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Cultivation & Propagation of the Genus Conophytum
Sowing 'n Growing


The Following Tips Are Courtesy of Terry Smale, www.smale1.demon.co.uk, Good Mesemb Plant and Seed Source (These tips are for the northern hemisphere).


Old plants that are fifteen or more years old, tend to loose vigour and are best broken up into cuttings. You can also propagate desirable plants by removing growths from around the edges of a clump, but I often find it easier to knock the plant out of its pot to do this. In both cases, cuttings should be taken after the leaves have developed properly in the autumn, usually September-October, but I have even taken cuttings successfully in February. A cutting should consist of just one or two growths with no more than a couple of millimetres of stem below. No callusing, propagator or bottom heat is required, just plant in suitable compost (I use 2 parts J.I. no.2, 1 part 4mm grit, 1 part Perlite), put in the greenhouse with your other conos and water them. Rooting should take place within one or two months.

Germinating Seed:

Cono seed is now available from several sources; the best of which are Mesa Garden in New Mexico and the Mesemb Study Group. If you want to produce your own seed, it will be necessary in most cases to have two different clones of the species. These should then be isolated in some way to prevent any unwanted pollination. Pollen is transferred between flowers on separate plants using a suitable tool. I use the follicle end of a human hair, but a cat's whisker, cactus spine or a fibre from shade netting are used by various other people. Once flowers have faded, the plants can rejoin the collection. Seed capsules take a long time to develop and I usually harvest seed in the following August. In the wild, seed would germinate in the autumn with falling temperatures and the advent of rains. Autumn is therefore the natural time to sow and is indeed the best time in sunny places such as California, Greece and Spain. However in my experience, seedlings that have germinated in the autumn in England are very prone to fungal attack and subsequent loss. Therefore I compromise by sowing in January. My compost is 2 parts John Innes Seed Compost, 1 part 1mm grit, 1 part Perlite. Seed is sown on the surface of the compost at a rate of 20 - 40 to a 5cm pot, 100 to a 7cm pot. I do not carry out any additional sterilisation of the compost, nor do I use any fungicides. Temperature for germination should not be too high, 15 - 20C during the day falling to 5 - 10C at night. This can be achieved using a windowsill in the dwelling house or a low wattage heating pad in the greenhouse. The pots should be kept moist and can be kept in a closed atmosphere until germination starts in one to two weeks, then allow free air circulation. The seedlings are watered and kept growing for the first 15 months and to achieve this, they must be heavily shaded and kept as cool as possible from March onwards through the summer. The cotyledons will usually dry up at some point during the summer, but the first true leaves will break through shortly after. I line the seedlings out in quarter trays in November and many will flower in the following autumn when about 21 months old. I feed seedlings quite frequently to help them develop as rapidly as possible.


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