Aptenia – a flowering succulent that grows before our eyes – Beautiful indoor plants

The unique combination of chrysanthemum-like flowers with fleshy original leaves draws attention to Aptenia. But her ability to grow tirelessly and vigorously, dazzling colors of both greenery and flowers are the main advantages. And although the plant has long been transferred to the mesembriantemums, Aptenia still remains a special star. Hardy and unpretentious, like any other succulent, but at the same time similar to a flowering star, it is rapidly gaining popularity. A small evergreen miracle can effectively decorate window sills and hanging baskets. And even beginners can grow this plant.

Aptenia is a flowering succulent plant that grows before our eyes. @ Kitchen Decor
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Aptenia – botanical description of the plant

The appearance of the bright beauty of Aptenia is difficult to associate with ordinary indoor succulents. Fleshy leaves capable of storing water allow Aptenia to withstand many adversities and adapt well to changing conditions, but it looks no less bright than any capricious competitor.

Aptenias, whose qualifications have been revised, according to modern botanical classifications belong to the genus Mesembriantemums (Mesembryanthemum) and not so large, but inimitably bright family Aizovs (Aizoaceae). Our plant is still most often sold under the name of Aptenia.

If an outdated name is indicated in the catalogs or if it is necessary to identify a favorite species among mesembriantemums, then no difficulties should arise: the species name is repeated in both the old and the new versions.

Own name mesembryanthemums received in honor of flowers that open at noon, under the brightest sun.

In nature, these crops are found only in southern Africa and South America. Unlike relatives of mesembriantemums, among which only one- and two-year-olds became cultivated, the former aptenias are perennial plants. They are also thermophilic, but when grown in a pot culture, they can delight much longer than one season.

Aptenia-mesembryanthemums are evergreen succulents with fleshy shoots and leaves. They have powerful, thickened roots that are not quite typical for succulents, which actively fill the substrate. Most often, these are creeping or creeping plants, in room culture capable of transforming over time into semi-shrubs, with a maximum height of up to 25 cm.

Stems grow straight at first, lodge only with elongation, and strongly branch. If you do not restrain the shoots and do not form plants, they can stretch up to 1 m or more in length. Aptenia greens seem ordinary in shape, but the juicy, fleshy texture changes this perception radically.

In all aptenias, leaves are either oval with a pointed tip (fusiform), or heart-shaped, they usually sit opposite, but on the tops of the shoots they can also be located alternately. Aptenia is characterized by a very bright gloss. Idioblasts, glandular hairs that resemble crystals or crystal drops, also give the leaves a shine. But in Aptenia they are less noticeable than in other mesembriantemums, only emphasizing the beautiful, bright luster of the surface.

A very rich, bright color remains a distinctive feature of the plant: the medium-green basic tone of aptenia is combined with a dazzling light green color of young leaves.

Aptenia flowers are a bit like chrysanthemum flowers.
Aptenia flowers are a bit like chrysanthemum flowers. @ Ivan I. Boldyrev

How does aptenia bloom?

All mesembriantemums bloom double flowers, somewhat reminiscent of aster inflorescences-baskets. They bloom one at a time, but along the entire length of the shoots, in the leaf axils. The plant is literally strewn with them. Small, up to 3 cm in diameter, the flowers of aptenia seem huge and, despite a similar structure, bear little resemblance to other succulents and rather evoke associations with daisies or chrysanthemums. Terry, needle-reed petals create a fluffy basket in which, even before they are completely blooming, you can see the yellow tubular flowers in the center.

The flowering period of aptenias is in the summer, most often it stretches from June to mid-autumn.

The color range of aptenia blooms is limited only to red-purple hues. But because of the purity of the tone, it is impossible to call the color palette boring. There are also white-flowering varieties among aptenias.

In a room culture, it is undesirable to allow the formation of seeds, because the very flowering of aptenia suffers from this. But if there is a desire to collect their seeds, then after flowering multidimensional capsules with almost black rough seeds ripen.

