Possibly Stupid Questions

Discussion in 'Cacti and Succulents' started by mom24leggers, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Hi all,
    I'm new here and new to succulents. I have a few books and have done some Web research but seem to be getting alot of conflicting info.
    My questions (for now) are:
    1. Is it possible to give succulents too much light?
    2. Do succulents native to countries on the other side of the world adapt to our seasons or do they need to be taken care of as if they were still 'at home'?
    3. Should succulents in smaller pots (1"-2.5") be watered more frequently than those in larger pots?
    I have a collection of about 25-30 succulents at the moment. I have also lost 6 or so since I started this hobby. I have 2 that are pretty close to dead and I don't know what, if anything, I can do for them. I would prefer not to lose too many more. As much as I would like to join a club, I live in a rural area and the nearest club is 2 hours away. I am hoping this forum can be a substitute. I appreciate any advice and look forward to getting to know everyone.
    Thanks!

    Audrey
    Lilliput Acres
    Blanchard, MI
     
  2. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    welcome, audrey!!

    first, the ONLY stupid question is the one that isn't asked!!

    now, on to your queries...

    yes, it is actually possible to give some succulents too much sunlight. and, yes, i know that sounds like a complete misnomer!!

    succulents like cacti generally do best when in full sun - although, with extreme heats and unending daily sun for an extended time, they can develop burns. even those that are planted outside can actually become damaged, if conditions are just right. moving one from inside to straight outside, without easing it into the brighter conditions can also cause burning...if they're acclimated over a short period of time, then that usually doesn't happen. there are some that don't need full sun to thrive, too.

    some euphorbia do better in some bit of shade and others in full sun.

    hoya and peperomia do best in some bit of shade during the hottest/sunniest part of the afternoon. allowing some hoya to be in full sun for too long each day can cause them to 'bleach', although, the brighter sunlight will generally cause them to bloom more...so, it can be a trade off...

    most crassula (jades and the like) can deal with full sun and some will, with brighter sun, actually turn a pretty red color. senecio's generally do best in a good amount of sun - too much may be a problem for some and too little an issue for others.

    most succulents will adjust to the conditions they are in; especially if they are native to the same hemisphere. there are some plants from the southern hemisphere that do not adjust and bloom during their native locations' time (winter here when it's summer there) and, if you have such a plant, you need to make sure that you provide the reduce watering at the correct time (summer instead of winter) so as to not lose the plant.

    in your location, you'll may difficulty providing proper levels of natural lighting for succulents like cacti...others like hoya and crassula's shouldn't be an issue at all (although, you may not see that reddening on crassula's, they'll still grow very well for you). you can always supplement with grow lights.

    smaller pots generally need more frequent watering due to the smaller size and less soil and the fact that these two items cause the soil to dry out much more quickly. it really comes down to the individual plant, though.

    succulents are a broad category. yes, all succulents retain moisture within their structures so they, generally, don't need super-frequent watering...different species will retain and/or use the reserves at different rates, though. so, watering schedules are generalized and you need to know what the needs are for the different species to be able to provide proper watering.

    container type and growing medium are also factors when taking into consideration how much water to give and how frequently (as well as air temps). different species have different preferences - generally, all succulents prefer something that is very well draining and doesn't retain too much moisture for too long. there is always an exception to the 'rule' though!! some do best in unglazed clay and others will do just fine in glazed ceramic or plastic. all do need drainage holes, though.

    so, this leads me to some questions for you :)

    what types of succulents do you have? what kind of containers are they in? what growing medium are you using? have you repotted them since purchasing them? how long have you had them?

    for those that aren't doing well, can you post some pics of them?? seeing them is very helpful as the problem may be infestation rather than a water/light/soil issue...


    what are the plants that
     
  3. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Hi Joclyn,
    Thanks for your response! I've been meaning to make a complete list of my plants but I seem to be short on spare time these days. For now I'll just talk about the 2 that are not doing well. One is a Fenestraria rhopalophylla and the other is a Rhombophyllum nelii. I purchased them about 2 months ago, along with another half a dozen or so succulents, from High Sierra Nursery. They all arrived in great shape and other than these 2 the others are still doing great. None have been repotted yet. I can post pics once I get home from work & get chores done.
    If you were to look at the pics of these 2 plants at the High Sierra website, you would see how the plants looked when they arrived at my home. The Fenestraria is now a quarter of the size/volume it was at arrival. The Rhombophyllum's little arms are starting to flop over.
    Most of my plants are in a south facing window, if that info helps. We have a well and water softener but I rarely use the softened water for my plants. I see no outward signs of infestation.
    Again, thanks for responding and any help you can offer!

