Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Caudiciform houseplants for beginners

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Name: Don
Meadville, PA - Crawford Co. - (Zone 5a)
Love of gardening grows on you!
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DonfromPA
Jun 21, 2017 5:44 AM CST
For quite a long time I have been fascinated by pictures of various caudiciform plants and would like to try my hand at growing a few that are suitable for growing indoors. I prefer growing plants from seeds it is more fun and interesting for me as well as more suitable for my budget than it would be to start with established plants.

I see lots of ads on the internet, but would appreciate readers' comments on the easiest ones for beginners. Also appreciate preferred sources for seeds. For openers I would prefer not to purchase mixtures but would like to know exactly what I'm growing so that I can learn as much as possible about the plant or plants I'm growing.

If anyone happens to have any seeds available I would be interested in learning about what you have available and interested in purchasing them from you.

Relatively small plants (when mature) would be my preference as I do not have a greenhouse. Also would need to grow them indoors as my zone 5b probably not suitable for growing outdoors.

Thanks in advance for any help and/or advice you can give me.
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies - Gertrude Jekyll
Name: Don
Meadville, PA - Crawford Co. - (Zone 5a)
Love of gardening grows on you!
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
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DonfromPA
Jun 21, 2017 6:28 AM CST
Forgot to mention: Also interested in euphorbias - so hopefully might be able to find some interesting euphorbia caudiciforms. Athough I'll be 87 years old next month I realize that by starting with seeds I may never see my plants develop into maturity, but that's okay - I'm just a seed person and enjoy watching the evolution from seed to plant - just happy to be still gardening - a lifelong passion of mine since the age of 8 or thereabouts.
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies - Gertrude Jekyll
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Jun 21, 2017 3:15 PM CST

Moderator

That's an interesting question. I like a fat plant myself. But most of the ones around here like a lot of sun and might be a bit tricky indoors. You have to provide a lot of light. Like right by an unobstructed south-facing window, ideally, for most of them. I start my succulent seedlings right by a SW-facing window. The issue of light is much more important in winter when the days are short and the sun rises to a lower angle in the sky.

Many of these plants go dormant or slow down in the winter, which means you have to back off on the water until they revive in the spring. Knowing the name is a great start in sorting these sorts of details out, and careful observation will yield rewards as you learn your new plants' lifestyle. The best care is an exercise in moderation, and measured steps, and discipline with the water. You have to surf the boundary between too much water (overindulgence, which goes along with a risk of rot, esp. indoors) and too little water (starvation, stunting, forced dormancy). There is a big difference between keeping a plant alive and getting it to thrive. Excellent drainage (I like a mix of 50% pumice) helps protect against watering mistakes. The classic beginner error is to water too often during winter dormancy and water not often enough during summer growth.

As a general rule, the easier plants are more common, and any plant that's actually rare to the point where it's hard or pricy to find in cultivation is probably best avoided, with some exceptions.

For starting from seed, I would recommend Fockea as a good beginner geophyte (succulent underground stem which you can raise after a few years, or whenever you want, for display). Easy from seed, grows a controllable vine, enjoys a bigger pot than most when young, easily lifted and staged (at which point the above-ground caudex doesn't get much bigger). Another one kind of like that is Calibanus which makes a good sized seed (relatively quick start), and not likely to get anywhere near its full size for many years.

The common Dorstenias are pretty compact plants and not real difficult. They may be sold cheap when they're greenhouse volunteers of unknown parentage. (These plants tend to volunteer.)

My favorite Euphorbia (judging by the number I have grown, anyway) is E. bupleurifolia, which stays compact. Here are a few youngsters if that provides any inspiration.



It's not necessarily a beginner plant, but as long as you respect a few rules (strong light, excellent drainage, respect dormancy, always wait a week after repotting to water) trouble free for me. Big seed so quick to get started (3 months to transplant size).

If you're going for caudiciforms (rather than succulents in general) then check out a book called Pachyforms for all sorts of info and tips on how to grow them. I learned lots of useful things from that book and its sequel dedicated to bonsai succulents.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 21, 2017 3:20 PM (+)]
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Name: Don
Meadville, PA - Crawford Co. - (Zone 5a)
Love of gardening grows on you!
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Image
DonfromPA
Jun 22, 2017 9:40 AM CST
Baja - Many thanks for your very informative response. Over-watering cacti/succulents is one of my major downfalls inspite of how really careful I try to be. So perhaps trying to grow caudiciforms might not be the wisest choice for me.

However many of the cacti/succulent species appeal to me very much, so perhaps I should try some of them again. I especially like various agaves (indoor varieties) and think I might give a few of them another try.

But I did want to thank you for your friendly and most helpful advice - really appreciate it.

Don
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies - Gertrude Jekyll
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Jun 22, 2017 11:59 AM CST

Moderator

My pleasure, Don. You might also want to consider aloes and their kin (Gasterias, Haworthias) for a sunny windowsill. Avoid the medium to large plants (Aloe vera is in the former category) if space is limited. Maybe one of the small bumpy hybrid aloes (various names) which stay manageable and color up in strong light, or one of the Haworthias with windowed leaves (a handful of species) if you grow them on the dry side. I have had a H. cooperi on the windowsill for years and it is still going strong.

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