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How to Grow and Care for Tylecodon

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Tylecodon is a genus of around 45 species in the family Crassulaceae. The distribution of the species is restricted to the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa and sourhern Namibia. They occur quite abundantly in habitats that vary from the rocky coastal shores, rock crevices in mountainous terrain and in sandy hilly terrain. In very hot, dry environments, plants are usually confined to the cooler south facing slopes.

Until the late 1970s all these plants were included in the genus Cotyledon, but in 1978 Helmut Toelken of the Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria, split them off into a genus of their own. The name "Tylecodon" is an anagram of the original genus Cotyledon.

Tylecodons range in size from the giant Tylecodon paniculatus which can grow over 7 feet (2.1 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. This is usually, but not always the same in cultivation and depends somewhat on cultivation practices. Tylecodons have spirally arranged leaves while Cotyledons have leaves in opposite pairs. Flowers are produced after the leaves have been shed in the spring or summer although in cultivation the leaves may persist for longer if the plants are watered. There are a few geophytic species that protect themselves from desiccation in the dry season hidden underground, and also protecting the from herbivores.

Some Tylecodons are extremely toxic to livestock causing farmers in South Africa routinely removing every Tylecodon they find.

Photo via giromagi.com

Growing Conditions for Tylecodon

Tylecodons are not difficult plants to grow. They can easily be cultivated outdoors in warm to temperate, winter rainfall regions where frost are not severe. The dwarf species are better cultivated indoors, containerized and kept in a greenhouse where water and temperatures can be controlled.

Most species are easy to grow in well-drained, sandy, mineral-rich soil. To plant indoors, it is essential to use a container with at least one drainage hole at the bottom.

Tylecodons can survive direct sunlight exposure without any problems, but they will grow beautifully when in shadow. These plants are considered to be extremely tolerant when it comes to high temperatures too.

They are not hardy but tolerate a cool winter. It is for the best if Tylecodons spend their winter in a coldish, brim room that is not heated. It is often mentioned that these winter plants will look their best during a colder period, while they will shrink during the summer or drop leaves completely. They can tolerate cold down to USDA hardiness zones 9b, 25 °F (−3.9 °C).

General Care for Tylecodon

As winter is the growing season, these plants require careful watering during the winter until the spring. Get the soil completely wet and then wait until the soil is dry before watering again. In the summer, reduce watering to once per month.

Tylecodons demand a good substrate drainage because the lack of it represents the most common problem and cause of rotting root.

You do not need to repot these plants often. You can do it when you see that the container becomes too small or shallow. It is for the best to move it with the soil located around the root.

Use liquid fertilizer for cacti and other succulents during the winter months.

How to Propagate Tylecodon

Tylecodons can be cultivated either by seed or by cuttings. Growing from seed is a long process and it will be many years before one has plants of any size.

Sow the seed in a seed box. Do not cover the seeds. Simply sow the seeds in a coarse sand topping, with a well-draining potting soil underneath. Water once a week during winter and once a month in summer. After about 2 years, the young plants will be about 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2 to 3 cm) in height and can be pricked out and planted in pots.

The best time for taking cuttings is fall. Select cutting material at least 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter, kept for about 2 weeks to callus and then place cuttings in clean sand. Use bottom heat if the winters are very cold. Place cuttings in a well-draining potting soil. Keep cuttings moist until well rooted, cuttings usually take about one year to form a strong root system, when they can be transplanted into permanent containers.

Pests and Diseases of Tylecodon

Tylecodons are relatively free of diseases and pests.

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