Dudleyas: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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These rosette succulents are mostly native to California and Baja California, though they also extend into Oregon and Arizona. Most species are found along the coast or on offshore islands, where they experience regular fog, high humidity, winter rainfall, and summer drought. The few whose range extends inland tolerate greater temperature extremes.

They vary in size from miniature (the Hasseanthus group, with no above ground stem) to medium size (D. brittonii, which can grow to a couple of feet wide). The leaves may or may not have a white powdery dusting. Flowers, which are useful for identification, may be open (flat), closed (tubular) or intermediate, and they attract hummingbirds.

In mild coastal climates, Dudleyas enjoy plenty of exposure, up to day-long sun, especially the powder-dusted species. They are generally salt-tolerant and well-suited for oceanside gardens. Where summer heat is an issue, they will require some protection, but strong light is important for health and proper form. They prefer excellent drainage and enjoy regular water during their period of active growth (fall through spring). But do not mistake summer dormancy for thirst -- it is quite the opposite.

Dudleyas are excellent container plants and will grow to quite different sizes depending on the size of the container, being dwarfed in small containers and exuberant in larger ones. In mild areas they are very practical landscape plants which require little or no summer irrigation. They are ideally suited to Mediterranean climates.

Container Dudleyas require vigilance for the presence of insect pests. Immature inflorescences often attract aphids. The farinaceous species are particularly vulnerable to attack by mealy bugs, because the bugs are camouflaged against the white background. Insect damage to the core may be so severe that the growth point disappears, but much of the time the plant will respond by branching.

Seeds are small, almost dust-like, but seedlings can be quick (1-2 years) to reach full size. Hybrids are not uncommon. The species which branch can be easily propagated from cuttings in the fall or winter. The species which do not branch can be forced by coring. No Dudleyas can be propagated from leaves.

Dudleya is related to other New World Crassulaceae including Echeveria, which is separate geographically (found on mainland Mexico and parts south, not on the peninsula of Baja California). It may be difficult to distinguish the two genera without floral features. Echeveria flowers are always tubular, while Dudleya flowers may be tubular, flat, or cup-shaped.

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