Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meet the Houseplants: Part 2

Season's Greetings and welcome back to another episode of Lost in the farmer's market, in the interest of keeping the content flowing before December arrives we will dive straight into the topic at hand, the rhipsalis relatives of the holiday cacti.

So keeping to the houseplant theme this post’s plants of notice are from the Rhipsalis group of which I have three in the collection to introduce you to. As noted in the prior post, the Rhipsalis groups are related to the Schlumberiga group (Christmas cactus). The most famous Rhipsalis is the ‘Easter Cactus’ which is Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri. It is important to consider that Rhipsalis are epiphytic and thus are suited to high organic matter soils with limited moisture retention, or are rapid draining. Also any part of the stem segments that should break off and land in another potted plant or should come into contact with soil can potentially root making for an easy to propagate houseplant.  Like all succulents the big enemy of a Rhipsalis is overwatering which can cause root rot rather quickly. In terms of exposure I’ve found that at least in the case of ‘Drunkards Dream’ these plants can handle a few hours of direct sun per day. Much like with aloe, if you see the stems reddening it means that your Rhipsalis is getting it’s maximum limits in terms of light exposure. Since most rhipsalis are used to growing somewhere under the canopy of a tree filtered light is best with additional light provided in the summer.

As for plant examples to say we have three plants from the collection that demonstrate the range of forms that this plant can come in. Now admittedly the Easter Cactus has a differing stem shape and I don’t have a specimen to show but the ones below are more readily available in the trade to the point you can find them almost year round in bLowes and Home Despot.

Drunkards dream is a loosely trailing mounding sort of succulent.

Look carefully at the stem segments to see the little 'bottles' for which the plant is named.

A very close in shot showing the variance in stem segment shapes, some are oblong and others are thin, others still have any number of variations on the bottle shape. It is almost as if the entire plant due to it's name is effected by delirium tremens

Talk about aptly named! This rhipsalis is named for its bottle-shaped stem segments and the pictured specimen has colonized at least two other potted plants in the collection including the crab cactus pictured in the last post. The durability of this plant is quite incredible as it was one of the plants that survived the trip from New Jersey to North Carolina and put on an incredible amount of size after the move. Drunkards dream is very available through a number of vendors and the original plant came from Home Despot but I have seen it recently in the succulent plant rack at bLowes on a yearly basis. The only care this guy needs is occasional repotting, and light watering perhaps once a week or when dry during the cold season. The flowers look like Christmas cactus flowers but are tiny and Canary yellow. You can expect flowers around Easter on a mature plant

This plant is very similar to drunkards dream but with much longer stems.

Old man’s Beard takes the same care as drunkard’s dream but, seems to be slower growing. I got this plant as a salvage cutting that is the cutting was shed by the plant probably due to stress and was found on the floor at a bLowes, so it took a while to recover root and gain any size. As you can see this rhipsalis grows around long central stems that end in a spray of much shorter ones. Overall, it seems to be an absolute hanging form and thus looks best in a hanging basket or a angular pot where the stems can dangle. I’ve only had this specimen for about a year and I doubt it is mature enough to bloom but if it does you will see it here. Angel Plants whom sells this variety seems to have no clear information on when this rhipsalis blooms or what it looks like when it does.

As you can see the stem segments are oddly shaped like bizarre trapezoids or rhomboids hence the 'Rhombea' in the name.

This rhipsalis was bought at Home Despot in a tiny 2” pot and was propagated by Altman Plants. It’s latin name and identity has been verified through several sources since it’s purchase and it seems to be the most drought tolerant of the three plants pictured. I admit to being a tad lazy about repotting and it remained in it’s 2” pot all summer drying out repeatedly to the point it had to be dunked underwater to moisten the potting mix. I was finally repotted a month or two ago to the pot you see. As far as survival of neglect goes this one is really good if you can find it in stores. The odd geometric leaf-pads are where the name rhombea comes from and I have no idea what the bloom color looks like but perhaps we’ll find out next year?  It seems content with standard potting mix with no provisions for extra drainage and can handle being dry for long periods. Ironically I didn’t buy this plant because it was a rhipsalis, I mistook it for a queen of the Night cactus which was a perennial favorite at Van Vleck for it’s blooms that opened around midnight and were open for just one night following the hottest days of the year.

If you can find one of these three they are good spine and thorn free house plants to consider for gifts for that gardening-minded person you know.  Chances are the recipient will have likely never seen these plants before and you are picking something really unique. After all a gift like this completely beats a gift card any day of the week! Check our next post where I take this discussion into the land of philodendrons and Monstera, also as always folks, Keep ‘em Growing!

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