Friday, August 24, 2012

Hug Me?

Lately I've been looking at cacti wondering about how easy/difficult they might be to grow. I've been buying seed trays and hunting down easy succulents to get my little hobby going, but there just wasn't enough danger. Where is the thrill in handling Echeveria paragynese or growing Kalanchoe "Mother of Thousands"? Sure, they're a bit prolific, but there's no excitement or thrill. And then I thought, well, why not cacti?

Rebutia seems so be a good genus for fast growing cacti. They're all pretty small, stay in a cute, globular form, and lots of them clump! Even better, they're known for producing plenty of seed.

Rebutia narvaecensis

Rebutia narvaecensis is one of my favorites that I've seen, mainly because I love light pink cactus flowers. I'm not very girly usually, but this color really gets me sometimes. Anyway though! DG puts it at Zones 9b - 11, full sun to light shade, and CAUTION... it might be kind of pointy. Almost reminds me of the warning label on watermelon I saw recently: "Caution, may contain the occasional seed." 

Rebutia heliosa 'Sunrise'

This Rebutia means business. Looks like it would be fantastic for people who want a prolific cactus. I can only imagine what separating the pups would be like though... Same stats as Rebutia narvaecensis which is part of what makes this genus an awesome (and frequently sold) houseplant. It can take light shade and be okay! Of course, not all Rebutia sp. are the same since the genus is a mish-mash of other, obsolete genera which you can learn more about here. 

Cylindropuntia bigelovii or the Teddy Bear Cholla

There comes a point where plants can become a bit infamous for how well they spread, and the Teddy Bear Cholla is definitely one of them. If an animal or person happens to brush up against this Cholla, even just barely, a segment will break off and stick to them. Even just stepping on the ground beside one will cause them to drop down from above. What's the worst part? The spines are barbed, making your best option to clip of the spines and use pliers to pull them out later. As a result, Teddy Bear Cholla spread into forests pretty easily. They can be anywhere from 1'-5' tall and sometimes desert rodents will grab bits of the plant and put it outside of their dens to protect them. DG puts this cactus at Zones 8b - 11 which makes sense, as it lives in California, Arizona, Nevada, and a bit of Mexico. 

I've always joked about throwing cactus bits at people who I don't like. I take it back... here are some videos that describe Teddy Bear better than I can possibly hope to.

And with these, I'm stopping here. I would post more but... I think I've lost my appetite for cacti for today. Ouch!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Few Sedums and a Stonecrop

I have never really been a huge cactus fan. I grew up in southern Colorado where Opuntia were more common than trees. There they would be under all that deep white snow, just waiting for you to step or fall on them... or perhaps they would punish you for wearing flip flops?

They certainly did not foster in me a love of succulents. No, I only began to like them my first summer working at Perennial Favorites. I was asked to head over to the xeric section and pick out some super cool succulent sedums for my bosses to take to a farmer's market. I had never seen plants that looked so outlandish in my life... they looked like they had come straight from Mars! Now that I've had a few years to see even more outlandish plants, sedums seem so run-of-the-mill now.

But really, who cares how common they are! They're so cool!

Sedum globosum or Old Man's Bones

All the pictures of S. globosum seem to show them as primarily green... but what we sold was really quite red. A hardy sedum that easily withstands the 5a winters, Old Man's Bones is a must have. It doesn't grow as quickly as other sedums and it's not "full" enough to be a good ground cover (in my opinion). Mine have withstood scarce watering, blistering hot sun, hail, and even deer. Any bits that break off quickly root and it will gradually spread every year.

