Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

May, 2003
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

My favorite succulent plant is the orchid cactus (Epiphyllum). Like a Christmas cactus only bigger and more glorious, the flowers on the orchid cactus are up to 7 inches long and come in brilliant hues. I had a magnificent orange one when I worked at Sunset that would have several hundred flowers at one time. It was breathtaking! Orchid cactus flowers range in color from white (actually more of a pearl because the color is irridescent), yellow, orange, red, purple, and everything in between that you can imagine.

The 2-foot, arching, trailing foliage is succulent and fleshy, but don't let that fool you into thinking they want to live in the sun. Orchid cacti are native to tropical forests and demand some shade to do well. They are very heavy feeders and it's almost impossible to overfertilize them. Because they are succulent and retain moisture in their leaves, they are subject to overwatering. If you find that your plant is dropping buds, overwatering is probably the main cause.

Protect these plants from frost and water them regularly. I don't have one in my collection now because the only place I have to grow one is open to the street. I've had too many plants stolen to have my heart broken again.

Shows & Events

San Francisco Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale
On Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the San Francisco Succulent and Cactus Society presents its free annual show and sale at the Golden Gate Park Hall of Flowers at 9th and Lincoln. This is an extraordinary event where the public has a unique opportunity to glimpse many exceptional private succulent collections from around the Bay Area. This year the San Francisco Bromeliad Society is co-sponsoring the event with a special judged show of locally grown bromeliad specimens from around the world.

Private specialist collections house many exotic species of succulent plants not found in any public collection. While most people are familiar with a few species of aloe, cacti, and the South African rock plants such as lithops, hundreds of diverse species are known from each of these groups. There will be collections of sansevieria (mother-in-law's tongue), mature ariocarpus (rare Mexican rock cacti), aloes ranging from miniature grass-like species to large potted specimens and trees, jewel-like windowed and tessellated haworthias (aloe relatives from South Africa), caudex plants with bulging trunks, miniature rock-mimicking members of the ice-plant family (mesembs), and many flowering cacti, especially the space-conserving smaller varieties.

In addition to the non-competitive show, over 20 vendors from throughout the West will offer thousands of plants, from the easy and inexpensive, to the rare, exotic, and downright challenging. It is a real eye-opener to see such beautifully grown exotics, and most plants are quite affordable (prices are typically $2-$20 per plant). Plant enthusiasts and gardeners will find specimens suitable for glasshouse and windowsill culture, as well as species hardy outdoors in the Bay Area, most of which are not available in local nurseries. Many succulents come from the winter rainfall regions of western South Africa, a Mediterranean climate similar to our own.

The show and sale will be staffed by knowledgeable members of the society and plant vendors, who can answer questions about plant culture and care.

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