Jakob Baran from Natanya, Israel was born in Helsinki, Finland and immigrated to Israel at 1970's. He has been growing cactus and succulents since late 1950's and Hoodias since 1998. He takes special interest and expertize in growing succulents of the Asclepiads genus (Trichocaulon, Pseudolithos) and keeps contacts around the world with growers and botanical institutes. Member of The Israeli Cactus and Succulent Society since 1997.
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Asclepiads in Natanya, Israel
by Jakob Baran
While living in Helsinki, Finland, reading decades-old issues of succulents journals published by the Succulent Society of America, I first came across description of these fabulous, hard-to-grow milkweeds. Every article exuded the raw odour of fear when describing their culture and longevity in captivity.
Helsinki has a very humid and rainy summer, and an icy, snowy winter. People there without greenhouses put plants outside when it's warm and take them into the basement for the winter. Basements are somewhat cool and damp. Hoodias were supposed to rot quickly when moist for too long and need warmth in the winter.
My first plant, H. gordonii, went into a 10cm clay pot. Summer watering was only when the soil had been bone dry for a week or so. In the winter it went into the basement under florescent lights and received no water.
It hadn't grown at all during the entirely of two summers and two winters. "At least it's not dead" I thought.
Toward the end of our second winter together we moved to Israel. Clay pots dry out very fast here in the summer heat, and it was due for repotting.
After frost danger had passed, I moved it to full sun. When spring came, the plant, with three stems no more than 10cm tall, went into a 20cm pot. When the weather warmed up a bit more (nights 20c) I soaked the plant and held my breath.
Well, not for long... within two days the tips of the stems showed bright green in the cracks between the tubercles and the plant started growing. I had not seen this before in the almost 3 years I'd owned the plant. Not wanting to push my luck, I let it dry out to avoid rot. When it dried out the bright green went away and the plant stopped growing.
Over the next few weeks, as the temperatures rose to our normal summer heat, I shortened the watering intervals until the plant was never near dryness. It grew and grew, without sign of rot. I started fertilizing and it grew faster. Being in the full sun it stayed nice and tight. By the end of the season it had over a dozen stems.
I lefted the plant outside,dry, under an eave to avoid rain and frost. I knew from experience it would easily survive a dry winter. It did;
The next spring, with a good soaking, it resumed its growth, and a month later, it bloomed, with ten stars hiding the top 3/4 of the plant. It grew even better, and in midsummer I put it into a 25cm glazed ceramic pot. It looked somewhat overpotted but last summer it grew so much it now looks underpotted.
Best growth is during spring and fall, but it grows all summer.
Go ahead and fertilize while growing. A heavy hand with the scoop is fine.
Have a regular mealybug prevention program, even while dormant for the winter.
Don't bring them into the house while blooming.
General view of the yard
Ps. caput. viperae
Ps. sphaericus seedling
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