    Audrey (mom24leggers)
    Lilliput Acres
    Blanchard, MI
     
  4. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    neither one of those two likes to be overwatered.

    if you haven't repotted, then they're all still probably in peat (easier for the growers to deal with and rarely the best thing for the plants long term).

    when peat is allowed to dry out, it can become rock-hard and then the water can't get to the roots. peat also retains water well for a bit, before it dries, so either root rot or complete root blockage (due to being encased in hardened peat) could be the issue with these two.

    i'd repot the two sickly plants into a well-draining cactus mix with extra perlite or aquarium soil or small stones added in for extra drainage. check roots for rot and remove any that are brown/black and/or mushy. also check for 'encasement' which is when the peat dries around the roots which will block their ability to take up water. if the roots are completely shot (regardless of which reason), remove all and take a small bit off the bottom of the plant; allow plant to callous over for a day and pot up in proper soil and they should root fairly quickly. whether repotting with roots or without, allow the plants to sit in the dry soil for a week and then do a thorough watering.

    to remove excess peat (hardened or not) from the roots with as little damage as possible, shake off any excess and then soak the roots in a bowl of water for 15-20 minutes and then swish the roots around in it to dislodge the peat. you can also use the hose outside, or if you have one at the sick, to spray the peat away - just don't use too strong a spray.

    i'd get to the rest of them fairly soon and get them repotted in proper soil...most, since they're succulents, will hold on for quite a while even without being watered. they will start to decline after a time though - especially if the peat has completely dried up.

    never use softened water for the plants!! if your well water is potable for you, it's usable for the plants, so you should be fine with using that. if you can, collect rainwater...i do that as often as i can and i do see a bit of difference when i use it (for everything, not just the succulents).
     
  5. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Hi Joclyn,
    Thanks so much for all the info and advice! I will get the plants re-potted ASAP. In the mean time, here are pics of the 2 plants. I haven't take the Rhombo out of the pot but I have pulled the Fenestraria out. The root system is quite extensive and I didn't see any dark roots. They looked to be nice white color.
     

    Attached Files:

    • 022.jpg
      022.jpg
      File size:
      140.6 KB
      Views:
      170
    • 024.jpg
      024.jpg
      File size:
      115 KB
      Views:
      182
  6. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    fenestraria rhopalophylla is a winter grower (one of those plants that still thinks it's in its native area no matter where it's actually growing), so, it's just going into it's dormant phase. i'd keep the watering to a minimum until fall and then up it so it can juice up in time for blooming. they normally like a bit of shade...in native habitat. being where you are, direct light for all but the hottest part of the day should be fine (sun intensity is lower where you are even in summer). repot and allow to sit in new soil for 5-7 days (depending on when you last watered it) and then do a fairly decent watering (not overly so) and then watch it and water in about two weeks...again, not overly. remember, by that time it'll be in full dormant state...so, sparse with the water after that - just a tablespoons worth or so until late summer and then start increasing amount and frequency.

    here's some info:
    http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Aizoaceae/Fenestraria_rhopha.html
    http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/61900/

    hombophyllum nelii, i couldn't find too much info on. seems to be a summer grower regardless of location. seems to need a fair amount of sun and from the looks of yours, it seems etoliated, so i'd say it needs more than it's been getting.

    here's some info
    http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week420.shtml
    didn't find this particular one on the other site...the one they have listed doesn't have much info other than a pic and where it's from...

    from what is visible in the pics, the other plants look okay. you do need to get the potted up in soils that are better suited to their specific needs though. a couple a day and you'll have them all switched over in no time!!
     
  7. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Good Morning Joclyn,
    Thanks for doing so much of my legwork for me! I MUST make time to find out more about the plants I have and not buy any more until I do my homework on them!
    I hate to bother you even more but do you have a favorite all-around succulent medium that you use? Could be either store bought or homemade. Or, are you going to tell me that each plant needs a particular medium? =:o And here I thought plants were going to be easier than animals!

