Succulents indoors

Most succulents need full sun and are not (really) suitable for cultivation indoors. But there are also quite a few exceptions. Sometimes we advise nursery customers from Cape Town to keep certain plants indoors because of the local environment. Regulary we are approached by restaurant owners for low maintenance table arrangements.

The succulents which are suitable indoors are the ones which grow, in nature, in the shade of other plants like Gasteria- and Hawhortia-species. Some crassulas also grow nicely inside and so do some cacti. It surprised us, visiting Dallas (Texas, USA) once, to see so many peyote cacti (Lophocereus williamsii) behind the windows. And that in a state with such a restrictive drug law enforcement.

The suitability indoors is also related to the local environment such as the light intensity inside the house (dark- or light walls, ceilings; at a North- of South facing window; etc.). It also, partly, depends on your location. There is a difference in light intensity between different latitudes. That can imply that plants will do very well in Sweden behind a South facing window but in South Carolina a North facing window is recommended. Back to the Western Cape in South Africa: for the more ‘advanced’ knowledgable succulent lover are there also Lithops (as most of Haworthias and Gasterias indigenous to Southern Africa). Be patient and those ‘suckers’ will reward you with a stunning floral display in season.


Indigenous versus Indigenous

Thought during an early Sunday morning:

Sometimes visitors insist on buying indigenous plants. But what is indigenous? Is, for example, a quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) indigenous to South Africa or to Namibia? For sure is that many succulents in the Richtersveld and other parts in South Africa, including the quiver tree and other ‘indigenous’ aloes, originate from Namibia but that these South African ‘habitats’ are distribution areas. Another example: if it comes to the point; the Western Cape hardly has any ‘indigenous’ (read: endemic) trees but is home to many fynbos-  and succulent species. One of the baobab species (Adansonia digitates) is indigenous to Zimbabwe and the far Northeast of South Africa but does that make the tree indigenous to the Western Cape. The sausage tree (Kigelia africana) is more ‘indigenous’ to Tanzania than South Africa but it also grows well at many places in the Western Cape. A more local (Western Cape) example is the Euphorbia crispa. This plant is ‘sourced’ to an area near Clanwilliam but one of the distribution areas is here in Klaas Voogds (unfortunately poaching has practically diminished their numbers!!!). To make a long story very short: we always tell visitors that if we talk about ‘indigenous’ we talk about plants which originate from Southern Africa which includes, more or less, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and even Madagscar.

End of discussion!

Second thought:

Many customers want to see (buy) a ‘halfmens’ (Pachypodium namaquanum) which originates from Namibia but is also distributed in Namaqualand (South Africa). This is a protected plant and one need to have a permit to possess, to propagate, sell, etc. To do our garden and nursery business we have a total of 9 official permits of Cape Nature Conservation but forget about that. Many nurseries sell ‘halfmens’ but what they sell is not the Pachypodium namaquanum but the Madagascar relative Pachypodium lamerei and that is a fast growing member of this family. A ‘halfmens’ grows, in optimal conditions, about 1 centimetre per year. The annual growth of the P. lamerei sometimes exceeds 50 centimetres. Reminds me of a nursery which was selling these Madagascar ‘half humans’ as “Sudanese halfmens”. If one, at any nursery, can buy a real ‘halfmens’ with a length of one metre or more one may, in 95% of these cases, question the source of this plant. Poaching is, unfortunately, a ‘national hobby’ and although, via media publications, one might have the idea that only foreigners are involved (including a CEO of a European botanical garden which was busted in the ‘veld’); the naked truth is that the ‘bulk poaching’ is done by real professionals, emptying acre after acre of their valuable vegetation for the export. Since economics is involved authorities seem to close their eyes for this phenomena.