a windowsill or under artificial lighting. They will grow in whatever country you live in, be it in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, as long as you can provide the conditions they require.

They need good light, especially when growing. If they are grown in natural light some sort of shading is often beneficial in summer. Some growers move their plants outdoors when suitable. They can be damaged by scorch in a just a couple of hours if they get too hot, so if grown indoors, air movement with a fan can help with cooling. In habitat they can tolerate freezing conditions for short periods in winter, but there it invariably warms up during the day. Elsewhere in cultivation, winters can remain cold for long periods so less water will be needed by the plants then. A minimum winter temperature of 3C - 37F will suffice. Anything over 32C - 89F in summer can cause damage, especially with no air movement.

If you have no natural daylight and want to grow them, LED lighting is the way to go, but that's a whole different game of which I have no experience. However, in theory, it should be very successful as both light and temperature can be controlled to provide the necessary conditions.

What do I grow them in?

Growing medium, soil, compost, substrate......all terms for what Crassulas can be grown in. What they grow in best is often the topic of much opinion and debate. Some growers will only use a mineral blend, others prefer a soil and grit mixture. It really depends on what you can find and buy locally or get delivered. Essentially the growing medium just needs to hold water for a short period before drying out, so needs to drain well and not stay wet for days. It's interesting to experiment and see what works best for you and your individual growing conditions.

Most people find standard plastic pots are fine but others prefer ceramic or even fancy ornamental ones. Again it doesn't really matter as long as the container drains freely and the basic growing principles are followed. Whatever type of pot you choose need not be large. I grow my plants in 5cm (2 inch) plastic pots to start with, then only pot on to something larger as required.

Where can I get them?

It's great to visit a nursery to choose plants, but most people buy their plants online these days. This can be risky, as although Crassulas are mostly not as expensive as some other succulents, many sellers are only in it for a quick profit, selling poor quality and often wrongly-named plants. So do some research before buying. Perhaps join one or two Facebook `groups` (e.g. Crassula Collectors) to see where others are buying and ask for advice. Find recommended sellers.

Propagating Crassulas.

These plants in most cases will grow quickly and easily from leaves and cuttings. Leaves can be carefully removed from the stems and will produce roots and new plants from the heel of the leaf. Some growers plant them immediately into trays or around the sides of pots. Some will leave them on the surface, others will bury the heel. I prefer to leave cuttings in air until roots appear, before planting them. Try different ways to see what works for you.

Not my choice, but some people use “water culture” which can also work. Place a cutting just into or over water and wait for roots to appear before potting up.

Many growers advocate taking cuttings as soon as possible to have spares to experiment with in different conditions (growing medium, location, etc.) to see what does best in your particular environment. Growing a few spare plants will also give you material to share or trade with other growers to increase your collection.

Can I grow them from seed?

Certainly, but Crassula seeds are rarely commercially available. Many growers with the skills and ideal conditions will produce their own seeds by carefully cross-pollinating different plants. Due to the popularity of Crassula hybrids, many growers like to try producing their own.

But assuming you have obtained good seeds, you need to understand a few basics for success. Once again there are many opinions and methods of how best to proceed. Some growers sow in autumn but others have success sowing in spring, so both will work.

The seeds are usually dust-like, so treat them carefully. The same growing medium you use for plants can be used to sow seeds, although some growers prefer to sieve out the mix of larger particles. Some advocate sterilizing soil before sowing but others consider it detrimental. I know many successful growers who microwave the sowing medium on high for 5-10 minutes, letting it cool before sowing.

A variable temperature range of 15-20C (60-70F) during the day to 5-10C (40-50F) at night works well for germination as it mimics what they experience in habitat.

Small pots or trays may be used. Sow the seeds evenly and gently water them from above or let the pots or trays stand in water until the surface is wet. Some growers sow onto a shallow top layer of fine grit. Fine sand is not recommended as it can harden or “cake” when it dries out. If sown onto fine grit, the seeds should be carefully washed down between the particles. This is my preferred method as the grit supports the seedlings as they grow and also inhibits any growth of moss or algae on the surface. The pots and trays will benefit from being covered by either clear plastic or glass, to maintain the humidity. They can also be put inside plastic bags. Whatever is used should then be shaded from the sun. Under the right conditions healthy seeds will usually germinate within a week to ten days. Any cover should then be removed otherwise the tiny green seedlings can rot. They appreciate air moving over them with a small fan and should be kept out of direct sunlight for the first few months.