Mesembryanthemum cordifolium, or Aptenia cordifolia (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium)
Mesembryanthemum cordifolium, or Aptenia cordifolia (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium). @ World of Succulents

Types of indoor pharmacies

All four species, once belonging to the Aptenians, are considered to be very ornamental plants. Only one species can boast of great popularity, but its relatives are in no way inferior to it in the beauty of greenery.

Mesembriantemum cordifolia, or Aptenia cordifolia (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium) Is a charming species with gray-green, juicy, but slender shoots, on which heart-lanceolate leaves sit in opposite pairs. The severity of foliage only emphasizes the impeccable shape of individual leaves and their bright color. Creeping, spreading twigs only in the cut show their true tetrahedral shape, branch well and create lush bushes.

The leaves of the plant will not exceed 2,5 cm in length, often seem even smaller. Inflorescences bloom in the axils of the leaves and at the tops of the shoots. Depending on the variety, Aptenia cordifolia flaunts with lilac, purple, pink or almost red baskets.

The varieties on sale remain unnamed and are distinguished mainly by the color of the flowers. The decorative form of the variegat, with amazing light spots on the leaves, turning in watercolor into the base color, is found no less often than ordinary green-leaved cordifolia aptenia.

Mesembriantemum lanceolate, or Aptenia lanceolate (Mesembryanthemum lancifolium) Is a fast growing and not so compact perennial, densely leafy shoots of which can grow to more than 1 m in length. Dense, fleshy stems flaunt oppositely located, bright, in youth, yellow-light green lanceolate leaves, in the axils of which delicate lilac or pink flowers bloom. It is believed that this type of mesembriantemum blooms longer, from mid-spring to mid-autumn.

Haeckel’s aptenia (Aptenia haeckeliana), or Haeckel’s Mesembriantemum  is much less common. This is a compact, not so spectacular plant with ovoid, oppositely sessile leaves on straight thickened shoots and, mainly, apical, creamy white, but densely double flowers.

White-flowered mesembriantemum, or White-flowered Aptenia (Mesembryanthemum geniculiflorum) in room culture is almost never found. This is a sloppy-looking succulent with rarely sessile pairs of lanceolate leaves, in which branching, thickened branches create fancy lace and draw all attention. The thin, spider-like petals of a terry flower are somewhat reminiscent of dandelions, but they are painted in a creamy white tone.

All types of indoor aptenia can be grown as a regular pot or ampel plant. They are very good for hanging from hanging baskets or containers on stands, but if desired, they can be given the shape of a spreading bush.

Mesembryanthemum lanceolate, or Aptenia lanceolate (Mesembryanthemum lancifolium)
Mesembriantemum lanceolate, or Aptenia lanceolate. @ PETER GREENWOOD
Haeckel's Aptenia (Aptenia haeckeliana), or Haeckel's Mesembriantemum
Haeckel’s aptenia, or Haeckel’s Mesembriantemum. @Rita Xavier
White-flowered Mesembryanthemum, or White-flowered Aptenia (Mesembryanthemum geniculiflorum)
White-flowered mesembriantemum, or White-flowered Aptenia. @ Earth

Growing conditions for indoor aptenaries

To achieve from aptenia and dense greenery, and vigorous growth, and spectacular flowering, you will have to take care of bright lighting. This plant is extremely sensitive to the place of growth and is not at all adaptive. Cool hibernation is considered a must, but some tricks allow you to keep the plant without it.

Lighting and placement

The photophilousness of aptenia is so high that it is recommended to place this plant on southern windowsills. The plant cannot accept even light shading, so placement inside the interior is not suitable for this culture.

The slightest lack of light in the mesembryanthemum is signaled by stretching and partial exposure of the shoots. If aptenia is grown only as a houseplant, in summer the leaves need protection from direct midday rays. Outdoors or when exhibited in the garden for the summer, this culture does not need such protection.

Mesembryanthemums traditionally bloom in summer, and in autumn or winter they do not need additional lighting, but if the bushes are not placed on the southern windows, it is better to move the aptenia to brighter windows.

