Orostachys chinese dunce cap

Orostachys iwarenge Chinese Dunce Cap – Succulent Care

How to care for Orostachys iwarenge var. boehmeri ‘Chinese Dunce Cap’

Contrary to its name, Chinese Dunce Cap grows naturally in the cool forest valleys of the Japanese alps. One of the few succulents that call Asia its natural habitat, it’s able to survive winters under snow down to -40° C. This succulent’s leaves range slightly in colour, blue or green tinted in grey, and form petite rosettes. Elegant stolons reach for viable pockets in rocks, cracks, and crevices, and fill out a pot in just a season or two. Densely-packed, budding spires grow from the centre of the rosettes and bloom with pink and/or white flowers.

Check out Orostachys iwarenge var. boehmeri ‘Chinese Dunce Cap’, available in our shop.

Care Tips

Chinese Dunce Cap lives in a continuously life and death cycle. Throughout the growing season, the main rosette sprouts stolons which grow small rosette on the ends. By the time the pups have rooted and grown large enough to survive on their own, the main rosette will soon begin blooming. As a monocarpic succulent, the rosette will die after blooming, but the pups live on and sprout their own stolons of pups.

LIGHT: Orostachys aren’t as tolerant to direct sun and heat as other genera. Light sun, semi shade, to 50% shade is a comfortable range.

WATER: Allow the soil to dry out between watering from spring to autumn, and reduce during winter dormancy.

SOIL: Orostachys prefer a well-draining gravelly soil mix. They are also adaptable to both nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor soils.

PLANTING: As a versatile succulent, 15 cm pots or bowls with holes for drainage, or a shaded spot in the garden as long as it is cooler with good air circulation are all options. It does not thrive in hot, humid areas such as glasshouses.

FERTILISER: Fertilise when the plant begins looking lackluster, or slows in growth, using a diluted fertiliser.

BLOOMING: Chinese Dunce Cap is a monocarpic plant, each rosette blooms once and then dies. Flower spikes grow from rosette centres in autumn.

DORMANCY: Dormant in winter, Orostachys lose many of their larger leaves and protect themselves by tightening to a fraction of the size during the growing season.

PROPAGATION: Chinese Dunce Cap produces many pups on the ends of stolons. Pups can be divided and repotted in spring. They will bounce back to life in spring and summer.

The Look: Small soft rosettes in a bluish green/grey color with shooting off runners of tiny offspring – similar to a spider or strawberry plant. This plant gets its nickname for the bloom that emerges from the center of the mother plant. It creates a tall cone shape, similar to a dunce hat.
Daily care: This plant can tolerate poor soil, but it needs to drain well. It prefers full sun, if it receives low light, the petals will start to stretch and it will look more like a daisy than a rose. Wait until the soil is dry before watering again. Trim away dead leaves as it can attract bugs (mealybugs love this plant!) or promote rot.
Flowers: A tall cone of tiny flower buds will emerge from the mother plant in autumn. The flowers are very small and a creamy white color. Once the plant blooms, it will die shortly after.
Propagation: Very easy once the mother has produced a baby on a runner. If possible, let the baby plant grow a few roots before separating it from the mother. New plants can also be propagated from mature leaves.
Growth: The mother plant is slow growing and doesn’t get much larger than 1.5” across.
Living Coaster Compatibility: An easy plant to care for and with it’s small baby offshoots, it’s a very interesting plant. This plant will not tolerate sitting in damp soil, make sure to use a course cactus soil and don’t over-water. It can handle a few weeks without water so it’s good for travelers. Chinese Dunce caps also dislike water on it’s leaves so by watering it from the bottom up with a living coaster, makes for a happy plant!​

Orostachys Plant Info – Growing Chinese Dunce Cap Succulents

What is Orostachys Dunce Cap and why does the plant have such an odd name? Dunce Cap, also known as Chinese Dunce Cap (Orostachys iwarenge), is a succulent plant named for its spires of silvery-lavender cone-shaped rosettes. The plant spreads via slender runners with offsets that fall off and take root to form new plants. Eventually, the pointy cones may produce tiny flowers. Read on for more information about Chinese Dunce Cap succulents.

Orostachys Plant Info

Orostachys is a hardy succulent native to the frigid mountainous regions of North China, Mongolia and Japan. The structure and growing habit of the plant is similar to the more familiar hens and chicks, although considerably smaller with a more delicate appearance. Chinese Dunce Cap succulents are suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 10.

Dunce Cap Plant Care

Growing Chinese Dunce Cap is easy. Most importantly, like all succulent plants, Orostachys Dunce Cap requires well-drained soil and is likely to rot in humid conditions. If you’re concerned that your soil may be a little too moist, dig in a generous amount of coarse sand or grit.

You can also grow the plant in a container, indoors or outside. Use a well-drained potting mix product formulated for cacti and succulents, or simply add coarse sand or grit to a regular potting mix.

Locate Chinese Dunce Cap succulents in bright sunlight.

Feed the plant twice during the growing season, using a low-nitrogen fertilizer.

