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Category Archives: Garden Blog

Befriend this mutant jade plant character

 We have an incredible summer blockbuster for you. Instead of some silly popcorn movie, though, we’re talking about a succulent full of freakish star power. It’s pretty much a given that the mention of Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ is going to elicit a “my precious” response from someone. Some geek. (Like us.) Sorry, non-“Lord of the Rings”-fan gardeners. Unlike the Gollum character himself, though, it’s a rather cheery, desirable form. A super bonsai candidate. If you’ve seen this monstrose jade plant form while out and about, or have one yourself, you’ll probably agree.

The jade plant is a popular subject for bonsai training due to the inherent gnarly character of the thickened trunk and the ease with which it can be pruned and trained. In the case of ‘Gollum’, the red-tipped “fingers” are an added plus to create an interesting bonsai plant, around 1′ to 3′ tall and 1′ to 2′ wide.. … “Bright green leaves with ring-like red margins to rule them all!!!” … Sorry; it’s finally out of our system.

The leaves, unlike the flattened leaves of regular jade, form odd tubular, lime green “fingers”. The tip of the leaf is flared but depressed in the center and often a brilliant, translucent red. It’s excellent as patio plant or landscape plant. Just watch out for filthy hobbitses snooping around to steal your precious backyard fruit and vegetables. (No, we really can’t help ourselves, and we’re far from the biggest Tolkien fans.)

In the video below, our totally-not-filthy succulent whisperer Tom, an upstanding, productive member of society, channels his inner Gollum (no, really) to explain why you should consider making this variety part of your slice of Middle-earth, er, your space. Corral your Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ at our online retail store, shopaltmanplants.com, or our wholesale store, the Cactus Shop. No need to feed it raw fish either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Succulent ‘whatdunits’ — varieties with mysterious plant parents or origins

If you’ve been following along with us this month in our email dispatches (sign up here), you know that we’ve been preoccupied by botanical intrigue, particularly as it pertains to how certain succulents came to be. Below you will see some favorites  for which answers are at least foggy-ish regarding which plants, precisely, were crossed to create them. Or where they fit into a particular species. Maybe native habitat is unknown. Or maybe nature had a moment of quirkiness and engineered an intriguing “sport.” Why? Because reasons, perhaps. Maybe it’s better to just say “cool plants.”

Most of the photographed plants below can be had at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

They are the Echeveria minima hybrid in the golden chalice, Graptoveria ‘Moonglow’, Graptosedum ‘Ghosty’, Echeveria ‘FO-42’, Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Teddy Bear’, Sedum ‘Burrito’, Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg’, and Sedum ‘Golden Glow’ (in the pot with Sedum adolphii, Sedeveria ‘Lilac Mist’, and Aloe ‘Delta Dawn’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Echeveria ‘FO-42’, another succulent uncertainty

In our previous post, we delved into the “parental” uncertainty that’s part of the history of Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg’, a very beautiful and quite popular hybrid. This time, we have another rosette-style succulent, Echeveria ‘FO-42’, for which there have been questions regarding what it is exactly and where it fits within the genus Echeveria.

‘FO-42’ refers to Mexican naturalist Felipe Otero (its discoverer) and the accession number — the number given to collected plant material in order of acquisition. You may also see it referred to as Echeveria setosa ‘FO-42’. At Altman Plants, we recognize its setosa-like qualities, but we generally wait for a plant to be formally described (and scientifically accepted) before we refer to it by that name.

As the plant description on our wholesale succulent shop says, “This particular form of Echeveria setosa has not yet been formally described, as it has not yet been established that this is a form of a species, and of which species, and that it is not a hybrid. At the time that this plant is formally described, it will be named. … Flowers are the distinctive “candy corn” flowers of the Echeveria setosa complex; bright yellow and reddish-orange bicolors.”

Yes, from the appearance of the flower, it does seem to be a form of E. setosa, which is a species that can be quite variable. And the hairiness! E. setosa var. ciliata has rounded leaves and fine velvet texture, whereas E. setosa var. setosa has pointed leaves with hairs that are longer and more bristle-like. Then there has always been conjecture over the many assumed forms, such as deminuta and rundelii.

The International Crassulaceae Network website notes,via British succulent expert Roy Mottram, that Otero gave the same accession number for E. setosa var. deminuta and E. setosa var. minor, suggesting that these “three varieties in fact might belong to only one very variable species.” Mottram reports that all of these variants can occur from the same batch of seedlings.

