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.


A lot of succulents and cacti have yellow flowers which don’t particularly excite me.  So I am always on the lookout for species or cultivars with red or orange or purple flowers.  One cactus genus I have admired in photographs is Rebutia which tends to have bright red or orange blooms so over the years I picked up a few.

What a disappointment my supposed Rebutia deminuta turned out to be. Instead of the red flowers I was promised they were a rather insipid white.  Either a white form or a mislabeled plant but a big disappointment either way. This year my Rebutia sanguinea bloomed and I am thrilled that it is the real deal!

Cacti are one of those worrisome plant families with a dormant period. In winter they are more than happy to take a break and any watering could lead to rot.  This is a problem for California gardeners growing their plants outside as we tend to have a lot of cold rainy days in winter.  I was told that the plants could be overwintered in a dark garage which I have to  admit sounded a bit daft to me. But since I now am living in a house with a garage I decided to throw caution to the wind and when I moved in this past December my cactus collection when right into the garage where I promptly forgot about them until late April.

Seems to have done the trick as this is the first time this plant has bloomed for me and the rest of my plants look unharmed as well. I think I may need to start expanding my cactus collection a bit.

Monilaria moniliformis

Monilaria moniliformis is cool enough to deserve its own transformation post as it is a bit more dramatic than Conophytums.  I posted about it last year in this thread Dormancy in Mesembs and I am happy to say that it has survived once again despite the fact that it always looks very dead while dormant.  Not only did it survive but this year it has multiplied.  Last year I had just five stems but this year each stem has branched three times.

This is a large (compared to most Conophytums) Mesemb from north-western South Africa in an area called Namaqualand that receives just a few inches of water each winter.  While in active growth the leaves are covered in pearly little water storage cells and shriveled for eight or nine months while the plant is dormant.  It is often listed as being rather difficult to grow but it has been pretty straightforward so far.  Water in October and then regularly when in active growth and then in early spring when it starts to go limp and collapse withdraw water until it shrivels up.  Then ignore it until fall.  It does need high winter light to flower so hopefully when I move I’ll be able to provide better conditions and get some blooms.

I think they look like tragic little burn victims trying to crawl away from the fire when they are dormant.

day 10. I always make sure to get water all over the bodies of the dormant plants to soften the dried sheathes.

day 13. At this stage it was obvious they were branching. Yay!

day 13 close up. The second set of leaves are emerging.

day 14. Now that they are actively growing I usually snap off any old dried leaves that look like they are obstructing the new growth.

day 14. The first set of leaves are the little rounded collar on top of the previous years growth. The second set of leaves are the little bunny ears that emerge. Sometimes a third set of leaves grows as well. Up close you can see the little water storage cells.

day 15

day 15 close up.

day 17. The growth from day to day is pretty dramatic.

day 17 close up. The water storage cells are pretty clear in this picture. I'd love to get a camera with a better macro lens so I could get even closer.

day 23. At this stage of growth they bend toward the light trying to absorb as much light as they can to aid in flower production.

If you are into weird little succulents I definitely recommend looking for these guys at your local cactus and succulent show.  I picked this one up in San Diego a few years ago.  I’ve just received some seed from Silverhill Seeds for the species Monilaria pisiformis.  I’m imagining that the seedlings are going to be super cute!

Conophytum Update

Conophytum marginatumConophytum piriformeConophytum obcordellumConophytum uviforme ssp. uviformeConophytum fraternumConophytum minium 'Witteburgense'
Conophytum ficiforme X minium 'Witteburgense'Conophytum sp.Conophytum ectypum ssp. ectypumConophytum klinghardtenseConophytum mixConophytum truncatum

Conophytum Update, a set on Flickr.

I had hoped to do photo updates of these day by day as they started greening up after receiving water on October 30th. This just wasn’t practical because A. for Conophytums the growth is often not really gradual. One day you have a shriveled lump and the next day you have perfect little green plants and B. I’ve just been way too busy.

I did promise an update though and you can see that 23 days after being watered most of them are up and growing. Out of around a dozen plants it is looking like only 3 didn’t survive through dormancy. Only one bloom so far but fingers crossed a few more may in the coming weeks.

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!

