Succulent Macros

I haven’t really posted any little succulent pics in a while because many of them are dormant during the spring and summer and don’t look like much. After our recent rain storm they are springing back to life so it is time for an update.

All of them are plants that I started from seed except for the Fenestraria. Most of them are in two or three inch pots so that should give you an idea of their size.

Frithia pulchra

Frithia pulchra

Titanopsis primosii

Titanopsis primosii

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. rhopalophylla

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca

Stomatium alboroseum

Crassula barklyi

Crassula macowaniana

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera

Lithops optica ssp. rubra

Mitrophyllum dissitum

 Mitrophyllum dissitum

 Mitrophyllum grande

 Monilaria pisiformis (I am not convinced that any of my Monilaria are going to survive dormancy. There is a bit of green in some of them but they are not doing much)

Cheiridopsis glomerata

Gibbaeum comptonii

Oophytum oviforme

Muiria hortenseae

Muiria hortenseae

The last four – Cheiridopsis glomerata, Gibbaeum comptonii, Oophytum oviforme, and Muiria hortenseae were left in their original seedling containers way too long. For little mesembs (especially tricky ones like Muiria and Oophytum) it is a balancing act on potting the plants up into individual pots. Too soon and you may kill them. If you wait too long, however, they become overgrown and their roots are so entwined it is difficult to extricate them from each other without doing damage or even killing some. I had planned on potting them up in September, after returning from a trip back east, but while I was gone the drip irrigation on my nearby container plants had sprung a leak and water was shooting up like a geyser a few times a week.  It filled the tray they were in with water so they were soaking for a few days. Not ideal for any succulent!  I let them dry out for a bit and then proceeded with potting them up and happily most of them are looking pretty good. The Oophytum are still a bit dodgy but those are tricky plants to begin with. If they fail I’ll try again and be more careful next time.

January 1st Mesembs

I had this plan to take photos of my Mesemb seedlings the first of every month so I would have a record of their growth. I was doing well with my project but fell short these past few months.  I’ll try to start it up again (but no promises!).

Cheiridopsis glomerata sown 3/11/2012 and badly in need of being pricked out and given their own pots.  The problem is I have nowhere to put all those little pots! I am going to remedy that soon though.

Gibbaeum comptonii sown exactly a year ago today!

Muiria hortenseae also sown a year ago today. To tell the truth I am a little nervous to pot these guys up. They are supposed to be tricky and they are doing so well. I’m afraid if I mess with them they will all drop dead.

Oophytum oviforme are also said to be tricky.  They are very tiny and slow-growing too so that makes me even more nervous to pot them up.

Lithops optica var. rubra 

Honestly it is a miracle I have kept any Lithops alive a year and a half.  I have killed more Lithops than any other mesemb.

Mitrophyllum grande (left) and Monilaria pisiformis

These are also a year old today and have been potted up and growing outside since spring.  They went dormant over the summer and I am shocked that they Monilaria survived.  They were all just a few millimeters tall when they went dormant and nothing was left but a few wisps of papery dried up husks. But they sprang to life with the fall rains and the one pictured and a few others are already about an inch high. This one even branched already.

The story for Dactylopsis digitata is not as happy.   Another tricky one to grow they are not thriving since coming out of dormancy. Their old dead leaves are still clinging to them and they have put on little growth. This is supposedly pretty common. I expect they will just wither away.

Mitrophyllum dissitum however are doing really well. Sown 1/16/11 so almost two years old. This past summer was their first dormancy and I was surprised how huge they had become once the rains started in fall and they started growing again. For a while I was nervous about them because like the Dactylopsis their old dried skins were also clinging to them.  But the wet and humidity of a few rainy days in November seemed to do the trick and the old skins washed away.

I think I need to start up some new mesembs and other succulents from seed.  They are far more forgiving than regular herbaceous and woody plants so I can go out of town and not worry about them too much.  People are always raving about Mesa Garden so maybe I will place an order with them when their 2013 seed list comes out.