If they all have the same number, it is possible Otero discovered them all the same day and did not want to give them separate numbers until he knew how many forms or varieties he really had. If Mottram has had all three forms occur from the same seed batch, then it is possible that they are the same but very variable within the same form and vary possibly due to hybridization over the years within the colony, or that some of the material that he used to generate this seed was itself a hybrid of two forms of E. setosa ‘FO-42’. Under certain circumstances, a seedling that is genetically different from the parent can so closely resemble the parent visually that it can be mistaken for the parent, in which case all three forms might manifest, and possibly others as well (go, recessive genes!).

Whatever you call it, the blue foliage color, hairy texture and candy corn flowers make ‘FO-42’ a winner on a windowsill or patio, or in a rock garden. Look for it at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

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A ‘Perle’ of All Time Elegance

June finds us swooning over one of our succulent besties — Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg’. For this post we’ll mark PVN’s heritage of sorts (well, its breeder’s) by adding the umlaut: Echeveria ‘Perle von Nürnberg’. An amazing abundance of shiny hybrids have followed since ‘Perle’ arrived in the 1930s, but there’s a reason why it was a must-include in our Succulents All Time Favorites Collection on Amazon.

OK, several. First, there’s intriguing mystery surrounding the plant’s Echeveria parentage. As one dives deeper into the succulent world, opportunities arise to venture down rabbit holes, many of them dealing with genetics. Plant parents. Also, in the case of ‘Perle’, not one but two German plant mavens get credit for the plant’s creation. We’re in the camp that understands it was horticulturist and breeder Alfred Gräser who created this fabulous hybrid.

The story goes that Gräser came up with ‘Perle’ in the 1930s by crossing Echeveria gibbiflora ‘Metallica’ (no, not that Metallica) with Echeveria potosina. Today, E. potosina is widely considered to be a synonym of E. elegans. No more than a variation. Next, there’s uncertainty about what was or is the true ‘Metallica’. And it very well may be that neither ‘Perle’ parent was a true species. Hybrids, both of them! The International Crassulaceae Network credits Gräser himself for that revelation.

The ICN site has some more illuminating deets about the plant’s history, such as that right from the beginning of its introduction, “three slightly different forms … were propagated and distributed: a form with steel-blue leaves, a form with reddish leaves, and a form with silvery-gray leaves. This explains why the flowers do not resemble E. gibbiflora flowers.”

This is all fascinating stuff and reason for us to become even bigger succulent nerds, but it ultimately comes down to simple plant love — waking up in the morning or coming home from work and scurrying out to the patio or garden to see the swoon-worthy colors and symmetry. Did the buds open? Any new pups? On that note, we admire PVN’s out-of-this-world purple-pink highlights that pop from the powdery pale grayish-brown backdrop.

In the video below, our succulent whisperer Tom talks about pairing this impeccably elegant rosette star with other echeverias of contrasting shades.

Echeveria ‘Perle von Nürnberg’ is available on our retail succulent store (shopaltmanplants.com) or wholesale store (cactusshop.com). PVN is also part of some of our collections on Amazon.

 

 

 

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One small grafted step for cacti: Moon cactus

“Lollipop lollipop / Oh lolli lolli lolli / Lollipop lollipop / Oh lolli lolli lolli / Lollipop lollipop / Oh lolli lolli lolli / Lollipop ‘pop'”

The Chordettes weren’t singing about cacti in the 1958 hit “Lollipop,” but wouldn’t it be funny if they were?

For May, we want to give you a taste of lollipop-look-alike cacti with otherworldly “flavor.” They are brightly colored confections called moon cacti: little spheres of vividness from the genus Gymnocalycium. The challenge with these sweeties is one of chlorophyll, or the lack of it.

Because of this, each one can only survive as a scion — the upper “moon” is grafted onto green Hylocereus rootstock. AKA dragon fruit. The base cactus provides the chemical “fire” necessary for the upper plant to have a chance at life. And to star in our spaces as a filtered-light-friendly, colorful treat.

Below, our cactus whisperer Tom talks about moon cacti’s graft-powered charm. Look for moon cactus at our retail shop or wholesale shop (here and here).

 

 

 

 

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It’s a succulent sunrise: Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata

Kind of like a sunrise, or glittering jewels, this adorable little succulent lights up any nook or dish garden with a ravishing mix of pink, green, and creamy ivory or yellow. We’re pretty sure it’s not the sunrise the Eagles first sang about in 1973. Anyway, Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata, aka Anacampseros telephiastrum ‘Variegata’, aka Anacampseros ‘Sunrise’, makes a fine container specimen, clustering over time to form a dense mat and maybe, just maybe, trail over the edge. This slow-grower may also form, again with time, a caudex at its base. The pink flowers arrive in summer, waiting until afternoon to come out and closing back up around sunset. Contrasting against the foliage are filament-like white hairs.

