Tips For Cotyledon Growth and Care

In science class, we learned that a Cotyledon is the first leaf that appears from a germinating seed. But in the succulent world, a cotyledon is a thick-leafed plant from the Crassulaceae family that is mostly grown as an ornamental. Up until the 1960s, there were about 150 species of plants that were described as being under the genus Cotyledon. These plants have since then been split into Adromischus, Rosularia, Dudleya, and Tylecodon, with Cotyledon having slightly less than two dozen species under its belt.

We break down what it takes to grow and care for the Cotyledon succulent.

What does Cotyledon look like?

Cotyledon is mostly shrublets with thick and woody stems that are generally brittle. These hardy and mostly evergreen plants have persistent succulent leaves that grow directly opposite each other. The leaf pairs grow at a 90-degree angle to the previous and subsequent leaf pairs, which is a characteristic that is common in the family Crassulaceae. The leaves mostly grow upright and differ in size, shape, and color according to the genus.

Some Cotyledon leaves are farinose, meaning that they look like they have been dusted with a silver or white powder while others have small, fine fur-like structures. The fur or powdery substance helps to reflect both heat and light from the leaves when the plant is in extremely hot conditions.

These succulents produce flowers that protrude from the tips of a stout, rather than from a stem or inflorescence. The tube-like flowers usually dangle in clusters encased in 5 sepals. The flower petals are long and broad and tend to curve outwards as they open.

Where to find Cotyledon

These succulents originally colonized the drier parts of Africa. They have been sprouting from the rocky grounds and cliff faces of the Bashe River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and spreading as far north as the Arabian Peninsula. Cotyledon has also been known to do well in the Australian Mediterranean climate.

Cotyledon love to spread their leaves under the sun

As sun worshipers, Cotyledon thrive in full desert conditions and are happy to spend at least 6 hours a day sunbathing. They however are prone to sunburn if they are left in the direct summer sun. You can tell if Cotyledon is getting stressed by too much sunshine because their leaves turn a deep red and actually get burn marks.

If kept as indoor plants, Cotyledon will make the most of a room that receives plenty of sunshine, perhaps near a southern-facing window if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. They will wither in poor lighting conditions. This succulent can tolerate cool, frost-free conditions during the winter if they are kept dry.

Cotyledon are not heavy drinkers

Like most succulents, Cotyledon absolutely hates being wet for extended periods of time. These resilient plants can comfortably withstand long runs without having a drink and prefer to have their soil completely dry before having some water. They can make it all through winter without a drink and would appreciate a bi-weekly cocktail in Autumn and Spring.

Some Cotyledon like to go dormant during the summer but will break this tradition if given a healthy drink once in a while. House plants will flourish with the ‘soak and dry’ watering method while outdoor plants will do a happy dance under the sprinkler.

The best bedding for Cotyledon

These easy-going succulents are not fussy about where they grow seeing as they can pop out of rock crevices. They however do prefer well-draining soil, especially prospering in sandy soil. Potted plants will make full use of a succulent or cacti mix.

Outdoor Cotyledon can also grow well in a home-made soil mixture of 2 parts turf ground, 3 parts of coarse sand or perlite, 2 parts of humus or leaf earth, and 2 parts of peat. The one thing these succulents look for is that the soil should not be heavy and should have good drainage.

Grooming Cotyledon

To support the growth of Cotyledon, they need to be groomed occasionally. You should remove blooms together with the stalk as soon as the flowers wilt to keep the plant healthy. During the summer when they discard their leaves, these shed leaves should be removed from the plant base to prevent moss and fungus from affecting the plant.

Cotyledon with the ‘fuzzy’ covering do not appreciate excessive touching of the leaves. This will erase the protective covering leaving the plant more susceptible to sunburn.

During the growing season (Springtime) Cotyledon will be grateful to have a light dose of fertilizer. A highly diluted, cactus or succulent fertilizer with micronutrients and trace elements is the most preferred feed. It is recommended that you water well after feeding because fertilizing dry soil can scorch the roots of the plant.

Keep an eye out for bugs and signs of sickness

Unfortunately, Cotyledon is vulnerable to creepy crawlies like mealy bugs, spider mites, scutes, aphids, snails, and slugs. They chew through the leaves or leave black moldy trails that can kill the plant. To avoid creating a breeding ground for these bugs, it is important to clear out any debris around the base of the plant.

When Cotyledon are left drenched in water for long periods, the leaves start to fade and the stem starts to turn black. This is because of fungus that develops from too much moisture in the soil causing root rot. If you spot the lower leaves of the plant turning yellow and drying up, then the plant is thirsty and has insufficient soil moisture. This is different from top leaves falling as this is the natural aging process of the plant.

Cotyledon will let you know if it is not getting enough light because it will start to stretch. Move it to an area of the house that receives more sunlight.

A last word of caution

While Cotyledon makes beautiful additions to rock gardens and hanging planters, these practically independent succulents have been known to have some dangerous or even poisonous traits. They have been implicated in the death of poultry, pigs, and goats. To be on the safe side, it is better to grow these plants away from curious pets and toddlers.

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Posted in Succulents