Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts


Just when you have learnt to spell these, they move them to Delosperma, Dorotheanthus, Carpobrotus or Lampranthus. But does it matter as these are still Mesembryanthemaceae, or are they now called Azoiceae? Anyway this huge group includes many succulent genus including the almost cacti-like Lithops, Living Stones, and the really weird finger like Dactylopsis digitata. Most of these some five dozen different genus originate in southern Africa and although they are all a tad tender they only need frost free conditions not tropical heat. Bright light and ventilation are more important and they are most unhappy in shady stagnant spots. An unheated greenhouse is quite sufficient to keep many through most winters, and one kept frost free will house a huge range, a whole botanical collection can be made of these bright cheerful yet easy flowering subjects. They really reward you with stunning displays of colour with vibrant yellow, red, pink, cream or purple  blooms in profusion. All for very low maintenance, as these are plants that thrive on well drained poor soils revelling in a sandy gravely scree with just a bit of leaf mould. They are often happiest in terracotta pots as this keeps them well drained and also prefer it being stood up in drier air. Although the Lithops are true desert plants most of this group do not need arid conditions but excess damp, especially in winter, is anathema to them. Though they need no cosseting with high temperatures as I said, many survive down to freezing point. Actually one, the Hottentot Fig, Carpobrotus edulis, is so near hardy it has long naturalised on south western cliffs of the UK. This has large daisy cum chrysanthemum like yellow or  pink flowers which leave small chewy and actually edible figs. It could be selected and improved to make a useful new food crop. Another relative the Ice plant, M. crystallinum, has thick edible leaves, once described as  ‘vegetable chips’, which can be grown for summer salads or used as a spinach. (To be frank and fair- they’re not very good.) Oddly these leaves come with odd salt like encrustations of their own. Very similar is Dorotheanthus, as the garden mesembryanthemum has become reclassified- you know the one; prostrate plants with masses of purple and other bright flowers, but usually only when the sun shines. However for sheer beauty with masses of blooms for much longer and for growing in pots under cover then the more shrubby, well a relative term, Lampranthus species are the ones. These survive for years in sheltered sunny gardens in the south west- however as they are easy to strike it’s a good idea to have some young replacements standing by. With a cascading habit they could also be used for hanging baskets to good effect. And as they are so remarkably drought resistant that might be the best anyway. If you get addicted you may also consider the