Aptenia - a blooming succulent that grows before our eyes
A unique combination of flowers similar to chrysanthemums with fleshy original leaves attracts attention to aptenia. But her ability to tirelessly and rapidly grow, the dazzling colors of both greenery and flowers are the main advantages. And although the plant has long been transferred to mesembryanthemums, aptenia still remains a special star. Hardy and unpretentious, like any other succulent, but at the same time similar to a beautifully flowering star, it is rapidly gaining popularity. A small evergreen miracle can effectively decorate window sills and hanging baskets. And even beginners can grow this plant.
Aptenia - a botanical description of a plant
The appearance of the bright beauty of aptenia is difficult to associate with ordinary indoor succulents. Fleshy leaves that can accumulate water allow aptenia to withstand many hardships and adapt well to changing conditions, but it looks no less bright than any capricious competitor.
Antenas, whose qualifications have been revised, belong to the genus according to modern botanical classifications Mezembriantemums (Mesembryanthemum) and not such a large, but inimitable bright family Aizov (Aizoaceae) Our plant is most often still sold under the name of aptenia.
If an obsolete name is indicated in the catalogs or if you need to identify your favorite species among the mesembriemantums, then no difficulties should arise: the species name is repeated in both the old and the new versions.
Own name mesembryanthema received in honor of the flowers that open at noon, under the brightest sun.
In nature, these cultures are found only in southern Africa and in South America. Unlike relatives of the mesembriantemums, among which only one- and biennials became cultured, the former apteniums are perennial plants. They are also thermophilic, but when grown in a pot culture, they can please much longer than one season.
Aptenia-mesembryanthema - evergreen succulents with fleshy shoots and leaves. They possess powerful, thickened roots that are not quite typical for succulents, actively filling the substrate. Most often, these are creeping or creeping plants, in room culture capable of transforming over time into shrubs, with a maximum height of 25 cm.
Stems initially grow straight, lie only with elongation, and branch strongly. If you do not restrain shoots and do not form plants, they can stretch in length up to 1 m or more. The green of aptenia in form seems ordinary, but the juicy, fleshy texture changes this perception dramatically.
In all aptenias, the leaves are either oval with a pointed tip (spindle-shaped) or heart-shaped, they sit most often opposite, but on the tops of shoots they can be located alternately. Aptenia is characterized by a very bright gloss. Idioblasts - glandular hairs resembling crystals or crystal drops also give shine to the leaves. But in aptenia, they are less noticeable than in other mesembryantemums, only emphasizing the beautiful, bright luster of the surface.
A distinctive feature of the plant is a very rich, bright color: the mid-green basic tone of aptenia is combined with the dazzling light green color of young leaves.
How does aptenia bloom?
Terry flowers bloom in all mesembryanthemums, somewhat reminiscent of inflorescences-baskets of asters. They bloom one at a time, but along the entire length of the shoots, in the axils of the leaves. The plant is literally strewn with them. Small, up to 3 cm in diameter, aptenium flowers seem huge and, despite the similar structure, remind little of other succulents and rather cause associations with daisies or chrysanthemums. Terry, needle-reed petals create a fluffy basket in which, even before they are fully opened, you can see the yellow tubular flowers in the center.
The flowering period of aptenii falls in the summer, most often it stretches from June to mid-autumn.
The color scale of blooming aptenium is limited only by red-purple hues. But because of the purity of the tone, it is impossible to call the color palette boring. White-flowering varieties are found among aptenia.
In room culture, it is undesirable to prevent the formation of seeds, because the flowering of aptenia itself suffers from this. But if there is a desire to collect their seeds, then after flowering, multidimensional boxes with almost black rough seeds ripen.
Types of room appenias
All four species, once belonging to the appenisia, are considered very ornamental plants. Only one species can boast of great popularity, but its relatives will not yield to it in the beauty of greenery.
Mesembryanthemum hearty, or Aptenia hearty (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium) - a charming view with gray-green, juicy, but thin shoots on which heart-lanceolate leaves sit on opposite pairs. The severity of foliage only emphasizes the impeccable shape of individual leaves and their bright color. Creeping, sprawling twigs only in a section show their true tetrahedral shape, branch well and create lush bushes.
The leaves of the plant do not exceed 2.5 cm in length, often seem even smaller. Inflorescences bloom in the axils of the leaves and on the tops of the shoots. Depending on the variety, the heart-shaped appenia flaunts with lilac, purple, pink or almost red baskets.
Varieties on sale remain nameless and they are distinguished mainly by the color of the flowers. The decorative form of the variegate, with amazing bright spots on the leaves, watercolor turning into the base color, is found no less than the usual green-leafed appendages of the heart.