May Mesembs and Other Succulent Seedlings

Lithops optica var. rubraLithops sp.Lithops sp.Cheiridopsis glomerataGibbaeum comptoniiOophytum oviforme
Muiria hortenseaeHaworthia truncataCrassula barklyiCrassula macowanianaCheiridopsis cigarettiferaCheiridopsis cigarettifera
Mitrophyllum dissitumMitrophyllum dissitumP1170101.jpgFrithia pulchraMixed MesembsDactylopsis digitata
Mystery CheiridopsisCheiridopsis purpureaTitanopsis primrosiiMonilaria moniliformisNewly pricked out Mesemb seedlings.Monilaria pisiformis

It’s the first of the month again and time for a succulent seedling update. Click on the thumbnails to be brought to Flickr where you will find the name of each species and the date the seed was sown and other notes.  Each of these plants is pretty tiny.  Most are under an inch tall or wide.  The largest are the Mitrophyllum dissitum at about two and a half inches tall.

A Year of Cheiridopsis (and Silverhill update)

It has been kind of fun to go through old photos and old blog posts and see how they have grown over the past year.

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera at five weeks.

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera at 4 months.

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera at 6 months.

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera at a year old.

And news on my new Silverhill seedlings started on 1/1/12

  • Oophytum oviforme – germinated on 1/4/12
  • Mitrophyllum grande – germinated on 1/4/12
  • Monilaria pisiformis – germinated on 1/4/12
  • Muiria hortenseae – germinated on 1/5/12
  • Gibbaeum comptonii – germinated on 1/5/12
  • Stomatium alboroseum meyeri – germinated on 1/6/12
Once they start leaning for light I remove them from the zip loc bag and heat mat and put them in a north window for a few days and then they graduate to a west window for a while.
Rhombophyllum dolabriforme, Haworthia truncata, and Dracophilus proximus have shown no sign of germination yet.

Potting Up Cheiridopsis Seedlings

Now that I have finally moved and have a lot more room it is time to finally pot up my seedlings that I have been growing for the past year. I thought it might be fun to post it as a “how to” but of course didn’t think of it until after I was done.  So some of the middle step photos are from a “how to” post I made years  on a garden forum I used to post at back when I was in school.

I learned the following technique from Yuki Kurashina when I was a student at NYBG School of Professional Horticulture. She was formerly the gardener in charge of the alpine collection (and currently in charge of creating the elaborate trained Kiku Chrysanthemum displays at the garden).  She usually only had small amounts of alpine seeds so rather than sow them in flats it made more sense to just sow into a single small pot.  Since home gardeners generally have limited space for growing I think it makes sense to use this same technique for most of my seed growing.  Potting up the seedlings can be a bit intimidating because they are all growing together but it is actually pretty easy.

click on images to enlarge

Here are the Cheiridopsis cigarettifera growing together in their little communal pot. If I was doing greenhouse production and growing thousands of these it would make a lot more sense to just sow one or two seeds per plug and then easily and quickly pop them out and into their new pots. But since these are just for me and they spent the past year growing on the windowsill of a one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood it makes a lot more sense to just have one little pot of them. For most plants obviously you would pot them up at a much earlier stage but for little mesembs and other tiny succulents it is OK to wait a year.

Remove the seedlings from their pot and gently tease them apart. You don't want the soil to be too wet because it will clump and make it easier to damage the seedlings as the heavy soil breaks apart. This step may seem scary but if you are very careful you may not lose any at all. Or in some cases if you have more herbaceous seedlings than you need you may not mind losing a few. In this case I was careful to save all of them. I've grown attached after a year. I place them in a shady spot on a damp paper towel so their roots don't dry out.

This guy has a pretty good root system.

OK this is where I am cheating. The next four photos are from a different photo shoot using Digitalis viridiflora seedlings. But we'll just pretend they are Cheiridopsis, OK? Fill the new pot half way up with soil mix and hold it at an angle so the soil is angled as well. (the hand model is Sierra Smith who was the volunteer coordinator and nursery manager of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden when I was an intern. I wonder what he is up to now?)