Coming Out of Dormancy

Monilaria moniliformisConophytum piriformeDormant Conophytum CollectionConophytum marginatumConophytum obcordellumConophytum uviforme ssp. uviforme
Conophytum tantillum ssp.tantillum 'Eekokerense'Conophytum fraternumConophytum minium 'Witteburgense'Conophytum ficiforme X minium 'Witteburgense'Mixed ConophytumsConophytum sp.
Conophytum klinghardtenseConophytum sp.Conophytum truncatumConophytum sp.Conophytum ectypum ssp. ectypum

Dormant Mesembs Oct 2011, a set on Flickr.

This is going to be a fun little photo journal over the next month or so.

Conophytums and some other Mesembs go completely dormant for part of the year (spring and summer in this case). Some just go into a resting state but Conophytums and Monilaria wither away to papery shells. They look pretty dead. But just under the surface they are already starting to grow. All they need is a bit of water to mirror the start of the rainy season in their home of South Africa.

This year my plants were slow to go dormant. I believe it is because of my balcony being so shady in spring and summer because of the roof overhang. Even after withholding water for a while some of them remained a bit more fleshy and green compared to last year. In 2010 I watered them on October 3rd but this year I decided to withhold water until the end of October because of their late start. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer. They were so dry the soil exploded in clouds of dust when the water hit.

It is always fun to watch the results. Their rejuvenation is rather dramatic. In just a few short days most of them will quickly show signs of life and in less than a month they will go from papery husks to little green buttons covered in blooms.

It is always a bit of a lottery. Did they survive dormancy? Will they bloom? Did they split and multiply while they were dormant? Check back over the next month as I will try to post updates every few days!

I’m definitely no expert when it comes to these little plants. The best place to buy them is at succulent society shows where they are rather affordable. Most of mine were just $3 to $6 a pot. Seed is readily available too but I haven’t had luck with that yet. The seedlings are very tiny and die pretty easily. Well worth giving these little guys a try though if you can find them and have a sunny windowsill. So far I find them easier than the more commonly available Lithops.

Dormancy in Mesembs

One of the reasons that I wish I started blogging earlier is that I am horrible at keeping notes.  I forget species and cultivar names, I forget when I last fertilized, I forget when I last repotted something.  I try to take notes but without a central place to keep them they just get lost or discarded.  Keeping a blog seems like a good way to keep track of what is going on with my plants.

For example I started keeping Mesembs including Conophytums and a few others that go completely dormant and dry up in summer.  Last year I was successful in seeing my plants through dormancy but for the life of me I can not remember how the process began. Did I just withhold water at some point?  Did they give me some sign that they were ready to go dormant?  At what point did I stop watering them?  No notes.  Luckily I did take pictures of some of my plants breaking dormancy so the time stamp on my photos at least will let me know when I decided to start watering them again and end their dormancy.  October 3rd was that magical date and the I captured the process on camera.  I documented it fairly well for Conophytum piriforme and Monilaria moniliformis so I will share those pictures here as the entire thing was pretty awesome.  And if anyone has any idea when I should let them go dormant again please let me know.

Conophytum piriforme and Monoilaria moniliformis in the clay pots in the back. They were watered right after this picture was taken on October 3, 2010. The 4 smaller pots in the front are assorted Conophytums so you can see just how shriveled and papery some of them can get.

Here is the dormant Conophytum piriforme right after being watered. This is one of the larger Conophytums so they arent quite as desiccated as some of the smaller ones get. But you can see that they are covered with a spotted papery sheathe.

Just 2 days after being watered and you can see that they have already sprung to life.

Day 5 and most of them have pushed their way out of the dried up sheathes. They look like little parrot fish with great big lips.

By day 16 there isnt much change but internally there is a lot still going on.

By day 21 a few of them have already started pushing up flower buds!

Closer look at the buds on day 21.

By day 22 the flower is already starting to open.

And finally by day 23 a few of the plants are in full bloom.

Monilaria moniliformis was even stranger than the Conophytums.

I have to admit when I stopped watering the Monilaria moniliformis I was suspicious that it was dead. But I put the shriveled little lumps in a safe spot inside where it wouldnt accidentally get watered and left it alone all summer.

But on day 3 after being watered I was excited to see some hints of life. The tiniest little bits of green were visible.

By day 5 there was no mistaking the signs of life! I couldnt believe that those shriveled little lumps were actually alive all that time.

Growth was fairly rapid and by day 9 the plant was starting to look like a nest of alien bunnies.

Day 11.

Day 16.

day 21. Unfortunately I havent figured out what it takes to get this plant to bloom. It is a strange little thing often wilting when it dries out. It seems to need to be watered fairly regularly but of course must have perfect drainage. When it does bloom it will have white daisy like flowers.