Mesembryantemum lanceolate, or Aptenia lanceolate (Mesembryanthemum lancifolium) Is a rapidly growing and not so compact perennial, densely leafy shoots of which can grow up to more than 1 m in length. Dense, fleshy stems flaunt oppositely arranged, bright, in their youth yellow-lime green lanceolate leaves, in the sinuses of which delicate lilac or pink flowers bloom. It is believed that this type of mesembryanthemums blooms longer, from mid-spring to mid-autumn.
Appenia Haeckel (Aptenia haeckeliana), or Haeckel's Mesembryantemum is much less common. This is a compact, not so spectacular plant with ovoid, oppositely sitting leaves on straight thickened shoots and mainly apical, creamy white, but densely doubled flowers.
The mesembryanthemum is white-flowered, or Atenia is white-flowered (Mesembryanthemum geniculiflorum) almost never occurs in room culture. It is a sloppy-looking, with rarely sitting pairs of lanceolate leaves, succulents, in which branching, thickened twigs create fancy lace and attract all the attention. The thin, spider-like petals of a terry flower are somewhat reminiscent of dandelions, but they are painted in a creamy white tone.
All types of indoor aptenia can be grown as a regular potted or ampelous plant. They are very good when hanging from hanging baskets or containers on supports, but if you wish, you can specify the shape of a sprawling bush.
Growing Conditions for Indoor Appenias
In order to achieve from aptenia and dense greens, and rapid growth, and spectacular flowering, you will have to take care of bright lighting. This plant is extremely sensitive to the place of growth and is not at all adaptive. A cool wintering is considered mandatory, but some tricks allow you to save the plant without it.
Lighting and placement
The photophilousness of aptenii is so high that it is recommended to place this plant on the southern windowsills. The plant can’t put up with even a slight shade, so placement inside the interior for this culture is not suitable.
The slightest lack of light of the mesembryanthema is signaled by stretching and partial exposure of the shoots. If aptenia is grown only as a houseplant, in summer the leaves need protection from direct midday rays. In the open air or when planting in the summer garden, this culture does not need such protection.
Mesembryanthemums traditionally bloom in summer, and in autumn or winter they do not need light, but if the bushes are not located on the southern windows, it is better to move the aptenium to brighter windows.
The warmer the winter, the more important the lighting for the aptenia: at normal room temperatures, it is better to keep the plant with daily additional illumination that evens out the light intensity with summer performance.
Temperature and ventilation
The key to the successful cultivation of a fast-growing and abundantly blooming beauty is rightly called a cool wintering. During dormancy, if air temperatures remain typical of living rooms (do not decrease), the plant suffers so much that it will not be possible to achieve from it not only flowering, but also preservation of the decorativeness of greenery.
The optimal content of mesembryanthemums in winter is air temperature of about 10 degrees. With any excess of this indicator for aptenia, it is necessary to proportionally increase the lighting intensity, the frequency of irrigation, and the air humidity, which is very dangerous for this succulent.
In the period of active growth and development, aptenia loves stable temperatures. At rates from 22 to 25 degrees, without extreme heat and sudden jumps, aptenia blooms much more abundantly.
Aptenians love fresh air. They cannot grow in completely enclosed spaces and are especially sensitive to the regular access of fresh air in the summer. The best strategy for growing appenias is to put them in the garden, on the balcony or terrace for the summer.
If plants are left in living rooms, they are placed where the window is constantly ajar. If desired, aptenia can also be used as garden lettuce, planting in the ground on sunny, brightly lit areas of alpine hills or in elevated areas, and then cutting the cuttings to preserve the plants in their collection (the aptenia is no longer transferred back to the pottery culture).
Aptenias cannot stand the proximity of either air conditioners or heating appliances. Any jumps in temperature, sudden changes in its performance are undesirable.
Care for aptenia at home
Beautiful and vibrant aptenias may require special conditions, but are content with the most modest care. They require rare watering, even more rare top dressing. In fact, the key point in caring for this plant is mandatory pruning, but there is nothing complicated in this procedure.
Watering and humidity
Watering for aptenii is no different from watering for cacti or other non-tropical succulents. The plant is content with minimal humidity, does not tolerate not only dampness, but also constantly wet substrate.
The best guideline for determining the frequency of irrigation watering is the drying of the soil: if most indoor plants should dry in the upper layer, then for aptenia the substrate is dried almost completely or completely.
Prolonged drought is undesirable during budding and flowering, when the substrate is left constantly slightly moist. During dormancy, especially when kept in optimal cool conditions, aptenia is almost not watered, only maintaining a minimum amount of water turgor leaves and preventing the beginning of their wrinkling. Even in summer, the plant is most often watered less often than 1 time per week, but in winter, 1 watering per month is sufficient for aptenia
In high humidity, aptenia suffers and perishes, they are quite comfortable in ordinary living rooms. But extremely dry air near heating appliances negatively affects the flowering of aptenia, and too dry conditions during flowering can affect the attractiveness of the leaves.
