The god(s) sure are puttin’ out some good shit these days…


Home Depot had a sale on 2″ potted succulents over the weekend, and I just couldn’t resist. Normally I try to be more thoughtful and deliberate with my plant purchases, but this time I went a little overboard. But hey, at least I managed to avoid buying any of the crazy beautiful blue Phals they had on sale too, right?

I’ve made two great little planters of my purchases. I had planned on one, but it ultimately seemed more prudent to separate the Lithops into their own pot. I looked around for some funky shallow pots or pans to hold the plants, but ended up going for plain and reliable in the form of a pair of terracotta “bulb pots”. The 8″ pot holds:

  • 2 non-specific Lithops
  • 2 Split Rock Pleiospilos nelii
  • 1 Baby Toes Fenestraria aurantiaca
  • 1 Tiger Jaws Faucaria tigrina

Of this planting, the Tiger Jaws seems the odd one out, but everything about its native habitat and root structure make me feel it belongs here.



The 10″ pot holds:

  • 1 Sedum rubrotinctum
  • 1 Sedum rubrotinctum v. Aurora
  • 1 Sedum nussbaumeranium
  • 1 Cremnosedum v. Little Gem
  • 1 Anacampseros lubbersii
  • 1 Anacampseros rufescens
  • 1 Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata
  • 1 Echeveria v. Dondo
  • 1 Pachyveria v. Royal Flush
  • 1 Rainbow Elephant Bush Portulacaria afra v. Variegata
  • 1 Jade Plant Crassula argentea
  • 1 Haworthia mirabilis mundula

Of the second pot, the Haworthia is the odd one; it has the thick “windowpane” leaves of a Lithops, but a hardier root structure and evident flower spike. I potted up with a 50/50 (by volume) mix of generic “Cactus & Palm” potting soil and Perlite. While I appreciate that summer is a dormant time for many of these species, I’m really going to enjoy watching them fill out their post, moving them around to keep them in the sun and out of the rain!

Papyrus update

In an earlier post this summer, I showed a few pics of 5 new papyrus plants I had acquired, with encouragement from my friend Kent Russell. In September, I moved them indoors ( a bit early, but I went travelling, I knew I wouldn’t be around to tend them outdoors). I have them in our 12′ tall south-facing windows, and they’re growing like crazy. Along with the great growth have come a couple of pest problems.

Papyrus in the south window

The Cyperus papyrus has exploded upwards to over 9′ tall. The previously needle-like leaves of earlier growths have been replaced by trifurcated strap-like fronds on the best stems. The weaker/older stems have been compromised by spider mites, which the newer growth is vigorously resisting.  These mites showed up first on my Cyperus isocladus and soon spread to the neighboring Cyperus involucratus. I was able to keep up on the C. isocladus by scrupulously pinching and wping the mites from the leaves, but once it got into the hair-fine foliage of the C. involucratus I was forced to go another route.

Cyperus papyrus fronds

I first introduced a vial of predatory mites into these plants. I’m not sure of the results of this; they couldn’t have hurt, but I didn’t wait for the predators to show domination before moving onto another avenue of attack. I began, (and continue) to twice-daily spray the plants with a fine misting of dilute colloidal cinnamon with a drop of Physan 20. This, I believe, is what has really done the trick.

The other pest in the pots has been those annoyingly ever-present fungus gnats. The solution has not been a difficult one, but in future I’ll attack it more vigorously and more thoroughly. The trick has been a combination of the aforementioned spray, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis pellets in the pots and waterings, and yellow sticky-card traps. This attack has completely evicted the gnats from the papyrus. Unfortunately, the gnats have moved on to other plants around the house. From this, I’d recommend that anyone using BITS to control fungus gnats should go ahead and treat ALL the plants in their home, not just the obviously-infested ones.

A little later in the fall, friends dropped off three pots of Cyperus alternifolius. These are winter refugees from a summer pond, but had outgrown their previous owner’s capacity to winter them indoors. I cut all the drying summer growth completely back, and in less than a month have seen it all replaced with bright and vigorous indoor growth. Having come in from a pond, these three pots are ugly, unwieldy, and fully root-bound. Both these and the other plants have been placed into tubs in the window, half-filled with (very lightly) fertilized water.

Cyperus involucratus overwintering in the south window

The “other” papyrus, the Cyperus albostriatus has proven to dislike the growing conditions favored by the larger plants. While it certainly doesn’t like to be dry, neither does it like to be swamped. I have potted it into a nice 8″ clay picklepot with a more conventional watering scheme and am experimenting with differing placement around the house to see what it really prefers.

Cyperus albostriatus recovering away from the cold swamp of the windowsill

It’s been fun having them inside during the winter! The tall stems and firework-like heads are a great exotic contrast to the snowy scene beyond the windowpane. I can hardly wait to get them back outside for the summer where they belong and see how they really do!

In college, I knew a woman named Wendy Martin who owned a local business, Rooftop Futons. In her high-ceilinged 2nd-floor south-facing office, she had a magnificent pot of giant papyrus growing, at least 6′ tall, the image of which has stuck in my head ever since. I can’t be certain, but I’m reasonably sure her plant was an “Umbrella palm”, Cyperus alternifolius. Now that I have my own ridiculously-high ceilings (16′!), I’ve bought a few papyrus plants to try my own hand at.

After an afternoon spent trolling garden centers and nurseries with my amazing gardening friend Kent Russell,  actually ended up with five plants. In addition to a pair of great Cyperus papyrus “Giganteus”, I now have three smaller varieties: Cyperus involucratus “Baby Tut”, Cyperus albostriatus “Variegatus”, and Cyperus isocladus.

Being late in the season, I bought them all root-bound in 4″ pots. I re-potted into 6″ clay pots with a good gunky potting soil, with a little fish meal worked in for good measure. I aggressively cut back any stressed stems. All five pots were then placed in a large plastic tote, which was filled with water up to within an inch of the tops of the clay pots. I top up the water every three days or so, dosing once with a teaspoon of 15-30-15 fertilizer.

Growth in just the last two weeks has been fantastic! The C.  papyrus and C. involucratus have been putting new stems up at about 1″/day. The C. papyrus is showing crazy root development, already snaking little white rootlets around and over the edges of the pot. The C. isocladus isn’t so much growing up as it is growing out. The poorest of the bunch is the C. albostriatus; It was well into seed when I bought it, so it may just be a phase. The existing growth seems stagnant, but there are quite a few new shoots starting out!

I had at first envisioned an indoor water garden, in a large tub or ideally a small cast-iron slipper-style bathtub. Researching more thoroughly, I see that these plants would do best with summers outside, so I’m trying out more portable ideas. Also, the small varietals really seem to want to spread out; they might share space with the very vertical C. papyrus, but don’t play as well with companions of their own stature. I think I’ll leave them in standard clay pots, which I will in turn submerge inside sealed larger pots, preferably something nicely-glazed. The bathtub idea might still happen, but probably as a strictly outdoor feature.

I’m not exactly sure why I find these so fascinating. There is something neat about these primitive old-world sedges, that can look like both grasses and palms, with leaf-like flowers and flower-like leaves. And of course, the attraction of a plant that is practically impossible to over-water!

PA critters

I found this large pupa under a board beneath a walnut tree, while clearing out the old kennel. Looks kinda like a slowly-wriggling dog turd, yes, but ought to turn into something interesting.

Large Pupa

A little digging on the internet shows that this is likely either an Imperial Moth or Regal Moth, both having 4″-6″ wingspans. I’ve got the pupa now in a humid ventilated container, out of direct light, and will be waiting and watching with camera nearby over the coming days.

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