    Audrey (mom24leggers)
    Lilliput Acres
    Blanchard, MI
     
  8. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    heya, audrey!!

    no extra legwork, really...i have those sites in my favs and refer to them frequently...

    i mainly use schultz brand products for my potting mediums. i also use other brands that are just bark bits or just small rocks/stones. i never use anything that has fertilizer already added to it...that's something that gets added on an as-needed basis.

    soil requirements can be different for the various species and it can seem overwhelming initially, trying to keep track of it all as well as to provide the right thing for the individual plants...it's not so bad once you get into the routine.

    generally, a good cactus mix, with something extra added in for additional drainage (perlite, aquarium soil, small stones, orchid bark bits, etc), will do for most succulents.

    some plants need something other than 'general' to really do their best growing. so you take the basic mix and add in the 'extra' and that customizes for the individual needs of the various plants.

    i keep numerous things on hand: plain potting soil, orchid bark, african violet mix, orchid mix, sand, stones, perlite or aquarium soil or lava rock...i then make up 'stock' mixes and store them. i do one that is a general mix and i can use it for the majority of the succulents, aroids and even some regular-type plants. another mix is one specifically for desert cacti.

    when i'm potting something, i'll add in more of an item if that particular plant has more specific/specialized needs than the general...like the r. nelli...if that likes acidic conditions, i'd use the basic mix and add in a touch more peat. for most hoya, i'll add in more bark and usually a bit more charcoal, since they like really good drainage and like the extra filtering provided by the charcoal. if i'm potting a 'regular' type plant, i'll add in extra plain potting soil.

    the basics will get you going, and as you gain experience and learn, it'll be old-hat in no time!!

    plants are MUCH easier to care for than the 4furs (as i call my biz of 4leggers)...
     
  9. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Thanks again Joclyn for all your help. I have my shopping list and will pick up all of my supplies tomorrow. Another question - what do you put in the bottom of your pots to keep the soil from coming out every time you water? The Highland Succulents website says not to use rocks, pot shards or the like because it can keep too much water in the soil causing root rot. They suggest using screening. I kind of like that idea since you could cut the screening to fit the bottom of any pot.
    On another note, what types of animals do you have? We have dogs, cats, finches, doves, guinea pigs, lizards, llamas, goats, chickens, ducks, and guineas.

    Audrey (mom24leggers)
    Lilliput Acres
    Blanchard, MI
     
  10. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    i just use whatever is in the mix to kind of cover over the holes a bit - the bark in the succulent mix or the stones in the cacti mix. i pretty much keep everything inside a nice ceramic pot, so, excess water and any soil that works out is collected and then i just dump it all once the excess has worked it's way out.

    screening cut to fit is a good idea though!!

    you've got quite the menagerie!! must be in a farm-type situation...that's cool!! and you've got a ready supply of manure to make compost...i envy that!! do you garden outside, too?

    i have ferrets and a cat.
     
  11. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    729
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Sweden
    A comment on the Fenestraria:

    I once bought a F. rhopalophylla and gave it a lot of light and warmth in summer and watered it in autumn. It soon looked like yours and it died later on. Later I read that they go into dormancy only if it is warm or cold enough, and that they are "opportunists" and grow whenever the conditions suit them. As the summers here typically are nowhere nearly as hot as in their habitat, they (I have 2 new ones) seem to grow most of the summer too. Moreover they seem to like to be watered more frequently than my other mesembs, so I water them often but lighty each time (they are potted in a well-drained inorganic soil).
    So, I think it depends on the climate where you live. I do not know how they are supposed to behave in Michigan, I just wanted to mention this, you might have to experiment a little.
     
  12. mom24leggers

    mom24leggers Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Blanchard, Michigan USA
    Thanks Mandarin! What type of growing medium are you using?

    Audrey (mom24leggers)
    Lilliput Acres
    Blanchard, MI
     
  13. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    729
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Sweden
    I use plain garden soil. Not the one made of peat and sold in garden centers - at least here - but the natural, minerogenic type. I mix it with coarse material like pumice, fired clay, gravel, and a particular type of cat litter until it feels right, I estimate that the coarse fraction is around 70% of the total volume.
     
  14. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

    Messages:
    2,707
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    philly, pa, usa 6b
    oh, thanks for the input, mandarin!! the site i referenced is in phoenix, az and the conditions there are probably about the same as the native area of the plant...so, growth/dormancy would pretty much match. nice to know it's amenable to conditions - so, audrey will be able to treat it as any other warm weather grower.

    and mandarin is right, it's a mesemb, so it is more finicky about water levels than other plants. they are very easy to over-water. extra stuff added in to provide more than the usual drainage is definitely a must.

    if mandarin is having success with that particular blend for the growing medium, then i'd duplicate it for yours. with this feedback, the peat doesn't sound like a good idea - regardless of what was mentioned on that site...greenhouse conditions DO make things a bit different.

    i'd go with something that is proving productive for someone who is in a more northern latitude...if it's working there, then it'll definitely do for your location!
     

Share This Page