Contents of the Spring 2012 Northants News

                    Orostachys                                       Trevor Wray

A few years ago I much admired a show quality plant of Orostachys boehmeri ‘Keiko’.  Those pastel grey leaves were rather reminiscent of Echeveria; in fact, E. defractens looks very similar – at least until it flowers. I was able to scrounge some small rosettes but was unable to establish them. This surprises me now, as these are among the easiest of succulents to propagate.

Recently I saw Orostachys boehmeri for sale, perhaps ‘Keiko’ but who knows, and leapt at the chance to buy a healthy growing plant. It was similar to that plant of ‘Keiko’, though the shading of the leaves may be subtly different. In the autumn I split the plant and both plants lived outside in the appalling winter of 2010/2011 spending the worst of the actual coldness under snow. Then in the spring I planted the propagation into a new raised bed in the garden and the plant quickly outgrew the original to produce an attractive area. It associates well with rock garden Sedums, Saxifrage and small Primulas.

Orostachys boehmeri

Orostachys boehmeri in flower

Last August I was lucky enough to visit the Manchester BCSS branch to give a talk. On the evening they have a mini-show judged by their members. There in the class for plants from the Crassula family I was able to see some Orostachys that were entirely new to me and very appealing. I did some internet research on the names on my return but there was little more information beyond that these were selections of long named species. They are on my wish list in case you want to trade.

Shortly after I went to the Oxford BCSS branch where I gave a talk on the Crassula family and invited members to bring interesting plants. John Watmough certainly brought one that had me rushing for my camera. He had it labelled Orostachys ‘Hou-ou’ and explained that the name was derived from the sound made by ghosts in Japanese. A web search showed that the more accepted name is ‘Houou’ which is not so clear. Under the main rosettes were many small rosettes and I was able to scrounge a couple. They quickly rooted and fingers crossed we will be able to perpetrate this interesting plant in NN country.

As we proceeded into autumn there was a pronounced change in my plants of Orostachys boehmeri. The rosettes began to elongate into a flowering stems (left). Soon every single rosette was flowering, even the small ones. A fortnight later and the flower stems had turned from white to red and a close inspection showed that this was due to the formation of red fruits. At this stage there were just a few minute rosettes that were not flowering so maybe some hope for the future. In nature I am sure these fruit capsules would be sending minute Crassulacean seeds off into the wind to colonise new rocky outcrops. However the original plant transferred to the greenhouse (as insurance?) had flowered itself to death. Oh, well… But now in March I see that there are still a few minute rosettes to resurrect the plant (left).

After flowering just a few rosettes remain

Orostachys sp Haman, S. Korea

Orostachys sp Pocheon, S. Korea

Orostachys sp Kumdang, S. Korea

Three Orostachys at the Manchester Show

Left: Orostachys sp Haman, S. Korea      Centre: Orostachys sp Pocheon, S. Korea        Right: Orostachys sp Kumdang, S. Korea

If you can draw any conclusions from this we infer that Orostachys can be easy to grow and they can be tricky… Probably they require much more water than many succulents we grow – in the garden they get it but we must remember them in the greenhouse or cold-frame. And we should always take some cuttings/offsets as hostages to fortune. Finally, as they pass into the flower-themselves-to-death-phase that last sentence must apply. Take some cutting or non-flowering offsets; no matter how small.


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