COLUMNISTS

iGrow Column: Grow me, Grow me — Crassulas

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Farm Forum

I love growing succulents as houseplants because they are generally pretty easy to grow and they offer lots of variety. Besides the aloes that I wrote about last time, I love the crassulas. Most people are that have grown succulents are probably familiar with Crassula agrentea, the Jade Plant. This is one of the easiest plants to grow, providing you can give it some bright light and remember to water it, at least once in a while. It is known for quickly developing a thick trunk, making it look like it is much older than it really is. The leaves are also thick and fleshy, usually rounded, dark green and maybe with a red edge if the plant is getting exposed to some direct sunlight. But it can still be grown in much lower light, it will just grow more slowly and it won’t be as bushy and upright. Jade plants can easily grow to be 3-4’ tall and wide, if grown in a large enough pot. They will do just fine in a 6-8” pot however, but just won’t be able to grow as large. I would suggest you use a clay pot or some other heavy pot to reduce the chance of the plant tipping over. All those fleshy leaves and thickened stems make the plant pretty heavy.

Crassula arborescens, the Silver Dollar Plant, is a close relative to the Jade Plant. It has more rounded leaves that are usually covered with a silvery dust which gives the plant its name. This plant grows much like the Jade Plant, but it might even grow larger! Smaller plants will do fine on your windowsill, but will probably soon need more space.

If you are looking for something a little more interesting, how about Crassula perforata, the String of Buttons. This is a smaller-scale plant with smaller, triangular leaves that are closely spaced along the stems. Since the leaves are arranged opposite each other along the stem, it does look like a string of “squarish” buttons. The leaves are a lighter blue-green color. It does flower once in a while, but the flowers are not that exciting. Another smaller plant that does have pretty flowers is called Crassula “Spring Cheer.” It too has triangular-shaped leaves, but they are much thicker. It has clusters of small pink flowers that may appear in the spring or during the winter. The Propeller Plant, Crassula falcata, has leaves that are about 6” long and fairly narrow and curved, making the plant look almost like a propeller. Crasssula “Gollum” has more cylindrical leaves with a flattened tip, almost like a fingertip that is fun to grow, especially if you are a fan of the “Lord of the Rings.”

Jade plants and the rest are all pretty easy to grow. They basically need bright light, full sun if possible to grow well. Use a well-drained growing media. Try a cactus mix or use one part coarse sand or perlite and mix that with regular potting soil. Use a heavy pot for the larger-growing plants because they can tend to be top-heavy. Watering is pretty easy because they can go for a couple weeks without water and not have a problem. If they are actively growing, they can be watered more frequently. Allow the potting soil to dry out somewhat between watering, and don’t let them sit in water. You can fertilize them about once a month when they are actively growing. The main insect problems are mealybugs and scale. They will cause the new leaves to be malformed and you will probably see sticky stuff on the leaves and stems.

Most crassulas will flower, but some plants have showier flowers than others. The flowers are usually white to pink, are star-shaped and form in clusters at the ends of the stems.

There are dozens of other crassulas to choose from. The difficulty comes in finding a place to buy them. Some of the common ones can often be found in local greenhouses, garden centers and discount stores, but you will probably only see them for a short time in the spring when they have their spring bedding plants out and for sale. But they are available online from a variety of outlets. Unfortunately, now is not a good time to try getting any of these plants shipped to you. So, like some of our other gardening passions, getting live plants shipped to us will have to wait until spring.

2014 Master Gardener Training

By Mary Roduner, SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Field Specialist

Master Gardener training classes for 2014 have been scheduled. Lessons will be in a hybrid training format in two parts. The first part is a series of eight weeks of online lessons. The second part is four days of in-person hands on training. The online lessons will start April 21, 2014, and trainees will be able to study on their own schedule wherever and whenever they have Internet access. A new set of lessons will be posted each week and remain available through the entire class. Trainees taking the hybrid class in 2013 stated they liked the freedom to study at their own pace and on their own time.

Some of the class topics include basic botany, soils, turf, trees, insects, fruit, vegetables, ornamentals and weeds. All lessons are taught by SDSU faculty and Extension Field Specialists.

The hands-on portion will be held in four locations; Sioux Falls, Huron, Mission and Spearfish starting the third week of June. Trainees will learn skills in pruning, plant and insect identification, turf problems, weeds, soils and ornamental plants by doing hands on exercises.

Master Gardeners work in their community to promote and teach gardening. Opportunities include writing articles, giving talks, working at fair booths, helping in community and school gardens, teaching and answering garden questions. The training gives a well-rounded education preparing them to help their communities. In 2013, Master Gardeners contributed almost 10,000 hours, worth over $160,000 to our communities.

Training costs $160 with 50 hours of volunteer payback during the first two years after training. Applications and payment must be received no later than April 11, 2014.

For further information, application forms and schedules contact Mary Roduner, SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Field Specialist at mary.roduner@sdstate.edu or 605-394-1722.

A Question from Edmunds County, S.D.

Q I have an old Christmas cactus that is getting heavy in the branches. How do I take clips off of it and start new plants? Or can I?

A Spring is a good time to propagate your Christmas cactus. The leafy stems root fairly easily in regular potting soil. Take cuttings of good, healthy stems that are about 4″ long, breaking or cutting at a “node,” where two of the leafy segments join together. The potting soils should be a little moist but not soggy. You may want to dump it into a bucket or other container to allow you to mix in some water to moisten it and mix it well. Put the potting soil into a pot and make some small holes, where you will insert the cuttings. If you want, you can dip the ends of the cuttings in some rooting powder, which should be available at your local garden center or garden section of a discount or hardware store. You can stick probably six cuttings in a 6″ pot. Stick them in about 1-2″ deep. Firm the potting media around each cutting. Place in a bright location, out of full sun to allow them to root. If you want, take a clear plastic bag and invert it over the pot to help keep the humidity level higher. If the media starts to dry out, sprinkle with some more water. The cuttings should root in a few weeks. Give them a gentle tug, to see if it feels like they might have grown some roots. Once they do, you can take off the bag and move them to spot near your older plant or a similar spot with about the same temperature and light.