Tylecodon is a genus of about 45 species of succulent plants in the family Crassulaceae, restricted to the winter rainfall region of South Africa and Namibia. They occur quite abundantly in habitats that vary from the rocky coastal shores, rock crevices in mountainous terrain, and sandy, hilly terrain.
All species were formerly included in the genus Cotyledon. In 1978 Helmut Toelken split them off into a genus of their own.
The generic name "Tylecodon" is an anagram of the original genus Cotyledon.
Tylecodons range in size from the giant Tylecodon paniculatus, up to 8.2 feet (2.5 m) tall, to the miniatures like Tylecodon occultans, which rarely gets more than an inch (2.5 cm) above ground. In habitat, Tylecodons are deciduous, losing their leaves in summer, while Cotyledons are evergreen. In cultivation, it is usually but not always the same and depends somewhat on cultivation practices. The leaves may persist longer on the plants if they are watered. Tylecodons have spirally arranged leaves, while Cotyledons have leaves arranged in opposite pairs. Flowers appear in the spring or summer after the plants shed their leaves. There are a few geophytic Tylecodon species. They protect themselves hidden underground from animals and drought during the dry season.
Growing Conditions for Tylecodon
Tylecodons can easily be grown outdoors in winter rainfall, warm to temperate regions where frost is not severe. The dwarf species are better for growing in pots, as an indoor or greenhouse plant.
These succulents can survive direct sunlight exposure without any problems, but they will grow beautifully when in partial shade.
A well-draining soil mix is a key to healthy Tylecodon. Poor drainage and overwatering most commonly cause root rot in both indoor and outdoor plants. Indoors, it is essential to use pots with at least one drainage hole at the bottom.
These plants are extremely tolerant when it comes to high temperatures. They are also tolerant of cold, frost-free conditions during the winter. Tylecodons are winter growers. They will look their best during the colder months, while they will shrink or drop leaves completely during the summer. Tylecodons can tolerate cold down to USDA hardiness zone 9b, 25 °F (-3.9 °C).
General Care for Tylecodon
Tylecodons are easy to care for plants, perfect for beginners.
As winter growers, Tylecodons require careful watering during winter and spring. Get the soil wet, and then wait until it is dry before watering again. In summer, reduce watering to once per month.
Use liquid fertilizer for cacti and other succulents during the winter months.
You do not need to repot these plants often. You can do it when you see that the container becomes too small or shallow.
How to Propagate Tylecodon
Tylecodons can be cultivated either by seed or by cuttings.
Growing Tylecodons from seed is a long process. Sow the seeds in fall and winter in a seedbox with a well-draining potting mix. After sowing, cover the seeds with coarse sand. Keep the soil moist until seeds germinate. Once seeds sprout, water once a week during winter and once a month in summer. After about two years, the seedlings will be about 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2 to 3 cm) tall and can be pricked out and planted in pots.
The best time for taking cuttings is the fall. Select cutting material, kept for about two weeks to callus, and then place cuttings in a well-draining soil mix. You can grow them in a temporary container while establishing roots or plant them directly in a permanent pot. Until the cuttings form roots, water frequently enough to keep the soil from drying out. They usually take about one year to develop a strong root system.
Pests and Diseases of Tylecodon
These succulents are relatively free of diseases and pests.
Toxicity of Tylecodon
Tylecodons are adapted to avoid animal predation being poisonous. Some of them are extremely toxic to livestock, causing farmers in South Africa to routinely removing every Tylecodon they find. Keep them away from children, pets, and livestock. Best to wear gloves when handling Tylecodon.
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