Sunday, November 3, 2013

Overwintering our Mesembs (5 pics)

This is the time of the year all you northern hemisphere lithops growers have already stopped watering your plants. Basically, the best time for it is as soon as the beginning of October. If you have you might already catch a glimpse of the new leaves on some plants, especially if you peek inside. The first species to show new leaves at my place is usually L. fulviceps. They started early and are quite far along already, too.

All in all, with lithops, the overwintering situation is quite clear (speed-read this part): you stop watering in October and start when the new leaves have emerged and the old leaves are completely gone. So, no water until April or even May, depending on the weather i.e. light conditions.
As you know I got more and more interested in mesembs other than lithops and have acquired or grown from seed quite a few over the last couple of years. How to properly care for them during the darker months is still a mystery for me though. There is not much literature on this matter so that careful observation of the own plants hopefully can help to understand what to do. The correct watering schedule correlates directly with the shape of the plants. If you grow them under natural light like I do it will be very dark for them during several months, and if you water them too much they will grow in length until they stick to the windowpane. At the same time they will get weaker, the color will get paler and those pretty features like teeth on a Faucaria will disappear. So much for what we don't want to happen but how do we achieve the opposite?
Many of the mesembs actually "sleep" in the summer heat and start to grow in the fall and flower in winter or early spring. Which means they should get at least some water. The right amount to support the growth but not too much so that they grow unshapely and weak. Theoretically.
The mesembs I'm trying to figure out at the moment are Cheiridopsis denticulata and Stomatium trifarium. I keep watering all the others but very very little.
I was living under the impression that Cheiridopsis are only allowed to have one pair of leaves at a time but Bob pointed out to me that it's not the rule. Over the summer the plants have dried up one pair of leaves and I can see the next one emegring out of the remaining pair. As I understand it is okay for them to be watered a little depending on their looks, right? It's a long-eared species so it's impossible for me to tell if the leaves are too long. They do incline to the windowpane a lot though.

The thing with the Stomatium plants is the fact that I already did something wrong with the watering last winter and would like to avoid it this time. Occasional watering back then has resulted in uncontrolled growth and quick drying off of the older leaves. The whole plant looked really bad in spring but luckely its rapid growth means it can be easily corrected. I've cut off all the heads and rooted them. Even though it was a success at the end I don't really want to devide it into cuttings after every winter (but I will if I must). Also, I have two 5,5 months old seedlings that don't look any different from the cuttings of their mother plant. I would like to give all of them very little water during the winter or even keep them dry but my attempts haven't been successfull yet. They keep "asking" for water while getting wrinkly and soft instead of going into a low growth / low water consumption state. Unfortunately the light situation doesn't balance out the waterings. Do I keep trying to make them lower their appetite? Meaning water them less and less until they are okay with "nothing"? I'd really like to at least keep the seedlings in shape.

1 comment:

  1. In the UK the Autumn has been mild and a lot of Mesembs including Lithops are still flowering into November. Please see I am even hopeful for optica rubra. Other Mesembs I think will continue for a while yet I like the Stomatium.