Water Chinese Dunce Cap sparingly when the soil feels dry to the touch. Also, water the plant during the morning hours so the leaves have time to dry thoroughly before evening. Keep the leaves as dry as possible.

Chinese Dunce Cap succulents are easy to propagate by division. Just locate an offshoot large enough to have a few roots, then cut the stolon (runner) close to the offshoot. Plant the offshoot in a pot filled with sandy soil, or directly in your garden.

Watch for mealybugs, especially on indoor plants. If you notice the pests, usually evidenced by a waxy, cottony substance, pick them off carefully with a toothpick or spray the plants lightly with isopropyl alcohol or insecticidal soap. Never spray when the plants are in direct sunlight or when the temperatures is above 90 F. (32 C.).

Gold Moss and Chinese Dunce Cap, Two Easy Succulents

Let me introduce you to the leggy form of Gold Moss (Sedum sarmentosum), also known as Stringy Stonecrop, or Graveyard Moss. It has its glory moment in late May to mid-June in my zone when it makes little star-shaped yellow flowers. You have probably seen this common sedum in many yards, gardens, and nurseries along with other popular varieties of succulent plants for summertime enjoyment.

After receiving a few bunches of this type of sedum several decades ago from a friend who insisted on sharing, I have come to understand and appreciate it over the years. My gardening philosophy has always been that of gratitude for the gift of a living plant, so I usually try anything and everything rather than deliberately choosing specimens for purchase.

In other words, I garden with freebies 99% of the time.

One of my projects back then was to plant a circle of my new stringy Gold Moss around the base of a maple tree in the hopes of creating a full, lush, doughnut of color.

Several years later, the Gold Moss is full, bushy, and golden, just the way I had envisioned the circle would eventually be.

There are those who do not like this sedum due to its persistent habit, but I do not find it uncontrollable in my yard. If I change my mind about where I want it to grow, it comes out easily enough with a trowel. Sure, it may leave some straggling pieces that make their presence known the following year, but nothing too difficult to handle.

The fastest way to eliminate Gold Moss is to eliminate its source of light. It will grow spindly and sparse and will eventually disappear altogether. I know this because I once planted some in a shady area (oops) and witnessed its near-death due to loss of light. After a few years, the plant was almost gone. Then, after cutting down a cedar that was blocking its light source, the Gold Moss gradually became vigorous again after thanking me for a second chance.

What I enjoy most about Gold Moss is its burst of dainty, yellow flowers that last for a few weeks starting in late May and well into June. Either with or without its blooms, Gold Moss is an attractive plant with a yellow-green cast to brighten any spot in the garden. Why not try it as a filler in sparse areas of the garden or yard … If you change your mind later, dig it up again; it is a very good mover when given a good drink of water to help set its roots during a transplant.

Chinese Dunce Cap is another sweet little succulent plant with an interesting color that I call “ghost-gray”. It grows rosettes with thin arms; at the end of each arm is a baby. The babies fall off or get knocked off to start a new plant. In the interest of being respectful to those from other cultures, I’d like to call this plant just “Dunce Cap”.

This succulent has a very strange botanical name: Orostachys iwarenge. Once you run that name over your tongue a few times, it is not easily forgotten, even if you pronounce it wrong. However, in my gardening bubble, no one is around to judge my pronunciation of botanical names (even though my muttering travels across the wind to the bemusement of the non-gardeners in the house).

I love everything about my Orostachys iwarenge. It thrives just about anywhere. It can live in a pot. It looks interesting. It invites conversation. It makes cute little babies on its skinny arms, or stolons. The only negative I can think of is when it comes time to pull weeds out from in-between the tight places of its growth, but that is my fault for not paying attention to it. Try it! You will grow fond of it.

Just when you have fallen in love with your Orostachys iwarenge for its rosettes, those rosettes begin to grow taller and pointier. This is where the “Dunce Cap” part comes in. You know something is happening, but you are not sure what it might be. Then all of a sudden those pointy growths turn into vertical, fluffy columns with small flowers attached. This occurs in early autumn in my zone.

Unfortunately, Dunce Cap dies back after flowering, but lo and behold, its numerous offsets will keep the plant going and going, year after year, and you will hardly notice anything different.

Worries about losing Dunce Cap are unfounded if you propagate the plant by pinching off a few babies and allowing them to take hold in the ground or in a pot of soil outdoors. You might even find that some small offsets have already fallen and taken root in the soil near the parent plant if you look closely enough.

I once had to transplant my longstanding Dunce Cap by temporarily potting it up as an emergency measure. It stayed in the pot for years and years, sending up stalks each year; in fact, I am still looking for its ultimate forever home in my garden. Meanwhile, it is living and thriving in its pot as it patiently waits for me to make up my mind. (It is also casting offsets into the ground around the pot, so I am doubly blessed.)

I hope I have convinced you to try both Gold Moss and Dunce Cap if you are a collector of garden succulents, and if you are not, at least you know a little more about these charming specimens.

