The bluebells in the back garden are out and Spring is definitely here, if not Summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 25°C in the last week. It has been consistently warm in the last fortnight and warm temperatures beckon for the following week.
This warm weather has meant that I have had to keep on top of watering the triffids, who I can happily report all appear to be waking after their Winter slumbers and are back on a Summer watering programme. Indeed, evaporation is quite an issue with the temperature on the South East facing External Kitchen Window sill reaching 40°C. It is no wonder that the poor mint was getting scorched here last year and this is something that I will have to watch moving forward, although I guess that it has always been so, but my external thermometer on the external face of the kitchen window now confirms my actual knowledge of this fact.
Here is my review of progress after 44 weeks:
The Basil Brothers
Very little to report here. Tall basil is trying to flower again, which seems to have been a fairly constant feature whilst the brothers have been under my tenure. Probably a few more leaves have grown during the last fortnight so perhaps there may still be hope of them aiding my culinary machinations. Cuttings beckon, and I may even hack the brothers at their main stalks but not yet.
Pitch has always been one of my favourites. He has caused me few problems or worries, even when I have been derelict in my duty of care. Hardy and resilient, and also rather magnificent, he has furthermore continued to surprise me at every turn. Whether or not he has gone into dormancy I do not know, although the older pitchers have definitely died back leaving the smaller, younger pitchers closer to the base of the plant which to me, if not backed up by the literature for pitcher plants, does at least suggest some sort of dormancy response – this is after all how VFTs behave when winter temperatures start to bite. However, whilst having a close up look at Pitch’s pot today I made a discovery that I was not expecting, which I can only describe as red balls on red stalks. I am at a loss to explain what these may be, and am struggling to describe them to my internet search engine. If they are new pitchers then I do not remember similar development before, I was not aware that Pitcher plants produced flowers or seed pods but well prepared to be mistaken. There are about 5 of these structures dotted around the base of the crown evenly spread around the base of the plant. Wikipedia announces that, “This species is characterised by producing quite floppy pitchers in spring with large wings, perhaps as a method of producing a large surface area of tissue in order to rapidly photosynthesise at the start of the year. Later on in summer and autumn, much more substantial pitchers are produced.” Are these spring growth pitchers, different to those produced later in the year?
I plan to carry out more research to see whether I can identify these new and mysterious growths.
Will also have to watch the scorch factor as Pitch suffered from this last year. [See: https://hargravetriffid.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/mint-moves-and-munching-beware-the-scorching/ ]
It is always a pleasure to be able to report to these pages that I have not killed any plants. Things were a bit touch and go with Sunny but I can now happily report the presence of a good spread of new growth in her pot. Whilst not all of the green seen in the pictures above is revealed to be new sundews, some being moss or other plant intruders, there are certainly multiple bases of separate growth rather than growth from a single plant base as I feared last time.
It is worth pointing out that Sunny did not have particularly dense foliage when I acquired her back in June 2014 (now only about 8 weeks away), so perhaps despite forgoing dormancy, these plants do actually die back at this time of year and then pick up growth towards late Summer and Autumn. Last year it was not really until August that she really got going. It will be interesting to compare her progress at the year mark.
With the external temperature at the kitchen window reaching 40°C at points it must be near greenhouse conditions in Sunny’s position for a good deal of the day which will hopefully agree with her African heritage. I do not recall scorching being a problem for Sunny last year (although it did affect Piggy) but I will keep half an eye on how she does behind glass, seeing as she spent most of last year outdoors. By next month or sooner it will surely be time to move her back outdoors.
I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look into this pot and see all those new little sun dews growing. I guess I can now officially say that Drake definitely went into dormancy but has now begun to come out. Almost back from the grave, considering that his decline began following Dry Thursday as early as August 2014. That was when he began a decline that led him into dormancy and caused me so much worry. Now it looks like he will happily rise again.
Perhaps I should consider a move from the relative shade of the South West facing External Kitchen Windowsill to the South East facing External Kitchen Windowsill, although as Drake appears to be developing so well I am lithe to move him just yet. I may wait until the new growth matures.
