Adromischus Growing and Care
Adromischus Growing and Care
A very popular small plant, ideally suited for pot culture So has appeal among collectors and enthusiast most are easy to grow but a few of the beauties can be a challenge
Most lovers of succulents will have encountered by now “The Plovers Egg Plant”. Adromischus cooperi looks good, has lovely markings on the leaves and is very different to other succulents. Easily grown and propagated, a good beginner’s plant.
To the newer succulent collector Adromischus is quiet unique and different to most other succulents. Adromischus cooperi was also my first.Then I met and got to know Alec Salzer an elderly and long time collector who has now sadly passed on. He had over 40 different species and subspecies. I think owing to several trips to South Africa and coming back with heavy pockets filled with leaves and cuttings. Alecs collection eluded me he was reticent to share the few leaves they had on his diminutive plants all were underpotted and miniaturized in small pots in his cramped glasshouse that had an amazing array of plants. To this day I can think of no other collection that had such a range as Alec’s had in 3 small cramped glasshouses in a small backyard in Camberwell.
Alec’s Adromischus collection was passed on to someone, who knows?. But now disappeared into someone’s collection and now lost to the public. I will share a belief with you which I feel is important for the plant world is this. If you have some rare species or an important or interesting variant of a special plant. Share it ASAP with a person who has the ability to grow and procreate that special plant. Those people who want to hang onto and be the only individual with something special are a bit selfish and short sighted. You just need one disaster, a too hot day in the polyhouse with no shade or a flood or an unlucky rot to get your one and only treasure while your not looking. My experience of this was a once in a 100 year flood 200 ml of rain in about 20 hours saw me lose a poly house to 50 cm of water they were well covered and or floating out the door. I lost a few unique plants and part of my whole crop. Luckily 6 months later I was able to get many of the special plants back from a friend I had shared with previously.
Back to Adromischus These are delightfull succulents which have held my attention for some time owing to the fact they are very hard to find the rarer ones in Australia. A specialist collection of these plants with their many and leaf forms and colours and spots and textures is very rewarding when viewed over an annual cycle they are a constant source of wonder and beauty sometimes perplexing. Their size is just right for pot culture they do very well in a well lit glasshouse window sills where there is plenty of light
Adromischus as a group are nearly all very easy to propagate. As is usual in most plant groups. There are a few exceptions nature is never straight forward. They will easily grow from leaf, though those really good lookers and rare ones are often the slowest to to establish only gaining 2 to 3 new leaves per year. These can also be the fussiest to grow, as if we did not know this they will be the hardest to get the most expensive and hardest to establish. So you can see a plant that may only put on a few leaves a year will never be very available and common or cheap they are just too hard and slow to procreate. I currently have approximately 30 trays of mother plants to harvest my leaf cuttings from. So it is quiet an area of the glasshouse to take up and maintain.
Soil mix for Adromishus needs to be well drained they are not a fussy plant, compost or sand mix of about 30 to 50% then add course river sand about 3ml or pumice or scoria to open up your mix the use of peat moss and perlite will do as well. The fat rooted or cordex style of plants such A marianiae will benefit from 50 to 70% course material in the mix. In habitat Adromischus grow in all kinds of soil from shale to granite quartz and sandstone mostly on rock ledges or crevices’ under bushes or the shade of a rock.
Adromischus Light and ventilation needs
Good light is essential to get the more vibrant and beautiful colours and spots to show up well, the more silvery ones will be brighter silver with good light as well. If Adromischus are in too shady a spot they do seem to get a common bland green look. In my house here near Melbourne the Adromischus are at the North facing sunny entrance where there is also good ventilation
In the wild most start life in a rock crevice where wind blown seed may catch a hold. As the plant matures to be above these crevices many are seen sitting proud in the bright sun. Others are in partial shad under small shrubs or trees or the shadow of rocks some only exist on the south side of hills where they are less exposed having partial shade in the afternoons (Southern hemisphere) You will need to learn the tolerances a bit by placing them in different areas of the house.
If you have humid periods such as Melbourne in winter or Sydney in Summer, extra ventilation at these times is a big help in reducing potential rots. I have installed fans in my houses and I have had very few losses since doing this. I realize that Adromischus start growing in the late winter months so give them water but keep it light do on bright sunny days so the excess evaporates off. A fan helps this as well.
Adromischus Watering Needs.
Here a little knowledge of where they come from helps, these plants grow over a vast range from Southern Namibia to west cape South Africa then all the way to East Cape then North to Free State area. This range covers several climate zones having winter rain and summer dry to summer rain and winter dry. Basically I have found very little water in winter is best with just a few wash overs with the hose over winter. When Spring arrives increase and water a little deeper. What I feel is essential is the plant must dry between watering’s Adromischus will tell you when they are thirsty their leaves start to shrivel then will shed the really shriveld ones to survive. Also plants that are dried out or as we say “stressed” will display better colours than well, watered plants So put good light and a little dryness you can achieve the colours these plants were designed with in nature.
Towards the end of summer start to ease back on the watering a bit to allow the plants to shrink a bit and lose a few of their older leaves over the Autumn period before winter sets in. I have found if the leaves are very full of water some of these older leaves that may have shed over summer retain their water into winter sort of die off full of water which can then start a rot into your plants.