If aptenia hibernates in warmth, and even more so in heat, it is advisable for it to create an environment with 40-50% humidity, but without spraying. An increase in humidity will help to preserve the decorativeness of greenery, but with the slightest wetness or in too humid air, rot will begin to spread by appenosis.
Fertilizing and fertilizer composition
Despite the beautiful flowering and fairly rapid growth, aptenia does not need frequent feeding. In this, it is similar to cacti: fertilizers are applied at a standard frequency once a month or by half reducing their concentration in water - once every 2 weeks.
Top dressing for aptenia can be carried out only in the spring and in the summer. In the year when the plant was transplanted, you can limit yourself to two top dressings at all - at the beginning of growth and the beginning of flowering.
For this crop, long-acting fertilizers or conventional universal fertilizers cannot be used. Aptenia is content only with special fertilizers for succulents and cacti.
Cutting and shaping aptenii
The rapid growth of mesembrytemums leads to an extremely rapid "loss of shape." This plant cannot be grown without pruning, which simultaneously stimulates flowering, forms bushes and renews them. Pruning is carried out immediately after flowering. It is permissible to trim at other times, but before the growth of new branches, the plant will not bloom.
Spring pruning delays the flowering of aptensia for several months. The shoots of appenia are cut in half or leaving at least 3 pairs of leaves on them. The formation is carried out in accordance with the desired form of growth - a more stringent pillow or spreading.
If a plant breaks its growth in winter and shoots are pulled out, the bushes are adjusted in January and February, before growth begins.
Transplant, containers and substrate
Despite its rapid growth, aptenia does not need frequent transplants. This plant does not like to be disturbed unnecessarily. Appenia is transplanted only by transshipment, without exposing the roots, when there are signs of full development of the pot space, that is, when the roots appear in the drainage holes or stop the growth in breadth. Typically, a well-developed plant needs 1 transplant in 2 years.
Spring, March-April is more suitable for replanting an aptenium, but if there is a need to transplant the plant at another time, then this accurate procedure can be carried out as part of the period of active development. Capacities for aptenia increase by 3-5 cm. Only pots and planters with large drainage holes with a height not exceeding the diameter are suitable for this culture: the lower and wider the capacity, the better.
Aptenia can be grown in simple earth mixtures. They feel great in ready-made substrates for succulents or cacti, but they grow no worse than in any light, half-composed of sand soil. The best mix for this crop is considered to be a mixture of turfy soil and sand with small additions of foliage of soil and peat for texture correction. The addition of ash and charcoal is a plus. Aptenia prefer slightly alkaline substrates with a pH of 6.5.
There is nothing complicated in replanting an appenia. At the bottom of the new tank lay a high, about 1/3 of the height of the pot, drainage layer covered with a racing layer of coarse sand. For appenia, it is important to maintain the same level of penetration. The root neck can only be slightly sprinkled with a substrate. After transplantation, the aptenia is not watered, it is kept dry for 4-5 days, renewing watering very carefully and be sure to protect the aptenia from direct sunlight.
Diseases, pests and problems in the cultivation of aptenia
This succulent is considered one of the most sustainable.Aphids or spider mites, which are better to fight with insecticides right away, can settle on aptenias. But basically, everything that threatens them is the consequences of improper care. Any wetting, as well as excess nutrients, lead to the spread of rot.
In poor lighting or warm wintering, aptenia does not bloom, turns pale and stretches, but is well restored after pruning. Loss of leaves always indicates an improper wintering, prolonged drought or too wet soil.
Despite its elite status and corresponding price for adult plants, aptenia is very easy to breed. Annual pruning leaves a lot of apical cuttings that can be used to produce strong, young plants.
Both apical and stem cuttings root in aptenia. After cutting, they are allowed to dry for several hours, and then they are rooted, immersed slightly at an angle, by any available or favorite method - in sand, substrate or water. For rooting, it is not even necessary to install a cap over the cuttings; it is enough to maintain soil moisture. Plants are planted in individual containers, trying to choose small glasses and handling plants in larger containers.
Growing aptenia from seeds is much less popular, because the achievement of decorative plants will have to wait much longer. Seeds are sown superficially, in clean sand or sandy-substrate earth mixture, carefully distributing them as little as possible and not sprinkling a thin layer of sand on top.
For germination, bright lighting and light humidity of the substrate are necessary. The containers are covered with glass or film, ventilating the crops daily. The optimum temperature for seed germination is about 21 degrees of heat. Glass is removed immediately after the first shoots appear. Plants moisturize very carefully, trying to avoid wetting and waterlogging of the soil. Shoots are dived only a month after the emergence of shoots, in individual containers.