It is always difficult to judge how well Piggy is doing particularly as knowing that he is on borrowed time, due to the plants unsuitability for UK conditions, always places my concerns within the context of terminality. Only one growth remains where before there were five or six. There was a definite decline somewhere before October where this five or six reduced to three or four growths as the temperatures dropped to single figures. In November by which time Piggy had been brought inside, those growths were definitely down to three and whilst the two growths that still survive today seems to have flourished between November and February the other then remaining growth declined over this time span dying somewhere between February and March.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, Marcel Lecoufle’s book, Carnivorous Plants: Care and Cultivation, states that pygmy sundews prefer shade or half-shade rather than the full sunlight preferred by other carnivores. Despite the fact that I tucked Piggy into the corner to at least afford him some protection, as the days get longer and the sun shines more frequently, his greenhouse-like position and 40°C temperature at the other end of the external windowsill may mean that his current location is no longer suitable. If by next month or sooner I am predicting a move for Sunny back outdoors then the same must also be considered for Piggy. The balance here is whether such a move should be brought forward in comparison of whether sun-scorching or external low temperature poses the biggest risk to his survival going forward.
It is quite difficult to tell what is happening in Venus’s pot. Although it is difficult to show in the then and now pictures from a fortnight ago I am convinced that there are some new traps growing in there. What I also missed was that the tallest trap closed between the 8th and 15th of March, and have only noticed this week when it has reopened revealing a digested fly. Nice to see that Venus is still a capable carnivore despite sparse appearances. I am hopeful that the new traps will develop over the next month or so but Venus’s growth has always been very slow so it may prove longer than that.
The growth of new traps is much more apparent with Aphro who has always been the stronger of the two plants. However, whilst there is new growth, it is clear that some of the winter traps have now blackened and died back leaving the plant in a rather sorry looking state compared with a fortnight ago. I hope that this is a temporary blip although one wonders what effect the production of the flower stalk will have had on Aphro. It is such a shame that I did not remove it sooner, especially when one sees the effect that the growth of this stalk had on Venus. She was never quite the same again. I hope that Aphro is not destined for a similar path.
Cass and Aggy (The Moroccan Twin Sisters)
Real signs of continuing growth with these ladies. I will be giving them a wee water tonight to help them along the way. With the warm temperatures and strong sun at the moment and not much rain focused over the next week, I will try and water them every night. There are holes in the bottom of the pot which will ensure that they do not become over-watered. So much for April showers! Nature needs a gentle hand here though will have to watch that I do not overdo it.
Gronda does not look great in these photos compared with a month ago although he looks a lot better than he did a fortnight ago. I have taken to watering him quite regularly at the base of each set of stalks and this visibly perks him up so must surely be a good measure for when he requires water. The water comes from a watering can, filled and left in the kitchen to allow it to come to room temperature. The curling in the leaves in these photos show that he is still not getting enough water. The advice was always not to overwater this plant lest the roots would rot but I must balance this against the position he occupies so near to the kitchen window where that 40°C temperature is not so far away. If greenhouse conditions are being created here then I better water him properly little and often rather than merely misting his leaves (although I have not now done this for some time as my sprayer is bust!).
Much more habitual discipline required with this plant. He looks wonderful when in his full splendour and so wretched when he is drooping and withering.
Hulk is another woefully neglected plant and I have never really managed to get his watering regime right, or been able to stick to it. He has lost a few more spines and soon he will be as bald as Duncan Goodhew. More discipline again required with this plant.
I must again remind myself of the advice given at http://www.plantandflowerinfo.com/sansevieria/sansevieria.html :
“Needs full sun to light shade, with a well drained soil mix (e.g 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam and sand) adding small gravel to ensure good drainage. This cactus likes a little more water than other cacti. Plants are regularly watered and allowed to dry before watering again. Regular watering helps to keep the leaves from dropping. …
During the winter months, water is restricted and the plants are watered only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. During this period, we let nighttime temperatures drop to 50° F (10°C). At temperatures lower than this, the leaves will take on a pinkish hue and will eventually drop.”
http://cactiguide.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8007 says that, “the leaves on Austrocylindropuntia ALWAYS fall off with age. So this is totally normal. The new growth will have new leaves for a while and eventually they will fall off.” This site then goes on to recommend the following:
“1. You need a pot with good drainage holes in it. [A saucer underneath is also recommended.] Good drainage is essential for the health of your cacti.
2. [Be careful that the soil is not too ‘heavy’ for this plant.] While this species is very forgiving, for best results, cut the mix about 50:50 at least with pummice or perlite.
3. More light! The top segments should be just as thick as the bottom one that they are comming out of. The color should be a lighter green, but not yellow-green. These guys will take full sun all day and love it. So get it as much light as possible.” [sic]
My plant is looking a much darker green than the plant about which the above is talking which therefore suggests that Hulk is not getting enough light. Originally, Hulk was on the kitchen windowsill in the spot currently occupied by Piggy when he and Sunny came in for the Winter. As soon as those guys move back outside I am going to have to reintroduce Hulk to his former spot.
http://www.cactiguide.com/growcacti/ suggests that a normal cactus should be watered, “about once a week. This is a good rule of thumb, but there are exceptions. During extended hot, dry periods I may water twice in one week. Conversely, when it is cool and rainy I might switch to every other week.”
