Tag: care guide

Lapidaria margaretae care guide

My blushing Lapidaria margaretae has now been in my apartment for almost 4 years and I have watered it maybe 10 times since I got it. These are super fussy, but are still pretty easy to care for if done right.

Watering and soil

The most important thing is to repot immediately if it’s planted in potting soil. Like Lithops, Lapidaria will pop or rot if they’re standing in wet soil, because they don’t know when to stop drinking. Pure pumice or crushed lava rock is to be preferred. In addition to that, it’s best to plant your Lapidaria in a small pot, only slightly bigger than the plant to make sure the soil dries out quickly. It’s safe to water when the bottom leaves start wrinkling. It can take weeks or months before this happens. I water mine every 3-4 months or so.

Lighting

It can be hard to judge if the plant gets enough light because they don’t stretch and turn pale like other succulents. Lapidaria and other mesembs do best in as much sunlight as possible if they’re indoors. Outdoors you may have to protect them from strong midday sun. Mine are in a south facing window, getting several hours of sunlight every day.

How are Lapidaria different from other mesembs?

Even though Lapidaria are mesembs, they don’t act like your average mesemb. They don’t really have a growing/dormant season. Instead of going dormant, they’re opportunistic growers, meaning that they grow new leaves if given water. Unlike Lithops and Pleiospilos, they can handle having more than 1 or 2 leaf sets. Mine currently has 5 sets of leaves. Stacking isn’t a problem with these as long as they’re healthy.

Monilaria moniliformis, 3 years + 3 months

My 3-year-old Monilaria moniliformis is still very much alive. I realized that I haven’t written about it for quite a while. Right now it’s summer dormant and looks very dead. It will look this way for another 3-4 months.

A little guide on how I keep my Monilaria alive:

I wrote a guide a while ago on how to grow Monilaria from seeds. Read this first if you’re starting there. Good luck!

This is one of the plants I wouldn’t put on a window sill. Partly because it’s downright ugly when it’s dormant, but also because it needs to experience the seasonal changes to be happy. Just like Lithops, it will rely on day length and temperature to know when to grow and when to go dormant. Every fall it will sprout a new set of long green leaves (the iconic bunny ears – which is why this one is also called “bunny ear succulent”) and it will continue to grow and change leaves until spring. It then goes dormant and looks like deep fried unions for 6 months until it grows another set of leaves in fall.

Monilaria growing new leaves in fall (2018)

Dormancy

It sounds like the most fussy plant ever, but it’s actually easy to grow. When it reaches adulthood you only need to water (once every 1-2 weeks) when it has green leaves and is actively growing. When it goes dormant you stop watering until it decides to wake up again. It can be hard to judge when to stop watering in spring. Monilaria gradually show signs of going dormant, first by stopping all growth, then it turns yellow and starts drooping. That’s when I stop watering immediately, letting the leaves die off as quickly as possible. If I don’t do this, the plants would stand in water, they can no longer absorb and rot sets in.

My Monilaria don’t always wake up completely on their own. I know it’s safe to water when the temperature outside stays below 10 degrees C. Usually they start to turn slightly more green behind the dead crispy skin, too. After their first watering, they very quickly start to fatten up and the dead skin cracks, revealing a new bulb of green growth. This is followed by a set of cute little leaves, growing from inside the bulb. This should all happen within 1-2 weeks after watering.

Flowering

I don’t expect mine to flower. Ever. I’ve heard about keeping Monilaria in small pots and making sure they get enough light in winter when it’s actively growing, but that’s not doing it for me. This winter I’ll try feeding them early on in the hope that they build up enough energy to flower before spring sets in.

How to make your Hoya happy

So I’ve been collecting and growing Hoya for a little while now. They’re very easy to grow and the flowers are amazing! If you’re new to growing Hoyas, here’s some things I realized by growing them myself.