The warmer the wintering, the more important lighting is for aptenia: at normal room temperatures, it is better to keep the plant with daily additional supplementary lighting, equalizing the light intensity with summer indicators.

Temperature control and ventilation

The key to the successful cultivation of a fast-growing and profusely blooming beauty is rightfully called a cool winter. During the dormant period, if the air temperatures remain typical for living rooms (do not decrease), the plant suffers so much that it will be impossible to achieve not only flowering from it, but also the preservation of the decorativeness of the greenery.

The optimal regime for keeping mesembriantemums in winter is an air temperature of about 10 degrees. With any excess of this indicator for aptenia, it is necessary to proportionally increase both the intensity of lighting, and the frequency of watering, and the humidity of the air, which is very dangerous for this succulent.

During the period of active growth and development, Aptenia likes stable temperatures. At rates from 22 to 25 degrees, without extreme heat and sudden jumps, aptenia blooms much more abundantly.

Aptenias love fresh air. They cannot grow in completely enclosed spaces and are particularly sensitive to the regular supply of fresh air in summer. The best strategy for growing aptenias is to expose them to the garden, balcony or terrace for the summer.

If plants are left in living rooms, they are placed where the window is constantly open. If desired, aptenia can also be used as garden lettuces, planting it in the ground on sunny, brightly lit areas of alpine hills or in areas with an elevation, and then cutting cuttings to preserve the plant in your collection (aptenia can no longer be transferred back to the pot culture).

Aptenias do not tolerate the proximity of air conditioners or heating appliances. Any jumps in temperature, sharp drops in its indicators are undesirable.

Aptenias love fresh air
Aptenias love fresh air. @ Deskgram

Aptenia care at home

Beautiful and bright aptenias may require special conditions, but they are content with the most modest care. They require rare watering, even more rare dressings. In fact, the key point in caring for this plant is mandatory pruning, but there is nothing complicated in this procedure either.

Watering and air humidity

Watering for aptenias is no different from watering for cacti or other non-tropical succulents. The plant is content with minimal moisture, does not tolerate not only dampness, but also a constantly wet substrate.

Drying of the soil remains the best guideline for determining the frequency of watering aptenia: if in most indoor plants it should dry out in the upper layer, then for aptenia the substrate is dried almost completely or completely.

Prolonged drought is undesirable during budding and flowering, when the substrate is left constantly slightly damp. During the dormant period, especially when kept in optimal cool conditions, the aptenia is almost not watered, only maintaining the turgor of the leaves with a minimum amount of water and preventing them from wrinkling. Even in summer, the plant is most often watered less than 1 time per week, but in winter, 1 watering per month is enough for aptenia.

In high humidity, aptenias suffer and die, ordinary living rooms are quite comfortable for them. But also extremely dry air near heating devices negatively affects the flowering of aptenia, and too dry conditions during flowering can affect the attractiveness of the leaves.

If aptenia winters in warmth, and even more so in the heat, it is advisable for it to create an environment with 40-50% humidity, but without spraying. An increase in humidity will help preserve the decorativeness of greenery, but at the slightest wetness or in too humid air, rot will begin to spread through aptenia.

Top dressing and composition of fertilizers

Despite the beautiful flowering and fairly rapid growth, Aptenia does not need frequent feeding. In this it is similar to cacti: fertilizers are applied at a standard frequency once a month or by half reducing their concentration in water – once every 1 weeks.

Top dressing for aptenia can be carried out only in spring and summer. In the year when the plant was transplanted, you can limit yourself to just two dressings – at the beginning of growth and the beginning of flowering.

Long-acting fertilizers or conventional universal fertilizers cannot be used for this crop. Aptenia is content only with special fertilizers for succulents and cacti.

Pruning and shaping aptenias

The rapid growth of mesembryantemums causes an extremely rapid “loss of shape”. This plant cannot be grown without pruning, which simultaneously stimulates flowering, forms bushes and renews them. Pruning is carried out immediately after flowering. It is permissible to carry out pruning at other times, but the plant will not bloom until the new branches grow.

