Conophytum - Aizoaceae - How to care for and grow Conophytum plants

Conophytum - Aizoaceae - How to care for and grow Conophytum plants



THE Conophytum they are small succulent plants that form small bushes from a distance they can be mistaken for pebbles.






: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Conophytum belongs to the large family of Aizoaceaewhere we find numerous other kinds of so-called plantegrasse or succulents (for example the genus Lithopsand gender Lampranthus).

These are perennials native to western and southern South Africa and southern Namibia where they grow among the stones, in the mountain areas. They are small plants that do not exceed 10 cm in height and can form small compact bushes. The peculiarity of these plants is a very short stem which is practically replaced by the leaves that are the visible part of the plant, thick, fleshy and rounded that grow in pairs, green-blue-gray in color and the pairs of leaves are fused together to form a kind of heart and if observed from a distance, they look like small stones and have a small opening, similar to a closed mouth, in the center of the fusion of the two leaves.

The different species of Conophytum to protect themselves from the sun, they can take different measures: be covered with wax or tiny hairs, or have the skin shiny to reflect the sun. Furthermore, the epidermis can be monochromatic, dotted or streaked depending on the species and variety.

The flowers, very similar to daisies, are formed from the center of the pair of large solitary leaves and the stem remains hidden among the leaves so that only the flower emerges. We can find: day flowering species, where the flowers open for a few days from late morning and close just before sunset, with very bright colors ranging from white, pink, purple, carmine, violet, orange, to yellow (the most common color), rarely scented; speciea night flowering which are usually yellow in color, smaller than day flowering ones and very fragrant.

The fruit that forms has the particularity of opening suddenly as soon as a drop of water hits it, throwing the seeds all around.


THE Conophytum they are plants that, despite the popular belief that the piantegrasse are very simple to grow, in reality they need special safety and attention and it is essential to know their life cycle to know how they should be bred.

The life cycle of these plants is regulated by the conditions in which they live in nature and for this reason they are in effect plants short days (short days) that is to say that they vegetate during the winter months while they rest in the summer months (and this is linked to the fact that in the countries of origin the winter months are the period of greatest availability of water). If we remember this simple thing, we will be able to successfully bring to an end a cultivation of Conophytum.

All in all, they are quite fast growing plants with magnificent blooms.They are not intrusive and if we arrange a group of Conophytum, the spectacularity they can give is almost unique.

In Mediterranean climates (as opposed to what happens in nature where they grow in shady locations, as direct sunlight is very intense), it is preferable that they are arranged so that the exposure is in full sun, especially in the winter months, which are the of active growth of the plant, while during the summer months it will be good to give a light protection.

It is also important to ensure good ventilation, especially for recovery.

They are plants that do not fear the cold as in nature they are able to withstand rigid excursions. The only important thing to remember is that if temperatures drop below 0 ° C, the soil must be perfectly dry.


From spring to the end of summer, the plant goes into vegetative rest so in this period it should not be watered in any way.

The period of active growth of the plant begins at the end of summer (probably linked to the fact that in its places of origin it is the period where there is the greatest availability of water): there is the birth of new roots and new leaves in this period. they swell and get rid of the paper membrane that surrounds them, formed by the old dried leaves, almost as if they were a snake that sheds its skin (it can be removed with a tweezers). In this period the plant should be watered constantly, waiting for the soil to dry on the surface between one watering and the other. A rule that can be followed in order not to make mistakes if and when to water, is to observe the plant: if it appears very swollen and nice turgid then it is better to decrease the watering if instead it tends to be shriveled, then it is necessary to increase the watering. In this period it is advisable to start the fertilizations once a month and until the end of winter using a good liquid fertilizer diluted in the watering water, halving the amount compared to what is reported in the fertilizer package (they are always exaggerated).

Flowering occurs between the end of summer and winter (with a few exceptions). They are self-sterile plants, that is to say that the female and male flowers of the same plant cannot cross each other or with plants of the same variety, but different varieties are needed to obtain fertile seeds. Therefore, they reproduce by cross-pollination. If fertilization occurs, the fruit will form which will begin a slow ripening which will end the following year, at the end of summer. continue with the fertilization plan as indicated in the previous paragraph.

From the end of winter and the beginning of spring the leaves begin to dry up and transfer all the water and nutrients to the new leaves that begin to appear and that will remain protected by the dried sheath of the old leaves because this in nature serves to protect them, in the first phases of growth when they are more delicate, from insolation. During this period the plant should be watered infrequently, every two weeks with light nebulizations.


THE Conophytum they are not particularly demanding plants in terms of soils and the only care to have is to guarantee perfect drainage of irrigation water as water stagnation is in no way tolerated. Therefore, even if you use a soil for succulents, still be careful to add a good amount of coarse sand.