Keep them growing by lightly watering all the way through their first year. They should be kept moist (but never wet for long periods) and as they increase in size can dry out for a day or so between watering. After this they should be large enough to be treated as adults.

What about bugs and other nasties?

Cultivated Crassula plants can suffer from mealy bugs both above and below soil level. Red spider can also appear and shows as browning of the leaves. Most generally available pesticides will control them. A more persistent pest is Western Flower Thrips. They will feed on new leaf growth, leave ugly brown marks and are not at all easy to kill. Acephate is a good systemic pesticide which controls thrips but is not available in many countries due to its extreme toxicity.

Seedlings may be attacked by Sciara flies, also known as mushroom flies or fungus gnats. They lay their eggs in the soil and the larvae eat the seedlings. A general systemic insecticide, especially Imidacloprid, will usually control them. Another problem for very young seedlings is damping off. This is a fungal disease that usually occurs when the soil is too wet and there is not enough air moving over the seedlings. It can be controlled by using a solution of copper sulphate.

Other fungal problems such as Rust may effect Crassula and prevention is best by regular spraying with a systemic fungicide. It' s not fatal but marks the leaves and once seen, the damage is done.

Other pests and animals which can cause serious damage are slugs, snails, caterpillars, crickets, birds and mice. All of them can appear suddenly and unexpectedly, so need to be considered and kept away at all costs.

I'm ready to give them a go. Any last words of advice?

It's all about experimenting and seeing what works best for you in your conditions.

Remember that all this advice is guidance. Every grower has a different environment and conditions and this will affect how their plants grow, so it's a process, a learning curve.

Everyone has successes and failures along the way, but every success is a joy and assuming you discover why, every failure should help to understand more about Crassula and how you can grow them better.

There is so much more to learn about these fascinating plants. Not only all the different species but the challenge of growing them well and building a varied collection.

For more information I would suggest you take a look at ICN, The International Crassulaceae Network;

https://www.crassulaceae.ch/de/artikel?akID=31&aaID=2&aiID=A

The accepted and revered work on the genus is the Crassula “bible” by H. R. Tölken. His 1977 two volume, “Revision of the Genus Crassula in Southern Africa” is a must for any serious student of them. It's often reprinted and inexpensive.

The alternative and later 1985 “Flora of Southern Africa Vol.14 Crassulaceae by H. R. Tölken is also inexpensive and worth having if you can find a used copy.

Crassula, a collectors guide, by G. D. Rowley is a nice coffee table book with lots of information and photos, although there are quite a few mistakes with plant identification. It's been out of print for many years and commands a high price if you can find one.

A classic old book from 1936 is Vera Higgins "Crassulas in Cultivation". It's an easy to read guide, has nice watercolour illustrations and can usually be found reasonably priced online.

Growing Adromischus
Growing Adromischus

GROWING ADROMISCHUS, a beginner’s guide.

What are they?

Adromischus is Greek for “stout stem” and pronounced Adrommiskus. It is often abbreviated to “adro” (singular) and “adros” (plural). They mostly grow in the winter rainfall areas of South Africa and southern Namibia, although a few are also found in summer rainfall areas and even a few which may receive rain at any time. Summers are mostly hot and dry. In nature, even in winter they can endure periods of drought, so they can survive on moisture from fog, mist and morning dew. They grow on open plains, in and under cracks in rocks, in grit pans and on mountain tops. They are often found in the shade of bushes or over-hanging rocks.

Adromischus are highly succulent, leafy plants where the leaves grow spirally around them stem. They are grown for their attractively shaped and often patterned leaves, more than for their flowers which are mostly small and rather insignificant. Most of them will produce their tall flower spikes in summer a few will persist through autumn.

There are currently 29 species plus a few subspecies and varieties. They are grouped into 5 sections of related species. They are extremely variable in size, shape and markings.

How do I grow them?

As with most plants, Adromischus can have their problems in cultivation but are easy and rewarding to grow, if you take the time to learn and understand their needs.

