The ideal candidates for the Alpine collection are the Soldanelles. It’s rare that anyone who sees them doesn’t linger on a hill, doesn’t sit down to take a closer look at these elegant, miniature creatures of nature.
It is believed that the name of the genus Soldanella, belonging to the family of primrose, came from a word denoting small Roman coins with which the leaves of these plants were compared. These are rhizome species with rounded basal evergreen dark green leaves and bell-shaped flowers in umbellate inflorescences. Soldanella live in the mountains of Europe, rising to a height of 500 to 3000 m above sea level. All 16 species included in this genus are inhabitants of moist meadows and rocky (sometimes wooded) places.
Until the soldanelles bloom, an ignorant look at the botanical features will only note that the leaves of different species have different sizes. The flowers have more differences, they differ both in shape and color - these are small bells of white, pinkish, blue and lilac color, looking down. Stretching during flowering and fruiting, peduncles can reach 20-25 cm, the very same leaf pad usually does not exceed 5-7 cm.
The most stable in culture is considered mountain soldanella montana, it is also most often found in gardens. If you create the necessary conditions, the mountain soldanella will grow steadily and bloom even after such harsh winters as the past. Attractive are its monetized, resembling tiny hoof leaves and cascades of lilac flowers.
Soldanella alpina - a less common (and in our country almost completely unknown) and a more miniature plant, the flowers of which differ in both shape and shade of lilac color.
Is like her Carpathian Soldanella (Soldanella carpatica), it differs only in a large number of flowers in the inflorescence and their purple hue.
Small soldanella (Soldanella pusilla) - a very small species, she rarely has leaves with a diameter of more than 7 mm. It is more difficult to make it bloom, but it grows faster than others. Perhaps she needs a more lighted place than the rest of the species. The flowers of this soldanella are very narrow, from pale pink to lilac in color.
Very attractive, but equally rare small soldanella (Soldantlla minima). Her flowers are almost white, narrow-bell-shaped.
In what conditions should these gentle creatures of the alpine flora be placed in order to provide them with the necessary comfort? Like true mountain dwellers of Soldanella, they do not tolerate heat, the scorching sun, drying out and chilling. In the conditions of our middle lane, they must be planted in partial shade, protecting from midday sunlight and spring burning after snow melts. The shadow side of the hill or a rock garden arranged in partial shade, as well as a tall coniferous plant on the south side from the soldanella, will do.
The soil should be loose and sour (although I, for example, soldanella grow well on heavy, slightly acidic loam mixed with sand, compost and peat). The main thing is that the soil does not dry out, is not waterlogged and does not overheat. It is also believed that soldanella do not like lime in the soil, however, some species (for example, Soldanella minima) are found in nature just in areas rich in limestone. As a mulch, pine litter can be used: for mountain soldanella, it is a natural environment. Granite chips are also suitable.
© Denis Barthel
For the full development and abundant flowering, Soldanella must be fed. You can use a complex, preferably completely soluble (granules can burn the surface rhizome of a plant) mineral or humic fertilizer three or four times during the growing season, and also periodically add compost. It is better to avoid mullein - it contains too much nitrogen, but potash and phosphorus fertilizing in September will help plants plant more buds.
The tiny rhizome of soldanelles grows, forming more and more "nodules" with sockets and roots. And although this process is slow, the jackets can grow up to 15-25 cm in diameter, and after flowering they can be divided.
It is a little more difficult to propagate soldanella seeds. Seeds require stratification. To do this, it is best to sow them in October on the street or in December-February at home (and be sure to keep the crops in the refrigerator). After one and a half to two months of cooling at a temperature just above zero, fresh seeds germinate quickly and amicably often in the refrigerator. But then they develop extremely slowly, which is why I would recommend sowing soldanella early so that young plants have time to grow and better get stronger. After all, shoots from under the snow after natural stratification by the fall form only a microscopic outlet with a diameter of no more than 2 cm. True, even such a trifle winters perfectly.
© Opioła Jerzy
"Home" seedlings are easily developed without lighting. Seedlings tolerate pickings and transplants well and respond positively to weak top dressing with water-soluble complex fertilizers.
In order not to lose the tiny plants, you can plant them in a separate bowl, which they dig in on the shoulders in the ground. And only after the young soldanella reached a more or less tangible size, plant them in open ground. Seedlings bloom two winters after sowing.
After snow melts, soldanella can suffer from bulging out of the soil. If this happens, you need to either add compost or bury the plants in the ground again. The rhizome should remain at the level of the soil surface.
With proper agricultural technology, soldanella do not get sick. Problems can arise if the plants are wet (then root rot is possible) or dried out. It is very difficult to save the soldanella that has grown from dryness and heat. It will need to be watered, sprayed with Zircon or Epin and covered with a half of a plastic bottle to maintain a moist atmosphere. Try to protect the soldanella from such stresses, after which the plants recover for a long time and certainly will not bloom the next year.
© Konrad Lackerbeck
In the spring, in the open sun, evergreen leaves of Soldanella can burn. In damp winters or humid summers, plants can be affected by fungal diseases that leave black-brown spots on the leaves. As a rule, this spoils the appearance of soldanelles, but does not cause them much damage. Just in case, you can sprinkle the plants with Maxim or other fungicides.
Soldiers love slugs, but perhaps the ants can inflict the greatest damage on plants, setting up their houses in the curtains and falling asleep “with their head” loose soil. Against ants have to fight Inta-VIR.
It is not worth sheltering the soldanella for the winter, unless you put on top of a branch of spruce branches to trap snow and shade from the sun in spring. But if plants are planted with shading, then there is no need for spruce branches.
- O. Terentyeva, collector of rare plants