Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lithops plant size: Part 2 (30 pics)

Let's continue the plant size review! Don't forget to check out Part 1.

As mentioned in the previous installment, I wanted to put the size of my plants on record that "works" under my conditions (sunlight for half a day if any). In my experience, larger plants either die or return to this size after a regeneration or two. Trying to push them to get larger only results in elongated shapes and distorted patterns (and eventually death). I guess, keeping them at a particular (small) size does not give them enough resources to flower every year but that's the price I pay for healthy overall condition, long life and good looks of a plant. The size is being measured across the long side of one head.

I grow a variety of Lithops lesliei and from what I see the older two-headed plants (at least 7 years old) can get pretty large, measuring 1.7 cm per head. Here are some examples.

This one got a bit bloated after the recent watering and expanded to 2.1 cm. But you can see that that's not normal because the surface is rounded and smooth instead of being flat and furrowed like the ones above.

According to the books, L. lesliei ssp. lesliei v. mariae are the largest of the L. lesliei and my 7 year old seedlings are all at 1.7 cm if one-headed. The two-headed plants are slightly smaller (1.5 cm) but they'll get there. I believe that none of my mariae seedlings have reached their full potential yet. They grow very slowly.

However, the size of the above plants is not the rule and most of my L. lesliei, regardless of the head count, are at 1.4 cm in average. Some of the below are actually the same variety and age as the above.

This one is also C008 but the size of the heads is 1.1 cm, year after year. Petite.

The biggest of my 6 year old L. lesliei ssp. burchellii (C308) seedlings measure 1.4 cm. Most of them however are still uniformly 1 cm across the long side.

Moving on to L. bromfieldii. The adult L. bromfieldii v. mennellii plants I bought from a specialized local grower a couple of years ago measure 1.4 cm per head. I very much admire that grower so that's my orientation.

My own adult plants are the same size in general.

Some of the 7 year old L. bromfieldii v. glaudinae (C382) reach 1.7 cm while others of the same bunch are as small as 1.2 cm.

Here are some of the bigger plants...

... and here are two of the smaller.

L. schwantesii are also growing up to the size of 1.7 cm without regeneration problems or changing of overall shape on my windowsill. Although half of the plants I own (I have about 20) measures 1.4 cm. I guess anything in between is a good size.

Seeing how many photos I've already posted I will end here and continue the review of the smaller plants in Part 3!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Avonias (15 pics)

Avonia and Anacampseros are closely related, both belonging to the family Portulacaceae. They even were considered as sub-genera of the genus Anacampseroteae at some point before giving them generic status. It seems that's why the naming is such a mess. Even though there are many similarities the overall look of Avonia is very different from Anacampseros. Where Anacampseros have their fluff Avonias have scales. The fleshy leaves and the round bushy shape belong to Anacampseros while Avonias have worm-like branches and the leaves behind the scales are so tiny that you won't even see them.

Both do well in windowsill environment. Same as Anacampseros, the less water you give to Avonias the better they'll look. My Avonia dealer pointed out to me I need to show more tough love but it's hard. Let me introduce you to my plants. The naming details are in the file names as usual.

Avonia ustulata are very interesting to me. According to the internet picture search these can grow into little bonsai trees. They grow a thicker stem and then branch out mostly from the same point. It would be nice to get them to a size when they look like little trees.

The above plants are last year's purchases but I also have one I've had longer. 

By the way, Avonias dry off old leaves which appears to be normal. Not very pretty though. The above plant is sharing its pot with this Avonia recurvata, for example. I really like the messy look of its scales. It would look great if I had several. Unfortunately it doesn't give me any seeds and the branching is very slow. It has just started with a second branch at the base.

Then there's this tiny thing called Avonia harveyi. Is it growing at all?

Here is another strange one. Avonia ustulata, with a different locality than those above. It does not look very happy but at least I can see new branches starting.

The below Avonia albissima v. grisea plants look nice. Very white and dense. That's how it should be.

And of course the Avonia albissima multiramosa (there are 2 plants in there if I remember it correctly). Always growing flowers and converting them into seed pods directly without ever opening them.

And of course there are the Avonia quinaria. It doesn't feel like an update on them because they look the same every year to me.

For me, worm-like Avonias look the best when potted in groups of same age plants (or when a plant is very old and branched). This is something you can only achieve when you grow them from seed. I've been mostly failing at that so far. Good thing my Avonia albissima multiramosa is providing me with seeds every year to practice. And embarrassingly I only have these 2 seedlings to show for it. But how cute are they!!