  1. Hoya is a succulent epiphyte, but they’re very different from regular succulents. They hate harsh, direct sunlight. Grow them in your living room or outdoors in the shade if you live in a fairly warm climate. Harsh direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. Indirect or filtered sunlight is best. A west/east facing window is perfect.
  2. Don’t let them dry out for long periods of time, especially in summer. They can live without water for quite a while, but if you want them to grow fast, they need water. I water mine every week in summer and every two weeks in winter. If the soil feels dry, you know it’s safe to water.
  3. Fertilize every month in spring and summer and watch the results. The vines and flowers need energy to grow. I use a regular non-brand 10-10-10 fertilizer for indoor flowering plants.
  4. So.. the flowers. The most important thing here is lots of (indirect/filtered) sunlight. If you grow yours in the middle of your living room, far from your windows, it might not flower at all. Some types of Hoya are fussy and will resist all attempts at inducing flowers while others will bloom every year even when mistreated. Lots of light, moderate fertilization, medium to high air humidity, time and a sprinkle of luck will help. Hoya bella, Hoya carnosa and Hoya Pubicalyx bloom very easily if point 1-3 is under control.
    Oh, and if your Hoya does develop peduncles and flower buds, do not move your plant! If the plant is stressed by the change in humidity and light, it will abort its flower buds. When your Hoya is done flowering, don’t remove the peduncles. Next year, it will develop flowers from those same peduncles.
  5. Propagating your Hoya is really easy, too. Take a clean knife or scissor and cut the stem just above a leaf pair, making sure the cutting has at least 2 leaves – preferably 4-6 leaves. You can propagate the cutting in moist soil or in a glass of clean water. Personally I found soil propagation more effective, especially when I use a plastic bag to keep humidity high. A healthy cutting will develop new roots in 1-3 weeks. If you water propagate, you can transfer the cutting to a pot with soil when the roots are a couple of cm. in length.

Pilea care guide

My biggest Pilea is doing exceptionally well at the moment. It’s growing very quickly and keeps sending out pups, making it the most decorative plant in my apartment. The stem itself is 25 cm tall right now.

I noticed that the guys I gave my pups to didn’t know how to take care of a Pilea, so I made a little guide on how to not kill them:

Watering: Keep your Pilea evenly moist, letting the soil dry slightly between watering. The leaves start to droop if they’re desperate for water.

Pots: Pileas grow very quickly and need to be repotted once they outgrow the one they’re in. When you notice that the soil dries out way too quickly, it’s time for a repot. The pot needs to be about an inch larger than the last. I use terra-cotta, but plastic pots are fine. Just make sure there’s a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

Soil: Potting soil with a bit of grit (perlite, pumice or tree bark) is fine.

Light: Don’t place your plant in direct sunlight, but not in darkness either. Indirect sun only. A north or east facing window (northern hemisphere) is okay. Or you can place them further back in the room if you only have south facing windows, like I did.

Pups: Pileas pup. They pup a lot. My mother plant produced around 30 pups in its lifetime. I kept one (the one in the picture), which produced another 30 pups. They root very easily and most basal pups already have roots when you remove them. If not, take a clean knife and cut the stem below the soil line. I usually place mine in a 5 cm plastic pot with moist soil immediately after removing it. The leaves start to perk up when they have developed roots about a week or two later.

Update on my store-bought Lithops and a general care guide

Most of my Lithops have doubled this year. It takes a while for them to lose their old leaves, probably because of the humid weather we have here in Denmark.

________________

If anyone needs a guide on how to keep their Lithops alive, here’s how I do it:

See this if you want to try growing Lithops from seeds.

Keep in mind, I live in a temperate climate (zone 8a), which means I have to water my plants less often.

Watering and soil: 

Starting off with the most important bit. This is where most people make the most mistakes, killing their Lithops within the first few months after they bought it.

Lithops are heavily succulent and mostly consist of water. They differ from regular succulents in that they don’t stop drinking when they’re full. The cells inside of the plant basically burst and the plant melts if it has taken in too much water at once. This is why I grow mine in 100% grit with no potting soil.
In Denmark, pumice is very hard to find, so I use cat litter instead. Not the clumping stuff, but Moler (diatomaceous earth/clay), which is pretty much only available in Scandinavia. Pumice, crushed lava rock or turface works just as well. If it dries out within a couple of days, it’s perfect.

I water mine no more than 2-3 times a year, and only in spring and fall when they have started to look like raisins. If you live in a warm climate, you may need to water once a month in spring and fall. They go dormant in summer and winter to protect themselves from extreme temperatures. Don’t water at all during the dormancy period. They can live without water for more than a year, so don’t panic.
Also, don’t water when they’re splitting in fall/early winter and growing a new leaf set, like in the picture above. They draw moisture from the outer leaf set to keep themselves alive. These leaves will eventually dry out, leaving only a dry, papery husk behind. This (and when the plant is wrinkling, indicating that there’s room for more water in the plant cells) is when you’re allowed to water again.

