Winter growers

hookilau(long island NY)October 5, 2012

Do winter growing succulents need any special treatment with respect to light & feeding during winter months?

I ask because I'm curious as to why this is often specified seemingly as an attribute. Should it matter to me whether succulent plants will grow in winter or summer? Also, am I wrong in the assumption that it seems African succulents all seem to be winter growers? Any insight is greatly appreciated.


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People vary in how they look at this, some talk about short day and long day, others winter & summer, I believe in the following, some species definitely take a break in summer (Cono's, Monilaria, and so on), while most (all) others slow to a standstill if it gets really hot, and the opposite is also true, but winter is a broad term, rather mid-winter or dark cold days. Most succulents will grow in fall and spring again slowing down on the mid winter period, even in SA. Many of these are opportunistic and will grow whenever the conditions are good and slow down when it's not. Tylecodon for instance which you mention, grow in the open and where I have seen them they are in winter rainfall areas (again this is a broad statement), but they rarely if ever get summer rainfall and it gets pretty hot, so they slow down over the summer (stop) and when the conditions become better they start to grow again until mid winter when the high mountains get snow and frost is regular. So the longer the mid winter period goes, the longer you need to be careful with watering. Once you have kept them dry for a while built up watering - do not bath them, as it may be that the roots are not active, so it depends on your way of doing things.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Winter-growers are just like summer-growers, except they're, for one, less tolerant of water in summer than summer-growers are tolerant of water in winter. That's one of their attributes, because they generally come from the winter-rainfall areas of the RSA, largely the southwest corner (Tylecodons, Aloe pillansii, e.g.) and the North American west coast (Dudleyas, Pachycormus discolor).

Yes, that assumption is wrong, sometimes....for example, many SA Crassulaceae grow best in winter, and they flower then, too - IMO, it's more a matter of growing when the weather is not in extremis. Excluding the 'real' winter growers, like those above, most succulents can grow year-around, although they grow faster / slower according to local conditions. Enough warmth, but not too much, enough water and light, but again not too much, and most plants will put on growth.

And many master growers, like Mark (xerophyte) here, throw out the whole summer / winter growing thing, in part or in its entirety, but I can't still shake it completely.

Here's something I didn't manage to kill this summer that's coming into its own - a Pelargonium carnosum x laxum. Definite winter-grower, no matter how much I tried to get it to leaf out in the summer heat.

Here's another plant that, for me, would have definitely rotted out had I watered it regularly in the summer. For me, that makes it a winter-grower. It's a species of Tylecodon, possibly T. paniculatum, (a genus that I've found to be entirely winter-growers, whether they're in San Diego or in Kamloops), but here, as you see, they have to be inside for the winter - in SD, they're a great landscape plant because winter is when SD gets most of its rains, just like in its native part of South Africa (the southwest). From about late April to September, that plant gets nothing but a sip a month. While still inside, it gets a good watering in early September and, viola, leaves a week later.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:34PM
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hookilau(long island NY)

Thanks for your replies. I think I get it now. I must admit, the whole winter growing thing confused me a bit. It's tempting to treat all tender plants like tropicals. Ok so, in general, to sum up, I can basically 'reverse care' for my winter growers as I do for my tropicals. In the context of the above 2 posts, this makes sense but out of context it seems over simplified =)

A couple of more questions, if I might, just to test my applied logic. Does this mean in the summertime, I can keep my winter growers inside in a cool bright room, and in the winter in an environment above freezing but also brightly lit such as a cold frame (with proper precautions to prevent freezing of course)?

I'm thinking this would result in a short but warmish day (in the 60's or so) & a longer night not lower than 50 (with help as needed). Might they be happy in a climate controlled this way?

Btw, thanks for sharing your pic of your Tylecodon! I can't wait till mine arrives.

Thanks also for your insights. I've already instructed DH if I unexpectedly get struck by a bus to get on here & give my plants away to any enthusiast who wants to claim them, lol!

He's a sweetie but he could really give a rat's ass about my plants. He listens dutifully as I tell him what's special about this one & that one, but he'd really rather go to the range 0_o


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:29AM
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Winter-growers appreciate and grow best in the same conditions that summer-growers do - when it's warm and sunny, just at opposite times of the year. It's best if they're growing in temps around 70F / 20C this time of the year, sunny, as you say, and regular watering / fertilizing (if that's your thing). They'll do less well the lower the temp, and though they can likely stand a freeze for a little bit (thankfully, mine were in this week when the temp hit -2C), it would at least kill off the growing leaves and stunt the plant. They can get climate-controlled that way you suggest, but I'd expect they're happier when it's warmer.

You can keep them in the summer inside - I do, just so they don't get rained on. But they could also be outside, as long as they're not regularly watered/rained-on. Once again, some water won't kill them, but regular watering in the summer will likely do so, unless you're super-experienced or lucky. Your neighbor xerophyte grows some what-I-perceive-to-be winter-growers in the summer (with the LI rains) and he doesn't lose plants that way. Like The Who sang, I can't explain. Or in other words, your mileage may vary.

Aim for getting hit by a meteor - it's much more tragic/comic, IMO. My wife has the same instructions, however, so it's just more proof about great minds, eh?

What kind of range - archery, guns or cattle? Speaking of which, did you see the picture of the stove with its oven door open on a plateau in Wyoming tagged 'Open Range'? No?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:40PM
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hookilau(long island NY)

Ha! I like the meteor far better than the bus. He tells me all the time and occasionally I ask him why he does that, cause he knows I just don't listen.

Something about a big ol' rifle & a pistol of some kind. He recently got certified as a firearms instructor. He asked me several times if I would go with him so he could teach me. Finally I looked him square in the face & asked him if he *really* thought it was wise that he put a gun in my hand.

He's no fool & I didn't have to tell him twice lol.

I have a spot under the eaves on my patio where I kept my succulents this summer. It's a dry spot where many a tropical plant gave up the ghost before I realized the area got little to no rain. My adeniums & asst. sux loved that spot & I expect it'll be a good place for the rest of the growing collection.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:48PM
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