Cyphostemma juttae...Flagging Leaves...

bronxfigsJune 23, 2012

My specimen Cyphostemma juttae have been potted in a quick-draining mix and are now growing out on my back deck with a southern exposure. The plants get full sun from mid-AM to late PM. Each of the two plants has grown a beautiful rack of thick, rubbery leaves.

I've noticed within the last 2-3 days, in the extreme heat, the leaves start to flag, but perk back up if I water the medium. I have to water at least twice a day to prevent flagging. When the weather was a little cooler I noticed no flagging leaves. The temps. have soared to the high 90s for the last 2-3 days.

The caudex on both plant remains plum and very hard, and I see/feel no evidence of any shriveling. It just seems that the plants get too dry in high heat, and the leaves droop.

Is this normal? Aren't these desert plants that evolved to be stressed by high heat? Can the growing medium be getting to hot, and could that cause the leaves to droop? Like I mentioned, after watering the plants with cool water, the leaves perk right back up within an hour.

Is the high heat and full sun stressing these plants? My Boojum has now sprouted new leaves, and the Adenia glauca has put out some very long vines...all these plants are growing in the same area and under the same conditions. So why the problems with the Cyphos?

I am wondering if the Cyphos need more frequent watering?

Any help with my problems would be appreciated.


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Your medium doesn't hold enough organic material - more organics, less flagging.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:09AM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

My guess is that the soil is getting too hot. In the ground, soil temps are quite stable, but in small pots sitting on a hot deck in full sun they can soar. This is either causing the soil moisture to evaporate that quickly, or stressing the plant and reducing its ability to absorb water. Is the soil actually dry when the leaves droop? You may want to try elevating the pots and/or shading them. I'm doing this with the tomatoes on my deck this year. The pots are sitting on angle iron supports that allow air to flow underneath them, and they are wrapped in white felt to reflect heat. I can't say for sure if it's helping yet, but I have high hopes. Also, porous clay pots allow some moisture to evaporate through the pot walls which can reduce temperatures somewhat.

I don't know if Cypho's are more susceptible to this. The only one I grow is a tiny C. currori seedling, and it has been doing alright so far. No high 90's here, though.

BTW, good to hear your Boojum is growing. Mine's been putting out a few new branches lately.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 1:19AM
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Thanks for the quick answers.

I think it's a combo of both dry medium, and heat stress.

I have to water the quick-draining mix 2-3 times a day, and given the small volume of the pot...maybe 2 gallons...I also think heat stress might be a factor. I also don't think that the huge surface area on the giant leaves helps to retain water. I will bet the root system is being taxed to pull whatever moisture is available into the huge leaves.

I planted the Cyphos in the quick-draining mix because I was afraid of rotting out the caudex, and roots, with overly moist medium, but it drys out too quickly. I will gently work in some organics to retain moisture. I just hope that water will not stagnate. I will also give these plants some morning sun, then some partial shade for the remainder of the day, and see if that helps. Do you think if I increase the Turface content, the medium would retain more water?

Just asking...what organics would you use?

Thanks again. I'm sure your suggestions will help cure my drooping leaves.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 7:26AM
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Frank asked: Aren't these desert plants that evolved to be stressed by high heat?

It is this line of "reasoning" that has gotten many people in trouble with their plants.

First of all, most plants we grow do not come from a true desert. Few plants have adapted to that extreme environment. The majority of what we grow come from areas that experience seasonal drought. What this means is that most plants have adapted to withstand an extended period of drought (usually in the winter). But even in habitat, during the active growing season there is typically plenty of moisture available.

And second: Succulents often occupy a cooler niche where they are not exposed to blazing sun and hot soil.

The majority of plants we grow can take much more water than you think especially in a pot with a substrate that drains well. And when the water isn't there, they can wilt just like tomato plants or petunias.

Cyphostemma, Pachypodium, Adenium and other similar caudiciforms can be watered like crazy as long as it is very warm.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:14AM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

"Do you think if I increase the Turface content, the medium would retain more water?"

Absolutely. That's exactly what I'd do if the mix is really drying out that quickly. Adding Turface will increase water retention while maintaining porosity. Adding organics will also increase water retention, but at the expense of porosity and/or soil longevity.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:36AM
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Thank-you all for tackling my problems with the Cyphos.

As it turns out...I'm the problem. Bad culture...and lack of experience has led me down the wrong path.

I will increase the water-holding ability of the medium, which dries out in very little time...which I thought was a good thing. I think the broiling, full-sun location is too stressful, and I will move them in an area that gets early morning sun, then very bright shade for the remainder of the day. I will also shade the pots. The plants were fine when the weather was cooler, but the last heat wave cooked my plants. Now, I'll know better. Again, thanks for the advice.



I thought I bought a fancy, high-end, pine cone. The "Boojum" just sat there doing nothing for weeks. I misted 2-3 times a day, and then all of a sudden I saw a speck of green, then another, and, another. The broiling weather last week helped push out new leaves all over the top of the caudex, and at the base of some branches. "IT'S ALIVE"!


Thanks again for the help.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 4:52PM
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Some thoughts after one season....

Last year I spent a small fortune and ordered two, specimen-sized Cyphostemma juttae. Both arrived dormant, and had no root system to speak of. They were both potted into containers that held about 2 gallons of a quick draining mix. So problems.

They eventually sprouted leaves, and then they were placed out on a deck, getting full sun, where they grew all Summer. I watered, I fed, they grew. Very diseases. They even set seeds.

Now they are going dormant. They are inside, growing on a wire, plant-rack that is in my kitchen, next to glass doors that get full sun. Temps. here are in the mid-60s F.

Now my thoughts....

These plants make HUGE leaves that have a lot of surface area. Plants must be kept hydrated or leaves will flag, and plants will be stressed. Quick-draining mix can dry out too quickly in the full-sun heat. I will change medium to contain more organic material and more Turface-MVP for longer moisture retention. I also will replant the Cyphos. in much larger containers. The huge leaves also act as sails and a good wind will topple the plants very easily. I know...I learned the hard way! These plants need to be securely anchored, or they will blow over. I may even plant them in a training bed for the extra root-run, and cooler root temps. Containers get hot and cook the roots. Not good for the plants.

These plants are very easy, and are very dynamic. They go from full dormancy, to full steam ahead within, they are not boring. Good plants for kids. Once you get the correct culture nailed down, the plants just do their thing.

I'm glad I purchased these plants. I wish I knew about these plants long ago.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:29AM
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