Petit size, pretty leaves…
The genus Adromischus, known colloquially as the bontplakkie, includes 28 endemic species to southern Africa. The name is derived from ancient Greek, adros meaning ‘thick’ and mischos meaning ‘stem’. To the eye of a layman, these little succulents look like fat fingers that have gouged their way through dry gravelly soil towards the sun. Their appearance earned them the botanical description of being cespitose, which means ‘growing in small dense clumps or tufts’. This habit is the reason why they steal the hearts of succulent collectors wanting low-care plants with interesting leaves that can be kept in small pots on sunny windowsills.
General growing requirements for Adromischus
- Well-draining, succulent soil mix
- Small pots, as they are compact little plants
- Lots of sun and light, with protection from harsh afternoon sun
- Water from spring to autumn, but only when the soil has dried out well between watering sessions
- Being kept dry and protected from cold in winter.
Although not all the species growing in nature (where they definitely belong!) are grown commercially, there are some really cute representatives of this genus available in nurseries:
Adromischus cristatus – The greyish-green leaves resemble upside-down triangles and are covered in fine hairs that give them a waxy feel. The flattened edge at the broad top end of the leaf forms a crinkle, which has earned it the name of the crinkle-leaf plant.
Adromischus cooperi – Very fleshy leaves that are narrow at the base and have wavy ends have earned the common name of plover-eggs plant. They are either green or silvery-green depending on the form, with dark speckles. Size up to 10cm tall.
Adromischus schuldtianus – The leaves are dusty whitish-green and mottled with maroon spots, but they can also be unspotted. This plant can with time build a distinctive, branched tuberous base (called a caudex) up to 7cm tall, which reminds me of an old bonsai tree.
Doreen Court, the author of Succulent Flora of South Africa (A.A. Balkema Cape Town, 1981, ISBN: 0 86961 121 6) wrote: “For succulent growers who lack space, Adromischus is probably the most attractive prospect among the Crassulaceae. Invariably small, compact shrublets, their leaves are decorative, the inflorescence a narrow spike of erect or spreading pink, deep rose or whitish flowers.”