The plant requires porous soil that drains quickly and it should be protected from frost. Unless you are in a temperate coastal or coastal-adjacent location, it’s probably best to keep this one in a dish garden or well-protected nook or cranny. Speaking of dish gardens, we have some choice pairing recs for any planter glittering with sunrise’s brilliant lanceolate leaves. There are several green or greenish echeverias that should pair well, varieties such as Echeveria ‘Lime n’ Chile’, E. ‘Cris’, E. ‘Haagaena’, E. ‘Irish Mint’…you get the idea. Sunrise with Senecio radicans (string of bananas) or Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls) looks absolutely bonkers, in the best possible way.

Getting back on the Echeveria train, but not the green car, we also recommend E. ‘Chroma’ (those rose-pink hues would get along swimmingly) and E. ‘Black Prince’ (darker the better). Or pair it with something sporting a darker shade/hint of pink or red, like Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii. A black or dark burgundy aeonium amid a sea of sunrise would seem guaranteed to be a fabulous sight.

In the video below, our very own succulent whisperer Tom Jesch talks about this Anacampseros beauty’s variegated charms.

Look for Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata at our retail shop or wholesale shop.

 

 

 

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Unleash your succulent spirit indoors

As spring weather approaches in some areas, a cool and dreary winter trudges on in others. It is hard to put on our creative gardening cap when the front yard remains dormant and lifeless.

Have no fear! Spruce up your home and decorate indoors with succulents.

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Light up your space with some juicy ‘Aurora’ sedum beans

Thanks to its darling little round leaves, Sedum rubrotinctum is affectionately known by monikers that may stir up one’s appetite, namely pork and beans and jelly bean plant. The cultivar ‘Aurora’ adds a dimension that has us looking skyward rather than to our bellies. As we understand it, this especially pink and cream version of S. rubrotinctum is named for the dazzling natural light show known as the aurora borealis (northern lights) or aurora australis (southern lights).

This ground-cover form doesn’t much reach for the sky itself, staying to around 6 inches high, but it will spread to 2 to 3 feet wide. ‘Aurora’ roots easily from wherever a stem touches the ground or from fallen leaves, giving you a gorgeous jelly bean mat of pink, light green, cream and apricot. Yellowish white flowers pop in summer.

In the video below, our succulent whisperer Tom Jesch talks up this low-growing spreader’s frosty, atmospheric colors. It just so happens that March is a popular period for aurora hunters, if they don’t already live in aurora-friendly places, to make their way to northern latitude destinations in countries such as Canada, Finland and Iceland for a peek at the northern lights. That’s if they’re fortunate, as it’s kinda hard to see that wondrous wash of color through persistent snowfall or cloud cover. That’s at least partly why communities make weeks or a whole month out of it by staging activities and festivals, like the monthlong Snowking’s Winter Festival in Yellowknife, Canada, 62 degrees north of the equatorial plane.

Look for Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’ at our retail shop or wholesale shop.

Photo by Frank Olson

 


 

 

 

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Garnish your garden with Echeveria ‘Lime n’ Chile’

Many of us enjoy a lime or lemon wedge with select tasty beverages, so why not enhance the look and liveliness of our succulent-adorned spaces in a similar spirit?

We heartily endorse Echeveria ‘Lime n’ Chile’ for this role. It forms frosty lime-green rosettes of chunky leaves, the tips of which may turn a spicy pink-red, and sends up coral & gold flowers. When clustered, this Altman Plants original hybrid provides quite the flower show, as each rosette can develop four to five inflorescences. Sometimes the leaves are slightly variegated, exhibiting a stippled appearance.

It looks especially saucy when paired with plants that play off its greenery. We particularly like a couple of green-tinged “players” from the genus Anacampseros for this role: A. telephiastrum variegata (sunrise) and A. rufescens. You may succulents in the coral-pink-red realm thriving at home that would go smashingly with it, like Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ or rainbow hedgehog cactus. There are also fine candidates in the Aloe domain, such as dwarf hybrids A. ‘Delta Dawn’ and A. ‘Pink Blush’. Picking up and/or complementing the green foliage via a container will work to great effect too.

In the video below, succulent whisperer Tom touts this lime-green echeveria’s penchant for producing chicks.

Look for Echeveria ‘Lime n’ Chile’ at our retail shop or wholesale shop.


 

 

 

 

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More than just Copiapoa cacti in Chile

In November, Altman Plants succulent plant development mgr. Kelly Griffin and his wife, Denise, traveled to Chile for a week of marveling at Copiapoa cacti., but they also enjoyed seeing wildlife as well as non-cactus flora. With that in mind, please enjoy the decidedly non-cactus photo essay below. Read part one of Kelly’s travelogue here and part two here.

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