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Monthly Archives: May 2014
My new plants arrived much quicker than I expected and I didn’t have a chance to get a shipment of Bonsai mix delivered. I’ve been happy with the Bonsai mix, but having it shipped in a real pain in the behind so I decided to try to find some suitable substrate here in town. I ended up finding some volcanic soil and mixed it with clay gravel (1:1). I have no idea if this is going to work out well, but I like that it is free draining, a nice size, and does have some mineral content. Fingers crossed…
P.S. If anyone knows of a good source for pumice in the Ottawa area, I’d be interested in hearing about it!
Transplanting Lithops is risky business. I firmly believe it is best to leave seedlings in their original pot for as long as possible (2 years???) and mature plants should not be transplanted more frequently than once every 3 to 4 years. Let’s face it, it is stressful for us and stressful for the plants! That said, sometimes, due to over-crowding or broken down substrate, it is necessary to repot.
I recently repotted all of my year old seedlings due to over-crowding and a few mature plants that I imported bare root. I’m happy to report zero losses! Here’s what I did:
(1) Have prepared substrate/pots ready and waiting. I used a premixed bonsai soil that was predominantly quartz gravel. Because the rocks tend to immediately fill in any hole that is dug for the plants, it was necessary to moisten the substrate just enough that it would hold and not crumble into itself.
(2) Use a pencil to create holes large enough to accommodate the plant’s roots without bending.
(3) Gently tip the old pot onto some newspaper and pick out the Lithops. Be very gentle to avoid damage. Any damage to the skin or roots of the plant could cause rot to take hold – remember, the plant is under a lot of stress!
(4) Line the Lithops plants up on a piece of paper towel and inspect for health and vigor. I personally don’t pot up the weak or sick looking plants. Because I intend to collect seed from my plants in the future and use that seed for future generations, I only keep the strongest and healthiest plants in my collection. This simulates the natural selection process they would go through in nature. If I have some nice healthy plants that are perhaps just a little small or not quite the right colour or if I just happen to have too many of a certain type, I will pot them up and sell them to friends as ‘pets’ 🙂
(5) This part is controversial. I trim the roots. Here’s my thinking. If you plant a Lithops and the root gets bent or a little kinked, the plant will die a slow death. As we know, Lithops can grow very long tap roots – sometimes 3 or more inches long! That gives too much opportunity for bends during replanting, in my opinion. As we also know, Lithops regenerate not only their leaves, but also their roots, on an annual basis. This means, they are used to re-growing roots. With this in mind, I use sterile scissors to trim the roots down to approximately 2 to 3 cms in length. Are the Lithops happy about it? NO. Was I completely stressed out by it? YES.
(6) Gently insert the Lithops into the holes you created using a pencil and gently tap the sides of the pot to collapse the substrate around the plant. I like to bury my Lithops so they are only a few millimetres above the soil line. I do this because I find that the substrate will settle quite a bit over the next few weeks and if I leave too much of the plant body exposed during repotting, the plant will be too high in the pot in a couple weeks.
(7) Place the pot in a shady spot, away from direct sun light, and do not water for a period of 2 weeks. I think this is the part where many people break down and unintentionally do harm while trying to do good. During this period, the Lithops wrinkle up and look like they want to die. They really are pathetic during this stage. It’s important to stay strong and not buckle under pressure to water or give them sunlight. Yes, they are wrinkly because they need water, but we need them to start regenerating their roots so NO WATER until there is evidence that the roots have started to re-grow. Remember, Lithops are evolutionarily adapted to survive periods of severe drought; they are used to this.
(8) After the two week dry period, I water the pots lavishly and move them to a sunny spot. I then resume the plant’s regular watering schedule.
It’s important to note that some plants bounce back more quickly than others. In my experience, some put on a wrinkly face for up to 3 to 4 weeks. Don’t freak out! All of my plants eventually bounced back and are doing beautifully!
Good luck and happy planting!!!