("Sedum") Hylotelephium 'Purple Emperor'

'Purple Emperor' was my absolute favorite plant to water. As the water would land on the leaves, it would act differently than it would on any other surface. It would stick together in these beautiful round droplets, almost like clear marbles only a bit flatter. When kept in the greenhouse the foliage would be green but once it was put outside into the sun, it would very quickly turn a nice dark purple. It grew about a foot tall, Zones 4a - 10b (DG), and was pretty resistant to drought. I bought some and planted it up in a hypertufa planter. The main plant died down in the winter and I was afraid I had lost it... but then as the snow melted, lo and behold, 4 little shoots were at the base! They looked almost like bamboo shoots. They readily returned the following spring, until hail pummeled it beyond recognition... stupid hail. (It may also have been Hylotelephium 'Xenox', tags and catalog conflicted)

Sedum pachyclados

S. pachyclados doesn't really look sedum-ish to me. It was still super cool though... my bosses only ever had it on sale once out of the three summers I worked for them since it was so slow growing for them. It looked absolutely fantastic in the hypertufa planter they had it displayed in. Definitely a lesson learned there... if a plant is on display, try to keep it in stock! People asked for it all the time. Zones 4a - 9b (DG), it it a pretty hardy succulent. My bosses would always bring it in every winter anyway, but I'm sure it would have done fine left outside. The garden center just down the road has some of these... I may have to buy some!

Sedum hybridum

Haha... S. hybridum... I have some growing in a tiny little pot on my window sill right now. We had just gotten finished dividing these when my boss Diana decided to pot me up a few plants. Very tiny, very cute, immediately got buds and bloomed cheerily. I later had to get replacements due to a severe mealy bug infestation on them, but otherwise, they were pretty neat. Zones 3a - 9b (DG) and quick to grow and spread, it's a very lively sedum indeed. The only thing is is that it loves sun and I, being the weirdo that I am, decided to keep it inside under a grow light. The leaves which are usually long and thin stayed on the plant but all new leaves were shorter,  rounder, and smaller... This plant really looks very different depending on the amount of light it gets and it helped me grasp the whole concept of sunlight-on-plants-is-different-than-fluorescent a little better.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Leaves are cool too!

I love interesting foliage. Leaves are there all the time, not temporary at all like flowers are. I can enjoy them any time of the year. The fact that my plants never re-flower might be part of that but... anyway, have some cool foliage!

Banksia grandis

It seems like all the cool trees come from Australia. Banksia grandis gets from 16' to 32' in height and Annie's Annual's puts this at Zones 9 - 11. The foliage is pretty darn neat, just a bunch of triangles hanging from branches, giving it a saw-toothed sort of look. And what are those pinecone things on it? The lighter ones are bundles of flowers which reach 12" in length. The darker toned ones with those odd "duckbills" on them are the seedpods and the duck bills are where the seeds pop out. The seed pods are pretty woody and are sometimes sculpted into vases or other nifty things (as seen above).

Araucaria bidwillii

This tree is also from Australia. I suppose it's a confier but its pines are very different from any run-of-the-mill pine tree! Wikipedia says it can grow anywhere from 98' to 147' which is pretty impressive. Its pine cones are just huge enough to match it! Dave's Garden puts A. bidwillii at Zones 8b - 11, making it only just slightly more accessible for growers around the world. Because of its immense height, I don't know anyone who would grow it indoors without some major pruning.... 
Araucaria araucana

A member of the same genus as our previous conifier, Araucaria araucana is next. Most commonly known as a the monkey puzzle or monkey tail tree, it grows in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil naturally and can reach heights of about 130' tall with a 7' trunk diameter. It's Zones are listed on DG as 7b - 10b and Wikipedia seems to praise it for its hardiness in comparison to the rest of the genus. Interestingly enough, its seeds are a food crop in Chile and have the potential to be a major one in other areas. Mature trees can produce several thousand nuts in a year but it takes 30-40 years for trees to mature... I think it would be worth planting a small orchard for definitely. Maybe the nuts could be the next acai berry or goji berry, haha. If you do want nuts though, it would be best to get more than one tree seeing as A. araucana is usually dioecious. I know I will definitely plant a couple... as long as their branches don't try to land on me. I swear, those leaves look like shuriken!

Pseudopanax ferox

This handsome fellow is native to New Zealand and DG puts it in Zones 8b - 10a. As a juvenile the tree will look much like the bottom most picture. Leaves up to about 15" line most of the tree and are wonderfully toothy and dark in color. The tree takes about 10 to 15 years to mature and once it does the leaves become shorter, wider, and more green in color. So, while some plants take years to be cool, this one is coolest at a young age and gradually becomes less extreme as it ages. Don't get me wrong, the mature trees look great, just not as neat.