The management and staff of Richard Lyons’ Nursery always make a sincere effort to urge customers to use both scientific and common names of plants. But considering how hard it is to say Holmskioldia sanguinea, we’ll forgive you if you favor the common names, Mandarin Hat Plant (the name preferred in southern Florida), Chinese Hat Plant or Cup-and-Saucer Plant.

This Asian shrub belongs to the Lamiaceae, an interesting family — comprising about 3,200 species — which includes not only herbs such as rosemary, oregano, lavender, thyme, basil, sage, catnip and mint, but also trees such as teak. H. sanguinea is a climbing shrub native to the lowlands of the Himalayas. The plant grows fairly rapidly to about 6-10 ft. high and about as wide. It can exist unsupported, but can also be grown on a trellis or fence. It occupies a niche in the landscape both as a hedge and as a specimen plant.

H. sanguinea flowers most heavily between October and May. Each hat- or saucer-shaped flower features orange-to-scarlet petals and a red, orange or yellow calyx. If you want to maintain the plant’s compactness, do some selective pruning after it flowers.

The Chinese Hat Plant should be grown in full to partial sun. It prefers a well-drained soil. Once established, it is reasonably drought-tolerant, and, in fact, its moisture demands are not as great during the winter. It is moderately salt-tolerant and can handle some frost.

In addition to the red, orange and yellow forms of H. sanguinea, we also recommend a related species, H. tettensis, a blue-flowering species which blooms in the summer. Both of these Holmskioldia species are available at the nursery in 3-gal. containers. We also grow them as standards.

Holmskioldia sanguinea (Orange China Hat)

Holmskioldia sanguinea (Red China Hat)

Holmskioldia sanguinea (Yellow China Hat)

Holmskioldia tettensis (Lavender China Hat)

Holmskioldia sanguinea (Orange China Hat Plant Grown as a Standard)

Tropical, Flowering Shrub: Holmskioldia, The Chinese Hat Plant

Holmskioldia is a genus of flowering shrubs that are known for their colorful flowers and for the ability to grow easily. Native to tropical climates of Asia and Africa, Holmskioldia are a decent addition to gardens and landscapes where they grow as shrubs or small trees. The genus offers both evergreen and deciduous species – almost all of them produce colorful flowers from fall to spring. Flowers are red, orange or yellow. In some species dropping flowers have colors contrasting to the calyces adding dramatic colors to the garden. Flowers are shaped like a tiny hat, that is why, these plants are also known as Chinese Hat Plant or Parasol Flowers. These small and colorful flowers are often visited by bees and garden birds.

Holmskioldia Sanguinea, Image by Douglas Sprott

Holmskioldia are not demanding plants and grow easily is almost any soil. Propagated from cuttings or layering, most species of Holmskioldia require bright sunlight and average watering.

Holmskioldia are good candidates for espalier projects because of their long, trailing branches that can be easily trained or trimmed.

Popular species of Holmskioldia include:

Holmskioldia Sanguinea – spring and summer blooming shrub (up to 3 meters) with red and orange calyces.

Holmskioldia Tettensis – summer blooming shrub (up to 2 meters) with blue and mauve calyces.

A beautiful scrambling shrub, native to the sub-tropical Himalayas, also called Parasol, Cup and Saucer or Chinese hat. Holmskioldia Sanguinea is a large shrub that belongs to the family Verbenaceae. The species name Sanguinea has its Latin origin (Sanguis means blood, ruddy complexion) to denote its red colored flowers. This erect scandent (climbing) shrub that bears deep red bracts and narrowly trumpet-shaped flowers that gives it the unmistakable appearance of tiny, wide-brimmed Chinese style hats, and have made this a popular ever blooming ornamental shrub in the tropics. This fantastic plant will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The rounded Sanguinea shrub grows fast, up to 6ft high and 6ft width, on a trellis or some other support. The leaves are ovate or ovate-elliptic,slender-pointed, slightly toothed, and 2-4″(7.5cm) long. They are mid-green and slightly serrated. Flowering occurs usually during October to December and sometimes up to the end of March! Its unique flowers (2.5cm) are the main interest of this scrambling shrub: each is a narrow, orange to scarlet tube backed by a broad, circular red calyx (1.8cm), appearing in dense terminal clusters through summer and fall. There are also yellow and bronze flowered forms. The flowers are used as cut flowers. After the flowers come the black 4 lobed caps (fruits). The long, trailing canes make it ideal for espaliering. Hardiness zones : 10 – 11 (1c/35f, 4c/40f). The Holmskioldia Sanguinea adaptability to poor soil, resistance to diseases and infestations and requirement of very little care make this attractive plant a gardener’s choice. Water the plants moderately during the growth season, less in winter. Feed the plant with a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly. They are frost tender. Pinch them regularly to prevent stems from becoming too elongated. Prefers full sun but will bloom in filtered light. This plant is well suited to grow on barbed wire or other fences, arbors and trellises. Pruning its staggering growth, preferably after flowering is over, keeps the plant in good shape. This plant is good as a specimen plant or grown in a border.

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