Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Cotyledon orbiculata

"C. orbiculata is an evergreen, succulent shrub growing to 100cm tall. Its grey-green, oval leaves are coated with a white wax and sometimes have a red edge. Small, bell-shaped, orange-red flowers are borne on stems up to 70cm long in late summer and autumn."
Hardiness H1C

This is the description given on the RHS website.

I have had this plant for many years.  Bought at a garden open day at Southwold nearly twenty years ago, it hasbeen propagated many times.  Cotyledon orbiculata does tend to get quite large after several years, and as it is not winter hardy in the garden, in most parts of the  UK, it spends the winter months in the conservatory.  

Last summer, without any premonition, I planted most of my succulents in the front garden.  Here the Cotyledon orbiculata, about four years old, at the start of the season makes a bold silvery statement, even when first planted out in June.  Another fine plant was located near to the curbside.

By the end of the summer, dry as it was, it had grown to a fine specimen.  I already had a few smaller plants, so I called my friend Sally Gregson, and asked if she would like it, together with a number of echeveria elegans, which had been used as bedding plants.

Yesterday during a visit to Sally and Peter, and having an extensive tour of their garden which is open under the Garden Scheme, I came across the pots of Cotyledon orbiculata which Sally had propagated and grown on and they were in fine form and ready to sell on.  The large stock plant which had spent the winter under glass had recently been moved to a sunny display area along with some other choice plants. It was full of many many tips which will start to flower in August.

When I first saw their flowers a couple of years after first getting my plant, I was enchanted by the flowers, and the colour of the inner surface of the petals which a deep rich mango.  This are complemented by the waxy  covering of the petals' outer surface.  The stamens protrude, and being pollen rich are visited by the various bees in the garden.

In a vase the flowers lasted a very long time, and were mixed in with other succulents.

Here is a close up of the stem in the vase.

One year I had cut off some long stems, which had grown in the poorer light undercover during the winter, and popped them in a vase.  A few weeks later, they had grown roots, so were potted up.

The only three plants I now have were cuttings last year, and were planted together with a few other succulents, last autumn, so as to take up less room in the conservatory.  They grew far too leggy with the low light levels, and are now ready to be chopped back.  For this and next season, I shall attempt to grown on a group in a pot on their own.  Whereas the flowers are damaged by frost, I read that the plant can cope with temperatures hovering around 0 c,  if kept dry...so the plant will spend next winter in conservatory. In its native habitat, which will have much brighter sunshine, and probably well drained growing conditions, the plant can tolerate lower growing temperatures.  Knowing this is a valid reason to try and keep it without any additional heat during the winter, unless of course night time temperatures fall too low.

I am writing this post about the Cotyledon orbiculata based on my experiences, having seen it mentioned in the spring issue of The English Garden.  The picture there just shows the flowers.  The plant is worth growing just for its leaves and the forms it grows in, but try not to touch the leaves, as the waxy covering is easily marked.

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