Not without gloves!

Dyckias are technically not succulents, but bromeliads hailing from Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina.

They produce semi-succulent rosettes, some with extremely prickly leaf edges that make them a challenge to handle. There are more than 120 species and many cultivars, some of which are terrestrial and others saxicolous (meaning that they live amongst or attached to rocks).

Dyckias differ from other bromeliads in that they have extensive root systems, which is an indication that they need to be planted in roomy containers (basically as big as the mother plant, or a tad bigger) in a succulent mix or regular, well-draining potting soil. Unlike with other bromeliads, a dyckia rosette does not die off after flowering, but will send out a new flower spike every year in spring and summer – their seasons of active growth.

Foliage colours can be variable in solid shades of green, red, yellow and silver, while there are also cultivars with distinct spotting or variegation. Seeds are produced, but the rosettes also form pups or offsets that can be divided from the mother plant when about half her size. Pups can also appear at the head of rosettes, and these can be used to propagate more plants.

To enable divisions to root well and more quickly (they can be slow to root), use a rooting hormone before replanting them. In warm climates with summer-rainfall, which are perfect for them, certain dyckia cultivars can be used as groundcovers in sunny rock gardens. Potted specimens should be kept where they receive quite a few hours of sunlight daily. Some cold will be tolerated but the plants must be protected from frost.

Correct watering counts

The leaves may be thick and waxy, but they are not able to store their own water, which means the plant will go dormant in periods of drought stress. While they are in active growth, water the plants regularly, but beware of constantly soggy roots. In warm weather they will also enjoy some humidity around them. Fertilise potted plants in spring with a soluble plant food mixed at half strength. Reduce watering in winter when growth will naturally slow down.

The Gardener