Selenicereus anthonyanus

Oh look, something that's not a tree! A cactus from southern Mexico, S. anthonyanus is an epiphyte. Seems to do pretty well in hanging baskets, blooms are night, and is easy to propagate and grow in general. DG puts it at Zones 10a - 11, so definitely something to keep inside! It's common names are Ric Rac (Orchid) Cactus and Fishbone Cactus. Flowers range in colors but most seem to be like the one pictured or yellow. Requires moist soil high in organic matter but I'm sure drainage is still important. Full sun or part shade should be fine. (I really really want this one! So cool!)

Christia obcordata

Commonly called Butterfly Leaf or Swallow Tail, DG puts it at Zone 11 only. Reviews on DG seem to indicate that it's a bit finicky and hard to grow but it sounds like as long as you keep it pretty wet and feed it regularly it'll be fine. An interesting tender perennial that looks like it'd be cute in a pot, I'd definitely grab it if I saw it, if only to give it a go.

Dyckia fosteriana in bloom
Dyckia beateae

Dyckia discoides

Dyckia... no matter what the species, these  Brazilian/South American bromeliads come in all kinds of interesting shapes, colors, and sizes. Their leaves are thick and spiny, the plant clumps, it's supposedly the hardiest kind of bromeliad (prefering 40-90F and easily withstanding lower temps), it's primitive, and finding any for sale is lucky. I've yet to see any personally, but oh my god, I think I'm in love. New species are still being found... I wish I was a part of that! But no, I haven't even started college for botany yet. Oh well, hopefully there will still be plants out there for me to discover! Great sources to learn more about Dyckia include: the Dyckia Brazil blog and this Bromeliad Society/Houston page

There are so many more plants I can think of that have interesting foliage but...this post is long enough haha.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Cephalophyllum pillansii

Cephalophyllum pillansii, a very cute succulent indeed. Annie's Annuals pegs it to Zone 8 - 10 while Dave's Garden puts it at 9b - 11. Looks like it trails and spreads, although I don't know how quickly it does so. While it's not flowering it still looks great, its foliage has a range of tones that seems to vary from plant to plant. If I had to guess, I'd say it depends on how much direct sun light they receive. I don't know how decent my guesses are though, I'm no pro.

Cephalophyllum alstonii

Cephalophyllum alstonii is next and is actually the first Cephalophyllum that caught my attention. Dave's Garden puts it at Zones 9b - 11. The picture on the left is what caught my eye first on the CTSairplants page. I'm a sucker for succulents that have faint blushing on their foliage and looking like some sea anemone is a plus. Only later did I find out that it produces very stunning red flowers!

Cheiridopsis candidissima

Cheiridopsis candidissima is a cool one. At Zone 9b - 11 (Dave's Garden), it's following the trend set by most South African plants by being something to grow indoors for many people. What I like most about this species is the foliage. With C.candidissima it's very easy to see the T-bone like shape that seems to characterize its genus as well as its family(Aizoaceae). The flowers are very cute and soft on the eyes. While it's nice to have vibrant colors in the garden, softer ones are easily more elegant and beautiful to some people. The lower picture is from the oregoncactus blog and he stumbled upon this little anomaly. Genetic mutation or simply a fading flower? Either way, super cool. Too bad his nursery just upped the minimum purchases to $30 or I'd get it in a heartbeat. Soon though!

Cephalophyllum spissum

And finally, we have Cephalophyllum spissum. I was going to stop but then the utter adorableness of this plant forced me to continue. Zones 9b - 11 again (Dave's Garden). Seems to be a slow grower and a clumper which makes it a great specimen plant in my opinion. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Aloe cameronii

Being the dweeb that I am, I often browse the internet looking for new and cool plants. Although I sometimes feel like the knowledge I gather doesn't really "count" since it's just Googling things... it's worth it anyway!

So basically, let's Google plants!

Needless to say, the pictures that I post won't be taken by me. All can be found by Googling the plant I did.