Sun:

Place your Lithops in full sun. If you have a window with direct sun from morning to evening, it’s perfect. They stretch and turn green if they need more light, making them more susceptible to rot and diseases. Grow lights can work if they’re strong enough. I’m not an expert here, though.

Temperature:

You can grow these outside if they’re protected from frost, which is what I’m doing. Lithops like temperatures between 10°C and 35 °C.
I keep mine partially outdoors on a glasspane-protected balcony to let them experience all of the 4 seasons. If grown indoors, they may go dormant, split and flower whenever they feel like it, making it a bit harder to control watering.

 

Growing date palms from seeds

I love dates, palm trees and growing stuff from seeds, so there really was no excuse to not try.

I bought a box of ripe organic dates (had to search hard for the ones with seeds inside of them) and removed 10 seeds. And yes, I ate way too many dates in one sitting.

Germinating the date seeds:

My plan is to soak the clean seeds in cool water for 48 hours and then place them in a wet tissue until they germinate, checking for mold a couple of times every week. I’ll keep the tissue in my warm sun room. They should germinate within a couple of weeks and develop a tap root.

I’ll plant them in soil when most of them have germinated and keep them moist until they have developed their first leaves.

Growing cacti from seeds

Growing cacti from seeds is pretty straightforward. Usually, the mixed seed packs you buy in regular stores (or the cheap ones you find online) are hardy and fast growing. Perfect if this is your first cactus-growing experience. Keep in mind that there are dozens of ways to do this. This is just what worked for me.

Germinating the seeds

  • Buy some coarse sand, pumice or turface and mix it 2:1 with peat. Some
    types of cactus need an even grittier mix (my Astrophytum asterias and
    A. myriostigma would have benefitted from that), but this is pretty
    standard for most types of cactus. Use a small pot with drainage holes.
  • Moisten the soil. You can now choose to nuke it in the microwave or leave it as
    it is. Nuking it will decrease the chance of damping off, mold and
    algae.
  • Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the moistened soil and bag the pot. Use a transparent plastic bag or cling wrap.
  • Place the pot under grow lights or in a western or eastern window and wait.
    Don’t place them in direct sunlight. They should germinate within 1 week
    if the seeds are fresh.
  • When the seeds have germinated, leave the
    seedlings in the bag for the next couple of months. The seedlings
    grow their first baby spines inside the bag in 100% humidity.
  • After a couple of months, remove the bag. I’ve had success with just removing
    it entirely, but others do it gradually by poking holes in the bag.

Watering
Keep the soil constantly lightly moist for the first 3-4 months. When the seedlings
are half a centimeter in diameter and covered in spines, they can easily handle a couple of days with crispy dry soil until you water again. A year after germination you can water them like adult plants,
once every 2 weeks to once a month depending on the type you’re growing
and the soil they’re in.

Lighting
Keep your seedlings out of direct light from germination to approx. 6 months – 1 year after germination depending on how big they are and the climate you live in.
Give them more light if they stretch and turn pale green. If they turn red or brown, move them further into the shade. I start my seedlings under grow lights and gradually move them to a southern window with 7-8 hours of direct/filtered light 6-7 months after germination. 

How to grow Lithops from seeds

I’m getting a lot of questions about growing Lithops from seeds and I realize that I should have written a post about it much sooner. I started my first batch of Lithops seedlings in August 2015 and have learned a lot since then.

Germinating Lithops seeds
It’s fairly easy to come across Lithops seeds online – at least here in Europe. In the US, you can buy them at Mesagarden. Never buy seeds from China.

  • Use a gritty soil mix. I recommend 100% inorganic “soil” with no peat for all mesembs. Pumice, turface or crushed lava rock is perfect. I planted mine in a mix of sand and peat and quickly regretted it because it started to turn crusty. Now I use diatomaceous earth cat litter (AKA moler) because it’s easier to find and much cheaper than pumice here in Denmark.
  • Use a small pot or container with drainage holes.
  • Sprinkle the seeds on the moist soil, bag them (transparent bag or cling wrap) and place the pot under grow lights or a west/east facing window. Never in direct sunlight. They should germinate within 1 week if the seeds are fresh.