Given the original advice that Austrocylindropuntia Subulata ‘likes a little more water than other cacti’ and the fact that the leaves have been consistently dropping off, it is blatantly obvious that I am not watering him enough. I will get him a saucer and try to water him once a week. Whilst less water was required in Winter, Hulk is housebound but I will have to consider this later in the year when Piggy and Sunny again come in from the cold.
Snake is beginning to develop a lean although this may just be because the pot has been rotated. So difficult to tell with this plant. When I do my annual comparison I will attempt to line him up as best I can. Other than that, there is no significant decline from a fortnight ago and I am left wondering whether his brown fraying has been there since his purchase.
Poor old Flapjack. He was always the runt of the litter but his top two leaves have now come away at the stem leaving only one rather tatty leaf still connected. Uh oh. Am not sure whether this was caused by neglect or a feline intervention but it matters not, the poor little fella is in a right old state. I am going to try and re-plant the head and am going to once and for all sort out his watering requirements.
” ‘Water when dry’ is a good rule of thumb,” according to http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/1784328/i-dont-think-this-is-normal-for-a-kalanchoe-luciae Not particularly helpful, although this article does suggest that watering once a week is too much.
Happily I have found the following instructions for care of this plant in the UK at http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_5686442_care-kalanchoe-flapjack.html :
4. Spritz the leaves of the plant with water during the warmer months. Place indoor plants outside so they can benefit from fresh air and sunshine.
5. Add a water-soluble fertiliser once every two weeks from March through August to achieve optimal plant growth. Be sure to dilute the solution by using twice as much water as the directions indicate. The kalanchoe has shallow roots. Using full-strength fertiliser chemically burns them.
6. Wait for the plant to bloom. Each flower will produce a number of seeds that can be easily collected. After blooming, the plant will slowly die, and the seeds can be used for propagation. Alternatively, root or stem cuttings can also be used.”
Food for thought indeed. Need a saucer for this little fella as well and need to work out how to propagate the stem cutting that I have unfortunately been left with.
http://edenmakersblog.com/?p=1363#sthash.SbLK041K.dpbs suggests the following:
“Succulents like Kalanchoe should be planted in a well draining container, at least 5″ inches deep.
A sandy rooting mix is best- you can buy it or use 3 parts sand to 1 part loam.
Moisten the soil, but don’t saturate it with water.
Water consistently, but moderately and you should have new plants in about 8 to 10 weeks!
You can check to see if your plants are ready for transplanting by giving them a light tug.
If you feel a slight resistance, roots have formed.”
Alternatively, http://www.gardenguides.com/88222-propagate-kalanchoe-thyrsiflora.html offers this advice, although not sure I fancy using growth hormones and the like:
Cut a 4- to 6-inch stem from a healthy kalanchoe thyrsiflora with a clean, sharp knife. Pinch off the lower set of leaves, leaving a 2 to 3-inch length of stem.
Set the cutting aside for a day or two, which should be enough time for the cutting to develop a callus on the cut end. This is necessary to prevent the kalanchoe thyrsiflora from rotting once its planted. Rot is the primary cause of death of all succulents.
Fill a 3-inch pot with potting mixture formulated specifically for cactus and succulents. Be sure the pot has a hole in the bottom so the potting mix can drain. Moisten the potting mix with a spray bottle so that it’s damp, but not soaking wet.
Dip the cut end of the kalanchoe thyrsiflora cutting in rooting hormone, and plant the cutting with the leaves just above the soil. Put the cutting in a warm room,, and be sure the cutting is in bright light, but avoid putting it directly in a window, or in hot afternoon sun. The kalanchoe thyrsiflora should root within three weeks, depending on the warmth of the room.
Water the kalanchoe thyrsiflora lightly when the top two inches of the potting mixture are dry to the touch. Don’t be tempted to water sooner, because too much water will cause the kalanchoe thyrsiflora to rot.
Feed the kalanchoe thyrisflora with a general purpose, water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Mix the fertilizer according to the package directions. Don’t fertilize the kalanchoe thyrisflora during fall and winter.”
Certainly need to get some sandy rooting mix or some potting mixture formulated specifically for cactus and succulents and go from there. Hopefully my local gardening centre or DIY store will sell a plant specific variety Cactus and Succulent Mix.