Ruschia is a genus of succulent plants in the family Aizoaceae, native to the dryer parts of southern Africa. The genus name “Ruschia” was named in honor of a Namibian farmer by the name of Ernst Julius Rusch (1867-1957).
Due to the large size of the genus, authors have grouped species into several sections, each based on growth habit, flower and capsule form. Plants may vary from large, erect shrubs reaching up to 5 feet (1.5 m) to dwarf, tufted and even mat-forming ground cover species. All plants possess mostly woody roots, which are situated very close to the soil surface. Branches are also woody and tough with short internodes that are often covered with dry leaves. There are some species that possess spines as protection against grazing animals. The flowers of Ruschia vary from white to pink and purple. They very much resemble another genus, Lampranthus, but the latter have much bigger flowers and more color types. Members of Ruschia are all very floriferous, flowers literally cover the entire plant. Flowering takes place throughout the year, reaching a peak in the autumn and spring. Flowers are diurnal (opening during the day) and sweet scented. The leaves are often bluish green, three-sided, sometimes with teeth along the edges, and are nearly always stippled with darker transparent dots, which is an interesting feature in the genus.
Ruschia are tolerant of frost, fires and extreme droughts, and this, together with their vibrant colors, make them among the most popular water-wise garden plants known today.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Ruschias are popular for use in the garden. Their tolerance of drought makes them ideal water-wise plants in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world. Brilliant seasonal color displays can be achieved by mass planting in large areas and by using many different growth forms.
There are tufted, round-shaped plants, which are well suited for containers and flower boxes. The low-growing and spreading species cover well and will do wonders to terraces, embankments and will easily stabilize loose sand. Then there are the bigger, more robust types, which are best used among other larger plants or in combination with other succulents in rock gardens and mixed beds.
Remember that Ruschias are short lived and it is therefore essential to continue replanting every 3 years. As mentioned before all species attract a host of insects, and they are thus ideal subjects to attract wildlife to the garden throughout the year.
Once rooted or germinated, cuttings and seedlings can be fed with organic fertilizers to enhance vigor and health. There are not many serious pests that attack Ruschia. It is probably better to first use biological control when pests are detected.
Ruschias are very easy to propagate by taking cuttings and replanting them. For best results place healthy cuttings in sand or cactus mix and water daily. Keep cuttings in a sheltered but bright position and plant out once well rooted. This should be within a month at most.
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