Watering
When the seeds have germinated, remove the bag/cover and keep them lightly moist for the next 3-4 months. It’s best to bottom water, but spraying can work if you’re careful. The seedlings are tiny and can flip over or bury themselves in the soil.

They start to grow their first true leaves 3-5 months after germination. At this point they need to be kept on the dry side. They still need more water than adult Lithops, though. Water once a month (in warm climates probably every 2 weeks) when they start to look dehydrated and wrinkly, even when they’re splitting and growing their second and third leaf set.

~2 years after germination, they should be able to handle being treated like adult Lithops. I water mine twice in spring (March to May) and twice in fall (October to November). Of course unless they decide to split in spring or early fall, then don’t water until the outer leaves have dried out.

Lighting
Lithops seedlings are prone to stretching if they don’t get enough light. Its hard to say exactly how much sun they need because obviously they can handle more hours of direct light in temperate climates, than they can in warmer climates. Mine were in an east facing window with morning sun, but under a thin cloth for protection. Generally, if they start to stretch, they need more light and if they turn pink or white, they need less.
The safest option is a grow light.

When they have grown their first true leaf set, they can handle more light, but prefer protection from strong midday sun. 4-6 hours of direct sunlight is optimal to avoid etiolation.

Growing Pseudolithos cubiformis from seeds

I made a little care/germination guide, now that I know what I’m doing. I hope this helps.

Pseudolithos from seeds:
Finding P. cubiformis seeds is probably the hardest part. P. migiurtinus and P. eyelensis are easier to find, but it’s still a bit of a challenge. Koehres in Germany and eBay may be your
best bet. Never buy seeds from China.

I was able to germinate all of the 5 seeds I bought. I placed the seeds on top of some moistened diatomaceous earth cat litter (pumice, crushed lava rock or turface is impossible to find here, so I used the next best thing) and used the baggie method to keep everything moist in there. I placed the bags in an eastern window (grow lights work as well) and the seeds germinated one by one over a period of 1 month.
Now, keeping the seedlings alive is a hit and miss. I took my seedlings out of the bag a week after germination and kept them moist for the first couple of weeks. Then i experimented with letting them dry out for a couple of days before watering again. Some seedlings grew very fast and some stalled and died over the first 5 months, so I put it down to luck.

Pseudolithos care:
Soil
I still use pure diatomaceous earth cat litter as soil for my adult plants. Again, pumice, crushed lava rock or turface would be perfect. Never use peat for these unless you live in an arid climate. It’s much easier to manage watering when you know that the soil dries out quickly instead of staying wet for a week.

Watering
In summer I water mine approx. every 2 weeks depending on how much sun they get and how long the soil has been completely dry. In winter I water once every 3 weeks-1 month.
Because I don’t use peat, I add quarter strength indoor plant fertilizer to my water once every 2 months. A small pot with drainage holes is a must.

Lighting
My plants are in a south-facing window with 7-8 hours of direct/filtered sunlight. Always indoors, even in summer with temps around 20-30 degrees C.

I’ve seen people use fans, thermometers, hygrometers and expensive lighting setups to keep their Pseudolithos under 100% controlled conditions, but I’d say unless you have inadequate lighting in your house, that stuff isn’t necessary.

How to remove seeds from Opuntia Ficus-Indica

My Opuntia Ficus-Indica developed two healthy fruits a couple of months after flowering. Time for a dissection to extract the seeds!

1. Remove the fruits from the mother plant without touching them.
If the fruits are ripe (colourful and slightly wrinkly near the top), they should let go easily as you twist them off. I grabbed them with a folded up washcloth.

2. Remove as many glochids from the fruits as possible.
I ended up sacrificing the washcloth and a kitchen sponge, but the process was fairly easy. I just held the fruits in the cloth and rubbed them with a wet sponge over the kitchen sink. Don’t assume that all of the glochids have been removed. They haven’t.

3. Cut them open and scoop out the delicious stuff with the seeds in it.
The pulp is very juicy and it’s a bit of a mess. Opuntia Ficus-Indica have edible fruits and they taste a bit like sweet watermelon (do not eat your cactus fruits unless you’re 100% sure they’re not poisonous! Please ask an expert).

4. Wash the seeds thoroughly. 
Now store them in a dry and clean tissue. I’ll sow mine ASAP because Opuntia seeds don’t stay fresh for very long.

Good luck