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How to Grow and Care for Aptenia

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Aptenia is a small genus of flowering plants in the family Aizoaceae. They are native to southern Africa. These are succulent subshrubs growing from a system of fibrous, often fleshy roots. The stems lie prostrate on the ground or may climb. The stem bases are woody, and the stems are green. The leaves are mostly oppositely arranged, but those near the inflorescences may be alternate. The leaf blades are flat, hairless, sometimes waxy, and usually heart-shaped, or occasionally lance-shaped. Flowers are solitary or grow in small, whorled clusters, usually in the leaf axils along the stem. The flower is about 0.4 inch (1 cm) wide. There are two large sepals and two smaller. The corolla contains many narrow petals in shades of pink, purple, yellow, or white, and several staminodes that look very much like the petals. The many fertile stamens at the center are white or yellow. The fruit is a capsule with four valves.

Growing Conditions and General Care

Water Aptenia only when the soil is completely dry, and then provide enough to drench the soil to a depth of about 6 inches (15 cm). To check for dryness, poke your finger into the soil. Never water if the soil feels damp or cool, as Aptenia, like all succulents, is prone to rot in soggy, waterlogged soil. Water Aptenia lightly during the winter if the leaves begin to look shriveled. Provide only enough water to moisten the soil as the plant deteriorates quickly in cool, damp soil.

Withhold fertilizer, which isn’t needed and often results in a weak, floppy plant. Trim the plant as needed throughout the growing season, using pruners or garden shears to keep the plant tidy. Pot the plant and bring it indoors for the winter when nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

Grower’s Tips

Aptenia isn’t difficult to grow in pots. Use a combination of 1 part potting mix and 1 part sand or a commercial mixture for cacti and succulents. Put the pot in direct sunlight and water deeply whenever the soil feels dry.

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