Another trick to know about watering is that when the flower buds start to appear this is generally the prime good season when plants want to grow and procreate this is mostly done in the optimum season. It’s a great indication of when to water more.
Adromischus Repotting and potting on
It’s the small slow growing plants can stay longer in their original pots and soil mix for several years. This is when it can take several years for a plant to show some character and shape, then you may need to move it up a size. If its one of the cordex types a larger pot is neede for some good root development. Whereas some of the more vigorous smaller shrub types with a more fibrous root system could be repotted every year or so into either the some pot or just some fresh soil mix and a light trim. These lovely plants do make great Bonsai specimens in time gaining a older weathered and gnarled look like aged desert specimens that has seen many hard summers.
Best time for repotting is when they start their new Spring growth and again in Autumn allowing them time to settle in before winter. Although if you are careful without disturbing the roots to much potting on can be done most of the year. Root damage during winter can cause rots after repotting especially the cordex types which seem to be a bit more fussy.
If you want your plants to be compact with good colour a very small amount of food is all that’s needed with maybe a light annual topdress in Spring or a light liquid feed for older potted plants. This is more particularly so with the small and slow growing types. Some of the more vigorous and faster growing species can take as much feed and water as other succulents. Some of my older plants that have not been fed or potted on for a few years begin to look a bit thin of leaf and a bit branchy and wispy
In our nursery we use a 6 month slow release fertilizer with trace elements. Then a small amount of a soft slow release nitrogen fertilizer, then a reasonable amount of Dolomite lime. We use this blend on all our succulents in the nursery in varying amounts to suit our many different groups off plants. For example a 140mm pot would get up to a ¼ of a teaspoon or less depending on the plant Smaller pots of course get less again, I feel sometimes as were making pots we almost seem to wave the fertilizer the fertilizer over the pots you can barely see it. Nurseries are more inclined to fertilize a bit heavier than the home collector after all we have to produce a crop of succulent for the many succulent admires out there
Adromischus pest and diseases.
Pest Yes they do suffer from the usual suspects that most succulent growers are aware of, People these day are tending to try less toxic chemicals to keep their plants clean. In our nursery situation this does not work also some chemicals over the years have been banned or about to be. The most recent limitation of chemicals is Bunnings ceasing the sale of Confidor as it is known to affect bees which are essential to life on this planet. The reality is that it does effect bees they collect chemical affected pollen, take it back to their hives where it has a very ill effect on their breeding. If you have flowers that hold this systemic poison. If you remove your flowers the bees will not visit your plants so therefore it can’t affect them.
The organic way. Recently I have come across Neem it’s a plant product, produced I think mainly in India you can buy the oil and use it as a spray or you can buy Neem compost when this is used as a top dressing or in the soil mix it seems to repel insects making the plant unattractive to them for a while. Then a re-dose is needed. Diatamite powder put on with a dust applicator is another method this fine dust is so sharp and abrasive that it damages the insects as they move over your plants. This works on Aphids Mealy bugs and fugus Gnats, We have used this often with varying results.
If your collection is small enough and you have the eyesight and patents a pair if tweezers or a bamboo food or meat skewer with the pointy end frayed or chewed is ideal for picking these bugs and their egg deposits of your plants
We are inclined in the nursery situation to do preventative spraying. In Victoria Mealy bugs seem to show up in late August or early September we spray twice at this time which seems to keep this problem solved, A double spray 10 to 14 days apart will catch eggs that hatch after the first spray before they sexually mature to lay more eggs. We always keep a small sprayer handy just in case we see a bit if the fluffy white stuff appear between sprayings. Most of the insect problems seem to disappear over the severest part of summer. But as it begins to cool again we do another two complete spays over the nursery. Most of you will be aware that these bugs are more attracted to certain plants, keep an eye on these ones for further infestations.
Aphids do not seems to present much of a problem on our succulents especially if their kept a bit dry. But occasional groups can be seen gathering on the more lush flower heads of our succulent plants these can be handled with soapy water pyrethium or just general insecticdes we have sometimes just removed the flower heads which has solved the problem
Another rather insidious pest which I feel is becoming more rampant and has been in the Monbulk area for some time is the Vine Weavil this is a small dark to black long legged ungainly looking beetle barely 5 mm long with a long snout. Have you noticed any scalloped edged succulents in the garden I have seen large Aoeniums Ech Black Prince with badly eaten and scalloped leaves. These beetles can be seen on the plants at night and hide near the ground in the leaf litter by day. So keep your plants clear around the base and look under your pots for hiding insects if you see the tell-tale eaten leaves. The real problem with this weevil I think it lays eggs all day long It’s the larvae when they hatch in the soil head for the roots of your succulent eat them all then proceed to eat out the internal stems of your succulents leaving a core of sawdust soon the plant either dies or fall over as the stem loses its strength. Its nearly impossible to get these larvae but cut back your plants remove the affected areas then re-root them and dispose of all the old soil and the trimmings. My method for handling this nasty bug is Suscon Green a few grains of this insecticide in the root zone of the pot has cured what can be a disaster these day we will only find one or two affected plants since we have been using it Also keeping plants of the floor helps and on benches I am sure.
Botrytis and fungal rots More info coming on these two items.
Adromischus naming by who why and the five flower types the key to identifying this group coming soon.