The difficult part of growing them from seed is that they are slow-growers. In case of Anacampseros it takes months for them to start growing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd real leaf. Now imagine Avonia with the leaves so tiny you can barely see them. But the timing is the same. They stay very small for a very long time. You try to support them with watering and occasional food but for the smaller species it does not seem enough. I need to develop better skills in it. The larger species seem to be easier from seed. The Avonia papyracea ssp papyracea sown last November are doing very well and at the age of 6 months already have several leaves. Yeah, that's called "fast growth". Anacampseros telephiastrum sown the same time only show 2 leaves now so yes, that's fast.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lithops plant size: Part 1 (17 pics)

One of the most common questions I am asked is about the size of my lithops plants and pots. While the part about pots is easily answered - 5 x 5 cm and 8,5 cm deep - it doesn't exactly clarify how big the plants are. I'm always writing about "the smaller the better" under windowsill conditions but how small is "small" exactly?

After having grown lithops for 10 years it is very clear that in order to grow them successfully under my conditions they absolutely need to be small. If watered (or fed) slightly too much they will stretch into unhealthy shapes and choke on their leaves during regeneration. If a plant is grown from seed by me it will increase in size extremely slowly. If I buy a large adult plant it will reduce its size at least by half during the next 1 or 2 leaf changes and stay like this (unless it dies). To get to the exact size of the plants I grow, imagine a 5x5cm pot and then imagine 8 adult plants growing in it. Or let's say rather 4 two-headed plants which would be more accurate. That's the limit that works for me without them squeezing each other out of the pot. It doesn't mean I follow through with it though. Sometimes I don't want to mix different species in one pot. Sometimes a plant looks great when it's presented individually. They do grow better I believe when potted in clusters but that's a story for another time.

According to various sources, L. aucampiae, L. pseudotruncatella, L. gracilidelineata and maybe L. hookeri belong to the larger species. And I'm talking about size of an individual head, not the ability to branch out. Let's see how this holds up on the windowsill.

I will measure the heads across the longest side. It will represent the plant size as of today, during active growth and regular water intake, not directly after regeneration when they are the smallest. I believe this is the average value even though they might increase in size a little bit until Fall (1-2 mm max).

The largest plants I have are Lithops gesinae v. annae (C078). They reach 2.2 cm consistently every year without any trouble regenerating and without any fertilizer or excessive watering. I've grown them for several years and it's always the same. I'd actually recommend them for beginners. My first plant came in 2008 when lithops were fairly new to me.

This below plant is two-headed and each head measures 2.2 cm.

As a contrast to that, L. gesinae v. gesinae (C207) are really small. The larger plant's head size is 1.3 cm while the smaller is 0.9 cm. It also seems to be a fixed value every year. They don't get bigger at all and are slow to regenerate.

L. aucampiae are considered large but on my windowsill they are no bigger than the regular L. lesliei (in fact some of my L. lesliei are larger than L. aucampiae). The largest plant I have is this L. aucampiae sp. at 1.9 cm. I got it from a gardening store rather bloated but it came back to this size after a couple of leaf changes and it works for it.

L. aucampiae 'Storm's Snowcap' (C392) plants I got from a specialized grower a couple of years ago measure 1.4 cm per head, which is the same size as my own 5 year old seedlings of L. aucampiae ssp. aucampiae v. aucampiae 'White Flower' (C002A). 1.4 cm is also the size of my L. aucampiae ssp. euniceae v. fluminalis (C054)

Let's check L. gracilidelineata. My mixed seedlings are from 2009 so you can say they are of adult size. I have 3 larger plants and 3 smaller. The larger plants measure 1.8 cm.

The smaller specimen are 1.4 cm.

Moving on to L. dorotheae, as they seem to be quite large. All the below are 1.7 cm

L. dorotheae de Boer

L. dorotheae (C300)

This L. dorotheae (C300) however is slightly smaller, measuring 1.5 cm across. It compensates with its 3 heads I guess.

I only have one L. olivacea v. olivacea (C055) so it's not exactly representative. The head size per se is not very large but this two-headed plant is massive all in all and occupies one pot by itself. Same as L. gesinae v. annae, it regenerates into the same size every year and maintains it without any help. The head size is 1.7 cm.

To sum things up, it seems that the average head size of larger specimen of lithops on the windowsill is around 1.7 cm. I will continue this topic and review the smaller plants next time.