In the spring and autumn with cool or cold nights and warmer days, they are actively and visibly growing, producing new leaves. During the longer days of and summer and cold, dark days of winter they prefer a “resting” or dryer period. So they need water while growing but little or none when resting.

Water well when you do but be sure to let them dry out between watering and if in doubt, don't water. They are succulent plants so survive drought better than being wet for too long. Use rainwater if you can. They prefer their growing medium and water to be just on the acid side of neutral.

When growing vigorously, Adromischus produce lots of new leaf growth which requires food and minerals. They do appreciate feeding but how much depends on what growing medium you use. If grown in a grit-soil mix or a commercial compost, they need less additional feed at first because it's already present in the mix. If it's inert like pumice then they will certainly need regular low nitrogen liquid fertiliser. Some growers advocate full strength feeding at the beginning and end of of the growing season, to give them an early boost and then to help them recover from the effort of flowering. In general I recommend half strength low-nitrogen liquid fertiliser on every watering in the main growth periods of spring and autumn.

A common mistake is watering the plants during the heat of summer. It's never an exact science, but generally when night time temperatures are never below 15C – 60F, adros shut down and won't take up any water. So the roots may rot and the plants collapse.

Where should I grow them?

Adromischus are quite tolerant and will grow in a greenhouse, on a windowsill or under artificial lighting. They will grow in whatever country you live in, be it in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, as long as you stick to the spring-autumn growing regime and you can provide the conditions they need.

Adromishus need good light, especially when growing. If they are grown in natural light some sort of shading is often beneficial in summer. They can be damaged by scorch in a just a couple of hours if they get too hot, so air movement with a fan can help with cooling. In habitat they can tolerate freezing conditions for short periods in winter, but there it invariably warms up during the day. Elsewhere in cultivation, winters can remain cold for long periods so less water will be needed by the plants then. A minimum winter temperature of 3C - 37F will suffice. Anything over 32C - 89F in summer can cause damage, especially with no air movement.

If you have no natural daylight and want to grow them, LED lighting is the way to go, but that's a whole different game of which I have no experience. However, in theory, it should be very successful as both light and temperature can be controlled to provide the necessary conditions and you may even be able to extend their growing periods.

What do I grow them in?

Growing medium, soil, compost, substrate......all terms for what Adromischus can be grown in. What they grow in best is often the topic of much opinion and debate. Some growers will only use a mineral blend, others prefer a soil and grit mixture. It really depends on what you can find and buy locally or get delivered. Essentially the growing medium just needs to hold water for a short period before drying out, so needs to drain well and not stay wet for days. It's interesting to experiment and see what works best for you and your individual growing conditions.

Most people find standard plastic pots are fine but others prefer ceramic or even fancy ornamental ones. Again it doesn't really matter as long as the container drains freely and the basic growing principles are followed. Whatever type of pot you choose need not be large. I grow my plants in 5cm (2 inch) plastic pots to start with, then only pot on to something larger as required. In nature Adromischus often grow in very root-restricted places.

Where can I get them?

It's great to visit a nursery to choose plants, but most people buy their Adromischus online these days. This can be risky, as due to their ever-increasing popularity, prices have increased, supply is limited and many sellers are only in it for a quick profit, selling poor quality and often wrongly-named plants. So do some research before buying. Perhaps join one or two Facebook `groups` to see where others are buying and ask for advice. Find recommended sellers.

How do I propagate them?

These plants in most cases will grow quickly and easily from leaves. They can be carefully removed from the stems and will produce roots from the heel of the leaf. Some growers plant them immediately into trays or around the sides of pots. Some will leave them on the surface, others will bury the heel. I prefer to leave them in air until roots appear, before planting them. Either way they shouldn't be watered until they have roots, so have some means of using that water. I plant them into the pot they will grow in for year or more to save transplanting and root disturbance. After a period, which may vary from weeks to many months, new leaves will grow from the base of the leaf and they can be grown on as adult plants. It's also possible to take and root stem cuttings from taller growing species and root them in a similar way.

Collectors often refer to different “clones”. A plant grown from a leaf or stem would be the same clone as the plant it was taken from.