Spring pruning delays the flowering of aptenias for several months. Aptenia shoots are cut in half or leaving at least 3 pairs of leaves on them. The formation is carried out in accordance with the desired form of growth – a more strict pillow or spreading.

If the plant’s growth is disturbed in winter and the shoots are stretched out, the bushes are corrected in January and February, before growth begins.

The rapid growth of mesembriantemums causes an extremely rapid "loss of shape
The rapid growth of mesembriantemums causes an extremely rapid “loss of shape”

Transplant, containers and substrate

Despite its rapid growth, Aptenia does not need frequent transplants. This plant does not like to be disturbed unnecessarily. Aptenia is transplanted only by the transshipment method, without exposing the roots, when signs of complete development of the space of the pot appear, that is, when roots appear in the drainage holes or growth stops in breadth. Usually a well-growing plant needs 1 transplant every 2 years.

Spring, March-April is more suitable for transplanting aptenia, but if it becomes necessary to transfer the plant at another time, then this neat procedure can be carried out within the period of active development. Containers for aptenia are increased by 3-5 cm. Only pots and pots with large drainage holes with a height not exceeding the diameter are suitable for this culture: the lower and wider the container, the better.

Aptenias can be grown in the simplest soil mixtures. They thrive in ready-made substrates for succulents or cacti, but they grow just as well in any light, half-sand soil. The optimal soil mixture for this crop is considered to be a mixture of sod soil and sand with small additions of foliage of soil and peat for texture correction. The addition of ash and charcoal is encouraged. Aptenias prefer slightly alkaline substrates with a pH of 6,5.

Aptenia transplant is no big deal. A high, about 1/3 of the height of the pot, a layer of drainage, covered with a racing layer of coarse sand, is laid on the bottom of the new container. It is important for aptenaries to maintain the same level of penetration. The root collar can only be lightly covered with substrate. After transplantation, the aptenia is not watered, it is kept dry for 4-5 days, resuming watering very carefully and be sure to protect the aptenia from direct sunlight.

Diseases, pests and problems in the cultivation of aptenia

This succulent is considered one of the most resistant. Aphids or spider mites can settle on aptenia, and it is better to fight them with insecticides right away. But basically everything that threatens them is the consequences of improper care. Any wetting, as well as an excess of nutrients, leads to the spread of rot.

In poor lighting or warm wintering, aptenia does not bloom, turns pale and stretches, but recovers well after pruning. Loss of leaves always indicates improper wintering, too prolonged drought, or too wet soil.

Aptenia rooted both apical and stem cuttings
Aptenia rooted both apical and stem cuttings. @ plantvine

Reproduction of aptenia

Despite its elite status and the corresponding price for adult plants, Aptenia reproduces very easily. Pruning each year leaves many apical cuttings that can be used to produce strong, young plants.

Aptenia rooted both apical and stem cuttings. After cutting, they are allowed to dry for several hours, and then rooted, dipping slightly at an angle, by any available or favorite method – in sand, substrate or water. For rooting, it is not even necessary to install a cap over the cuttings, it is enough to maintain soil moisture. Plants are planted in individual containers, trying to choose small cups and transferring the plants into larger containers.

Growing aptenia from seeds is much less popular, because plants will have to wait much longer to achieve decorativeness. The seeds are sown superficially, in clean sand or sand-substrate soil mixture, carefully distributing them as rarely as possible and not sprinkling them with a thin layer of sand on top.

For germination, bright lighting and light substrate moisture are required. The containers are covered with glass or foil, airing the crops daily. The optimum temperature for seed germination is about 21 degrees Celsius. The glass is removed immediately after the first shoots appear. Plants moisturize very carefully, trying to avoid both wetting and waterlogging of the soil. Seedlings dive only a month after the emergence of seedlings, in individual containers.

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Anna Evans

Author âś“ Farmer

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