The mimicry plants known as mesembs are the thespians of the succulent world, mind-blowingly adaptable actors often accustomed to harsh, sun-blasted habitats that receive only a few inches of rain a year. They grow in coarse sand with just their translucent tops showing, enabling sunlight to reach the interior of each plant. The rest is underground, which minimizes exposure to extreme elements.
Sometimes fabulous prizes come in small packages. This is particularly true with succulents. Take Anacampseros rufescens (sand rose), a diminutive cutie that’s ideal in a windowsill pot or as a dish garden accent. But that’s not all! In a garden, over time, it will spread to become a miniature ground cover of green-purple rosettes, with white hairs along the stems adding a nice contrast.
While the plant is suitable for a partially shady area, its olive green leaves will turn purple to reddish-brown in bright light. The fetching flowers will win your heart with their pink to pinkish-purple petals. Keep yours long enough and you might even notice a caudex (plump stem) form.
In the linked video below, our succulent whisperer Tom talks about this fleshy wonder from South Africa being a delightful fit for a bright sill or nook.
Anacampseros rufescens (aka sand rose) is a small succulent from South Africa. Its slowly creeping stems cluster freely to form mats, becoming a small area ground-cover in time, each rosette about 4″ tall and wide. It also makes an excellent potted windowsill plant. Single flowers arise on 3″ to 4” stems above the leaves and are pink to rose-purple, 3/4″ wide, and resemble flattened Portulaca flowers; they open in late afternoon, closing every night. A. rufescens grows best with full sun to partial shade and ample airflow, with a well-drained soil mix.
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.
“Hear me roar,” we might imagine this succulent to say if it possessed vocal cords.
Faucaria tigrina (tiger jaws), a native of South Africa, is a clump-forming succulent with thick, fleshy, triangular green leaves that are lined with soft, recurved teeth. Watch our tiger jaws whisperer Tom get up-close and personal with this striking plant.