Continue holding the pot at an angle and gently place the seedling at the appropriate height, being sure to fan out the roots toward the bottom of the pot. Only hold the seedling by its true leaves. If you handle its seed leaves, stem, or roots you could damage or kill it.

While still holding the pot on its side start adding soil mix while slowly righting the pot. Make sure your seedling stays at the correct level. You want the crown to be just below the rim of the pot and generally want to leave a little space.

Now you can firm the soil a bit with your fingers (not too firm though) and you can tap the pot gently on the potting bench or table to settle the soil in the pot and get rid of any air pockets. See the soil level. That is pretty much the perfect height.

And POOF! It magically transforms back into a Cheiridopsis. You could barely tell the difference right? I just used a basic cactus and succulent prepared soil mix. In the future I'd like to start making my own mixes for my plants.

And repeating those steps we end up with 9 plants in all. Going back and looking at a picture when these seedlings were just 5 weeks old I am happy to say that I had 9 back then so all the ones I had at 5 weeks survived to be a year old.

I top dressed with 1/4 inch Mexican beach pebble and watered them in.

Just to be safe one of the plants will go back to growing on the southern window sill in my office. The other 8 will be gently hardened off outside. First I'll keep them in the dappled shade of my plant stand and they will come in at night. After a while they should be strong enough to survive the cold nights with the other plants (though it does get into the 30's here at night sometimes so I will probably continue to bring them in if there is threat of even a light frost). Eventually I will get a greenhouse but one project at a time.

Next I'll be potting up these Mitrophyllum dissitum and my other mesemb seedlings. Look how red their leaves have become now that they are in a south-facing window.

Hope you liked my little potting up lesson. And I hope you are not too bored with mesemb seedlings.  Of course there will be some exciting garden planning in the next few weeks but I’ll give updates on these guys from time to time.

More Mesembs!

Titanopsis primrosiiCheiridopsis purpureaDactylopsis digitataLithops optica var. rubraMitrophyllum dissitumFrithia pulchra
Frithia pulchraFrithia pulchraFrithia pulchraCheiridopsis cigarettiferaConophytum piriforme in mixed Conophytum potConophytum marginatum
Conophytum minium 'Witteburgense'

Mesemb Seedlings 11/4/11, a set on Flickr.

Just wanted to post a Mesemb seedling update and a few more pictures of the ones coming out of dormancy.

I planted them in two batches. Four last January and the other four in June. They really all should be potted up into their own pots by now but I just don’t have the space in my apartment. Hopefully when I move I will have more room for starting all sorts of different plants from seed.

My favorite are the Frithia and Mitrophyllum. Overall most of these have been fairly easy so I am definitely going to try more in the future. And hopefully some day I will have a little greenhouse to keep them in.

You can click each photo to bring you to Flickr and see larger versions. The macro shots of the Frithia are worth looking at larger.

A few more dormant plants are starting to wake up and one is even about to bloom already!

Mesembs at One Month and Six Months

Mitrophyllum disitumCheiridopsis cigarettiferaFrithia pulchraFrithia pulchraLithops mix
Cheiridopsis purpureaDactylopsis digitataLithops optica rubra

Mesemb seedlings at 6 months, a set on Flickr.

A few months ago I talked about my Mitrophyllum disitum seedlings looking like “little blobs of plastic”. Now they are all scaly like little lizards as they grow their first true adult leaves.

The first batch of Mesembs I grew from seed are about six months old. The new batch is just a month old now.

I’m a little concerned with the older ones. Their growing conditions have not been ideal. Plus I am never quite sure how to care for them. It is hard to gauge too much or not enough water when something is so tiny.

If you overwater Mesmembs they get what is called an “over indulged” look. Swollen and bursting and they grow new leaves far too rapidly. This tricks many people into thinking they are doing well and then suddenly they collapse. I hope I am not over indulging mine too much.