Repotting should be done at the end of summer when the plant comes out of its vegetative rest and active growth begins. To avoid repotting often, let's arrange them in a pot that is wider than deep as the root system does not go very deep but vice versa being a plant that tends to form real colonies, it is good to organize in time.


The Conophytum it multiplies by seed or by cutting.


It is preferable to sow at the end of summer, in a compost formed by soil by sowing, adding 1/3 of coarse sand. Since the seeds are small, to lightly bury them, push them under the soil using a flat piece of wood or you can pour new soil on top.

The tray containing the seeds should be kept at a temperature around 15-21 ° C and it is essential that the soil is constantly humid (use a sprayer to moisten the soil evenly) until the moment of germination.

Once the seeds have germinated, water more abundantly and arrange them in such a way as to promote good air circulation, for better growth.

Among all the new plants there will certainly be those less vigorous than others. Identify and eliminate them as in this way you will guarantee more space for the most robust plants. Once these are large enough to be handled they are transplanted into the final pots with a soil as indicated for adult plants and treated as such.

They typically start flowering after three years.


Root rot

Excessive watering can cause root rot.
Remedies: if in doubt that something is wrong, take the plant out of the pot and check the roots. If you observe roots that are rotting, they are eliminated, the soil is left to dry for a few days and then normal cultivation is resumed, paying more attention to irrigation, which must be less abundant.

Brown spots on the leaves

Brown spots on the leaves, especially on the underside, could mean that you are in the presence of scale insects, brown scale cochineals and mealy cochineals. To be sure, it is recommended to use a magnifying glass and observe them. Compare them with the photos shown, they are characteristics, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. If this operation can be difficult you can use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.


The Conophytum is a genus of succulent plants currently comprising about 150 species and is native to South Africa and of Namibia. Some scholars tend to consider the family of Aizoaceae, to which this genus belongs, as a subgroup of the family of Mesembryanthemaceae however the most accredited tendency is to consider the two distinct genres, even in the presence of some analogies. They are mimetic seedlings, common, easily recognizable by their unmistakable appearance and not particularly difficult cultivation.

A bit of history

The genre Conophytum it was established in 1922 by the British botanist N. E. Brown and initially included about 450 taxa among species, subspecies and varieties, the revision carried out relatively recently (1994) by the botanist S. Hammer has unified some species previously identified with local synonyms or micro-variants and led to the current classification. The name derives from the Latin "conus"(Cone) and from the Greek"phytum"(Plan), representing the particular conical shape of these plants. The genus is very diversified and includes species with very different characteristics.


These are perennials of small or very small size (from a few mm to 2-3 cm) which have a tendency to frequently bunch up forming gods compact bushes and flattened several tens of cm wide and about 10 cm high: this morphology is called " pulvinus "And is the most suitable form for living in arid environments and very exposed positions (the low ratio between exposed surface and volume allows maximize the retained humidity). Other species, on the other hand, tend to develop under the surface of the soil and only the apex, often transparent, is visible: these species do not form the pulvinus and the bodies are cylindrical or conical with the vertex facing upwards. The stems are very short, fleshy, sometimes covered with protective hair and the epidermis can be solid color, dotted or striated. All species have a central slot from which the flower appears (day or night depending on the plant, often similar to a daisy) and the new foliar pairs.


THE Conophytum I'm short days, that is, they vegetate during the winter season. They will therefore be kept dry during the hot periods and progressively wet when autumn arrives: the humidity will stimulate the emission of new root hairs and the plant will vegetate throughout the winter season, emitting new foliar pairs from inside the previous ones. . There flowering usually takes place in Autumn and the color of the flowers is extremely variable from species to species. There cultivation is quite smooth, but care must be taken to avoid excess water to avoid rot: the plants themselves will communicate the need for wetting, with a slight wrinkling of the epidermis. They are not particularly afraid of the cold and can reach temperatures as low as -5 ° Cas long as the soil is completely dry and the temperature rises quickly again. There propagation it can happen for sowing or by cuttings: sowing is quite easy and germination is good (see germination rate detected on our seeds), but the young seedlings are then very sensitive to stagnant humidity and special and constant care is required to raise and "wean" them correctly.


There are various types of soil suitable for the genus, quite different from each other due to the great diversity of the various species, the common feature is however the high drainage capacity is good porosity. The plant emits short, thin and branched roots, which have a good ability to self-regenerate: consequently the size of the pots must be kept to the minimum necessary.


They require local exposure Very bright and also a few hours of full sun, in the cooler moments of the day to avoid sunburn. At the end of the vegetative rest season, however, the plants must progressively get used to the increase in brightness of the environment. Also good is needed air circulation which allows to dry any excess moisture and prevent the collar from rotting.


