JIIMZ 10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR HOODIA GORDONII
These tips are for Hoodia plants 3 to 4 months old or older and grown in green houses or the outdoors.
1. Soil: This is the most import tip so I have chose it as #1. After years of struggling to keep my Hoodia from rotting on me my conclusion is for non soil, in other words a medium lacking of nutrients. Pumice is the base of the mixture - about 50-70 %, Vermiculite and Perlite each 10%, rest is zeolith, charcoal, rock weat from limestone and prehistoric rock. I have also found decomposed granite to work well also in place of pumice.
2. Pots: I prefer black plastic pots and the bigger the better. The hoodia grows a large root system so give it plenty of room. 3 to 6 inch plants need 6 inch pots and the next year you'll need to transplant into a 10 inch pot or larger. I choose the black pots so that they'll heat up faster from the morning sun and stimulate the plant to grow faster. Since my growing operation has very warm conditions the plastic pots dry out fine, but if you're in a colder climate you may want to use clay pots as they will allow the soil to dry faster, thus helping to reduce the chance of root rot.
3. Potting your Hoodia: Fill the pot your going to use with soil that is lightly damp and do not pat down yet. Now carefully remove the plant to be potted from it's container trying not to disturb soil or root ball. Take the smaller pot and press it into the soil until the top is below the edge of the larger pot top. Now you can start tapping the soil on the sides and fill in with more soil as needed until the sides are equal to the small pots top. Now gently remove the small pot and insert the Hoodia plant into the perfect molded hole.
4. Watering: When to water is the big question!! Where you live will make a difference with your watering needs. I live in the east part of San Diego County, which is semi desert, and the hoodia is quite at home here. A. Spring: Depending on your winter and whether your plant / plants have become dorment you should wait till the nights are at least in the 50s. In my case I started to water for the first time in mid february with an early morning watering so that at least the upper layer of the soil would be able to dry a bit by the days end. I then wait two weeks till the next watering and continue until april when I start weekly waters as needed. B. Summer: The rule of thumb is water when dry with a thorough soaking. I have plants in different stages of growth from seedling to large mature plants. The seedlings in small 3 inch pots will dry out faster than the larger pots so I have to water them more often. Water about every other day and try not to let them dry out too much. The larger mature plants can be watered just once weekly C. Fall: Water much like spring in reverse. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler you'll need to adjust your watering. D. Winter: This is the time of year when we get to take a rest, as in most locations the hoodia will most likely go dormant and you can set it in a nice sunny widow and wait for spring to wake it up. The past summer was quite mild (perhaps to our ever increasing global warming) and I was able to heat my growing house enough in the cold early morning hours, that most of my plants grew through out the winter. This gave me a great start on the spring growth. I have housed hundreds of hoodia through past winters in my house with only slight watering with 100% success.
5. Food: I feed my hoodia twice a month during the growing season. Add a weak solution of any plant food at every second or third watering. Carefully read fertilizer labels as ratios may be used to promote either foliage or flower production. I suggest keeping all numbers below 20. Use no fertilizer winter, spring or fall.
6. Light: Full sun as in their natural habitat works best for me. Although most of my Hoodia are kept in a green house with minimal diffused sunlight, they are receiveing quite a lot of direct light and the temperature is close to 110 degrees daily, from May to Sept. My opinion is that they love the heat, the hotter the better. I have seen many websites that say shade but you'll never see a wild one in the shade. I try to give them what they are used to, hot desert conditions with regular waterings and feedings to promote growth. I have some planted outside in the ground with no protection, full sun and no special care and they are growing fine with no sign of sun problems. As I said before, I live in a semi desert area with 2 to 3 months of constant 100 degree sunny afternoons
7. Pests and Root rot: Root rot is surely the worst problem when it comes to Hoodia problems and I have lost my share of them to it. Since I am growing so many it is hard to monitor each and every one exactly, so this I believe could be some of my cause. I will say I have never seen a hoodia die from lack of water so it shows how important that a plant should be allowed to dry between watering for safety sake. Since Im growing my hoodia on a production scale in large amounts I will have to accept a small percent loss due to this. Always check the base of your plants for any change in color or if your plant seems to be laying over all of a sudden. If you find it soon enough pull the plant out of the soil and remove any soft mushy tissue using sterilized tools. Seal the healthy parts of the Hoodia stems with a sealer or some ash. Treat with a fungicide and allow to completely callus before attempting to reroot the plant. Mealybugs are a soft bodied insects covered with white wooly substance. You will notice it attacking the tips of new growth by it white color. Also watch for deformed tips which is another clue. My treatment is Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap available at local nurserys or Home Depot. I just spray it lightly and directly on the infected sections.
8. Temperature: I wasnt sure if I should use temperature as one of the essential tips as the watering section may have been all that was needed according to seasons...... But then I decided to say a bit more on what the temps part plays in it. If you can keep your hoodia warm and in the sun year round it will grow the whole time. With the help of a mild winter the winter of 2005 was the first time that I didn't allow my plants to go dormant. Starting in late dec until late feb it was extra work getting up early many mornings when the temps reached freezing to turn on my propane heater on in the green house. With that done and the average temps during the days in the greenhouse/hothouse around 75 to 80 degrees they flourished through the whole winter including some that even flowered during this period. I just want to stress the fact that they are sun loving heat seekers. If you are able to control their temps year round the growth of these plants is so much greater.
9. Flowering, Pollinating and Seed collecting: My Hoodia plants are blooming twice a year May through June and again in Sept and Oct. At these times I remove them from my green house to the outside area so they can be pollinated by flies. The flowers have a carrion smell (rotten meat) and they attract the flies that in turn pollinate them. It is interesting to see the many different types of flies coming together and defending a flower from another fly. Once the flowers are pollinated they dry up and usually two elongated seed pods will appear. Once matured, the seed pod will start to split open along its longitudinal seam. When this happens you need to pick it as soon as possible before it dries and the seeds, which are similar to a dandelion, puff up and blow away. As the weather gets hotter this step will take daily if not hourly inspections. Considering seeds sell for almost a dollar apiece, if your not fast you'll see them $s floating away. On the rare occasion I've had seedpods eaten by critters in the night. I suspect mice or rats but am not positive.
10. Germinating Seed: Seeds should be as fresh as possible for the best success, buy them from me J and temperatures warm, say from mid march on. I use the same soil as I do for potting plants but first crush it a bit to get the perlite to a smaller size. Sterilize the soil and place moist in 3 inch plastic pots and tamp down lightly. Now place your seeds on the soil, approx ten per pot and cover with a light layer of soil so the seeds are not exposed. Now set the pot in a tray of water about 2 inches deep and the soil will absorb the amount of water needed plus this way you dont disturb the topsoil. Now place in a well lighted window and in two to three days you should see them sprouting. Now you can remove the water from the bottom. It's important to know that you'll need to keep them lightly damp for about 3 weeks and then slowly introduce them to brighter light and then into the sunlight, all the time keeping them lightly damp. Unlike older plants that need to dry between waterings, the young roots need the moisture to thrive. Beware of mice they will nibble on the tops of the baby hoodia.
Well thats about it. I hope you get enough info for growing and caring for these fascinating succulents. Email me if there is anything I can help you with regarding the Hoodia Gordonii.
Thanks again, Jim.