Many growers advocate removing a few leaves as soon as possible for “insurance” plants, in case the mother plan dies. It's also useful to have spares to experiment with in different conditions (growing medium, location, etc.) to see what does best in your particular environment. Growing a few spares from leaves will also give you material to share or trade with other growers to increase your collection.

Can I grow them from seed?

Certainly, but seeds are rarely commercially available. Many growers with the skills and ideal conditions will produce their own seeds by carefully cross-pollinating different plants. Due to the tremendous popularity of Adromischus now there are many hybrids being grown by seeds produced by specialist growers.

But assuming you have obtained good seeds, you need to understand a few basics for success. Once again there are many opinions and methods of how best to proceed. Some growers sow in autumn but others have success sowing in spring, so both will work.

The seeds are small, so treat them carefully. The same growing medium you use for plants can be used to sow seeds, although some growers prefer to sieve out the mix of larger particles. Some advocate sterilizing soil before sowing but others consider it detrimental. I know many successful growers who microwave the sowing medium on high for 5-10 minutes before sowing, once it has cooled of course.

A variable temperature range of 15-20C (60-70F) during the day to 5-10C (40-50F) at night works well for germination as it mimics what they experience in habitat. Small pots or trays may be used. Sow the seeds evenly and gently water them from above or let the pots or trays stand in water until the surface is wet. Some growers sow onto a shallow top layer of fine grit. Fine sand is not recommended as it can harden or “cake” when it dries out. If sown onto fine grit, the seeds should be carefully washed down between the particles. This is my preferred method as the grit supports the seedlings as they grow and also inhibits any growth of moss or algae on the surface. The pots and trays will benefit from being covered by either clear plastic or glass, to maintain the humidity. They can also be put inside plastic bags. Whatever is used should then be shaded from the sun. Under the right conditions healthy seeds will usually germinate within a week to ten days. Any cover should then be removed otherwise the tiny green seedlings can rot. They appreciate air moving over them with a small fan and should be kept out of direct sunlight for the first few months.

Keep them growing by lightly watering all the way through their first year. They should be kept moist (but never wet for long periods) and as they increase in size can dry out for a day or so between watering. After this they should be large enough to be treated as adults.

What about bugs and other nasties?

Cultivated Adromischus can suffer from mealy bugs both above and below soil level, but most generally available pesticides will control them. A more persistent pest is Western Flower Thrips. They will feed on new leaf growth and are not at all easy to kill. Acephate is a good systemic pesticide which controls thrips but is not available in many countries due to its extreme toxicity.

Seedlings may be attacked by Sciara flies, also known as mushroom flies or fungus gnats. They lay their eggs in the soil and the larvae eat the seedlings. A general systemic insecticide, especially Imidacloprid, will usually control them. Another problem for very young seedlings is damping off. This is a fungal disease that usually occurs when the soil is too wet and there is not enough air moving over the seedlings which first turn white, then opaque, then die. It can be controlled by using a solution of copper sulphate.

Other fungal problems may effect adros. As previously mentioned, they can rot from below but also rot from the base of a flower stem. This then travels down into the plant and within a very short time it is beyond saving. Another reason to have those “insurance” plants. Other pests and animals which can cause serious damage are slugs, snails, caterpillars, crickets, birds and mice. All of them can appear suddenly and unexpectedly, so need to be considered and kept away at all costs.

I'm ready to give them a go. Any last words of advice?

It's all about experimenting and seeing what works best for you in your conditions.

Remember that all this advice is guidance. Every grower has a different environment and conditions and this will affect how their plants grow, so it's a process, a learning curve.

Everyone has successes and failures along the way, but every success is a joy and assuming you discover why, every failure should help to understand more about these plants and how you can grow them better.

There is so much more to learn about these fascinating plants.

For more information I would suggest you download our Adromischus Handbook (it's free!). The link can be found in the “Books & articles .pdf files to download” album of this website.

For more advice and another opinion, you should also look at the comprehensive and specialist website of my friend, Derek Tribble, “Adromischus Displayed”.

http://adromischus.cactus-mall.com/qus-cult.htm

Download the Adromischus handbook to your computer;

https://epdf.pub/index.php/adromischus.html