There are still no in-depth studies on gender Conophytum, especially on pollen and on the anatomy of the roots which deteriorate and regenerate rapidly. Furthermore, the genus is typically mountainous and many of the environments are still endemic unattainable or unexplored, so much so that it is thought they may exist a few dozen unknown species.


Species of the genus Conophytum they are dwarf and perennial plants that form true colonies in their development. Some species grow in the form of rounded and flattened pebbles, presenting a central slot from which, at the beginning of the vegetation (September-November), the flower appears and from where the new leaf pairs also emerge other species are similar to two lobes consisting of two fleshy leaves at the center of which the flower or the new leaf pairs appear.

The soil to cultivate this plant must be very porous and fibrous with the addition of very coarse sand and a mixture of crushed bricks and crushed stone. [without source]

Its exposure requires full sun and slightly shaded and ventilated during the hot and sultry periods, watering must be regulated according to the temperature, growth and humidity of the environment, the plants have short-day vegetation and must therefore be watered during the autumn months. and winter, while from spring to all summer they must be completely suspended. [without source]

The minimum temperature in winter must not be less than 5 ° C but they can withstand non-continuous temperatures even a few degrees below zero if completely dry, furthermore it is necessary to take into account the ease with which the plant is subject to rot so that in the vegetative period (autumn - winter) you will have to proceed with watering only when the plant appears to have dried up and their leaves show some wrinkles. The plant will start producing suckers a few or several years after sowing depending on the species. [without source]

Reproduction occurs by sucker by detaching the new shoots that grow from the inside of the old foliar couple, or by seed depositing them on a light soil without burying them but pressing them lightly and keeping the soil moist and slightly shaded at a temperature of 21 ° C, it is preferable there is a temperature difference between night and day, if we have 20 ° C during the day in the greenhouse, at night even 5 ° C is fine. [without source]

Schlumbergera or Christmas cactus

The botanical name is Schlumbergera but it is also known as a Christmas cactus. It is liked so much for the beautiful red flowers, but also for the great ease of cultivation of this succulent plant with flowers. The origins are Brazilian, it grows in the mountains where the climate is particularly mild but not too hot. It also differs from other succulents in appearance. In nature it is found at the foot of trees within forests or in broken rocks.

If you decide to grow this succulent plant with flowers at home, know that the classic rules of cacus do not apply. You must choose fairly small pots, with a shallow depth, with a soil for acidophilic plants mixed with a little universal soil. You have to keep it in a semi-shaded area, where the light is dim. Direct light causes the stems to blush. Regular watering is required throughout the year because the soil must be kept moist. However, it must not have water stagnation. If you grow it in pots, know that it is best to keep it in a low-heat area to get well-developed flowers.

It is easy to find it in the homes of lovers of succulents with flowers. This is because depending on the species (there are six) it is possible to have an autumn or winter flowering. The stems are short and branched, have flattened and oval sections, very fleshy. It is easy to find hybrid varieties on the market. The flowers are fleshy and very large, with a color ranging from red to pink.

As for any diseases, the greatest risk is rot from too much watering. As the problem spreads quickly, remove the healthy stems and use them as cuttings to create new plants. For the rest, spring is a somewhat critical period because aphids can attack the flowers.

Trachyandra tortilis is native to eastern and southern Africa but is also found in Italy. It grows in height with many "sticks" that intertwine. It is a perennial plant with an underground tuber. The wavy effect of the leaves is exceptional. It does not need a lot of care but only a well-drained soil. Its price fluctuates between 3 and 5 euros.

The Jellyfish Plant is among the most fascinating species. Its shape resembles a jellyfish. These stunning aerial seedlings do not require soil and are easy to care for. In this case, it is more difficult to find any dealer in Italy. On the net there are different types and for this type of plant the price rises to about 20 euros. The result, however, is truly special.


The last of the succulents with easy-to-grow flowers is Sedum. Of the succulent type, they can store a fair amount of water. In nature, they absorb water when it rains and then use it gradually when there is drought.

Being used to living in arid conditions they do not need to be watered continuously and they survive even if they are forgotten. You can grow them in pots or in the garden and it is not uncommon to find them in nature even here in Italy. Since they peel easily, choose well-drained soil. Empty the saucers when you water them.

Ideal if placed outdoors, where there is light and air. If you have taken a variety that does not withstand the cold, pick them up at home. If you want to grow them indoors, choose a bright spot. However, they are perennials that need very little.

It should be watered only if the soil is very dry and they should be repotted only when the roots occupy almost the entire pot.In autumn and winter they rest while in spring and summer the flowers appear.

To keep the whole plant healthy, remove the damaged leaves as you go. On the other hand, no special pruning is necessary.

Video: Conophytum marginatum