Cotyledon - Crassulaceae - How to care for and grow Cotyledon plants

 Cotyledon - Crassulaceae - How to care for and grow Cotyledon plants



C. orbiculata

The Cotyledon, are delicious succulents native to the arid areas of Africa, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.






: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Cotyledon belongs to family of Crassulaceae,large group of succulent plants native to the arid areas of Africa, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

They are shrubby plants characterized by long stems from which pairs of opposite leaves develop. They have a fleshy stem which is unique in young plants. Later it branches out. The leaves are, depending on the species, fleshy and evergreen or deciduous but in both cases roundish or oval and in some species with wavy margins. Both the stems and the leaves are fleshy and have the function of storing water. The flowers are very colorful, mostly red or orange or yellow, with curled petals and often gathered in clusters carried by long stems. It blooms from late spring and throughout the summer.

They are slow growing plants so that it takes from 3 to 4 years to reach a height of 30 cm and the same period takes to start producing the flowers.


There are very many species belonging to the genus Cotyledon among which we remember:






A very widespread belief is that succulents (the correct term would be succulent plants as they have no fat inside them but juice, sap) grow well even if they are neglected. This is not true at all because like all living beings, they need attention and care. They can survive if we neglect them but certainly not live to the best of their abilities. Considering that the care they require is not so many, we dedicate a few minutes a week to these incredible plants and they will repay us with wonderful growth.

The Cotyledon they are plants that require a lot of light, in all seasons of the year, with direct sun exposure. The optimal is an exposure to sweat to be avoided instead an exposure to the north.

If the plant is kept on a windowsill behind double glazing, keep it in light shade during the summer as the sun's rays are too concentrated in that case.

The optimal summer cultivation temperatures are around 21 ° C even if it grows well at temperatures of 27 ° C. Winter temperatures must be around 10-13 ° C but be careful not to drop below 10 ° C. If temperatures drop around these values, be sure to leave the plant perfectly dry.

They are plants that love the air so give them fresh air especially in summer by placing them near an open window.


The watering of the Cotyledon must be done when the soil surface is dry. A good practice is to wet the soil well, then drain all the excess water and then wait until the soil is dry before proceeding with the next irrigation.

During the autumn-winter period (from mid-November to mid-March), irrigation must be suspended until spring.

It is necessary to carefully avoid leaving stagnant water in the saucer as stagnant water is not tolerated in any way and would lead to root rot.


There Cotyledon, like all plants, it needs to be repotted periodically, in spring, if the roots have occupied all the space available to them.

Repotting is also an excellent time to check the state of the roots: if you notice blackened or greyish roots (the roots must be creamy-white) they must be eliminated. Then take some washed and sterilized scissors (possibly flame-retarded) and proceed with the cut. Then sprinkle broad spectrum fungicide powder into the cut wounds and then repot. In this case, however, wait at least a week before watering to allow the wounds to heal.

For repotting, use a specific compost for Cactaceae to which add coarse sand or perlite in the measure of 2: 1 (2 parts of compost for 1 part of sand or perlite).

Take care to place pieces of crock in the drainage hole so that the earth or roots do not obstruct the drainage hole as stagnant water is lethal for this plant.

Use low pots with a maximum diameter of 15 cm. Personally, I always recommend using clay pots and not plastic ones as they allow the ground to breathe and if the drainage hole has been arranged to ensure a good drainage of water, well, I would say that it is perfect. Furthermore, the vessels must be wider than deep as the root system tends to develop in width more than in depth.

The first watering after repotting, do it by immersion of the pot. Remember that if you have pruned the roots you need to wait at least a week before watering to give the wounds time to heal.


From spring and throughout the summer fertilize the Cotyledon every 3-4 weeks with a liquid fertilizer to be diluted in the irrigation water by decreasing the doses compared to what is indicated in the package.

Starting from autumn and for the whole winter, stop fertilizing because it is Cotyledon it goes into vegetative rest so you must not give fertilizers that would accumulate in the soil, creating a harmful environment for the roots of the plant.

To insure yours Cotyledon excellent growth, administer a fertilizer equally balanced in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (for example 30:30:30) .In addition to these elements (macro elements), however, make sure that the fertilizer you use always contains microelements, that is to say those compounds of which the plant needs in minimal quantities (but still needs it) such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B ), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant.


If you insure the Cotyledon the right amount of sunlight, water and fertilizer, as indicated in the respective paragraphs, you will have beautiful blooms that will start from late spring and continue throughout the summer.

Keep in mind that the plant begins to bloom when it has reached 3-4 years of life, so if you have recently bought it and you see that it does not bloom, do not worry: just be patient.


There Cotyledon it cannot be pruned. The leaves that gradually dry up or become damaged must simply be eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases.

Make sure that the tool you use for cutting is clean and disinfected (preferably over a flame) to avoid infecting the tissues.


There Cotyledon it multiplies by cutting or by seed or by suckers.

When choosing the technique to be adopted, it must be borne in mind that multiplication by seed has the disadvantage that, taking over the genetic variability, it is not certain that plants will be identical to the mother plants, in which case if you want to obtain a very precise Cotyledon or not if you are sure of the quality of the seed you are using, it is good to do the multiplication by cuttings.


In spring, a basal sucker is taken (they are the small seedlings that grow at the base of the mother plant) using a well-sharpened, clean and disinfected knife (possibly with a flame). warm, in good light but not in direct sun and fertilize once a month.

Once you see the new shoots appear, it means the plant has rooted, at which point you can treat it as an adult plant.


The best time to make the cutting is generally between May and June.The cuttings must be 10-15 cm long, taking them with 2-3 pairs of leaves and must be removed using a very sharp and disinfected knife (possibly over the flame). dry the cut surface for 7-10 days or more to heal the wound and then plant them at a depth of 5 cm in a compost formed of sand and peat. The soil should be kept slightly moist and the pot should be placed in a place where the temperature is of about 21 ° C.

Once the first shoots begin to appear (usually after a few weeks) it means that the Cotyledon has ingrained at that point treat her as an adult plant.


The multiplication by seeds is carried out in March or September by distributing the seeds as evenly as possible on a soil formed by 2 parts of fine sand and one of soil per seed.

You can use pots that are not too tall or multiplication trays leaving a space of at least 2 cm between the edge of the pot and the ground. Then immerse the pot in the water until the soil is well wet. At that point let the excess water drain and arrange the seeds on the surface of the soil evenly and possibly use a piece of wood to bury them evenly or sprinkle a little soil on top.

The tray must be covered with a transparent plastic sheet or a glass plate which will guarantee a good temperature and will avoid a too rapid drying of the soil. The plastic sheet must be removed every day to check the humidity level of the soil and to remove the condensation that forms on the plastic or in the glass. The tray or the pot containing the seeds must be kept in the shade, at a temperature around 21 ° C and slightly damp (use a sprayer to completely moisten the soil) until the moment of germination.

Once the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic sheet or the glass. Now since the seeds do not sprout all together but in a scaled way, it will be necessary to guarantee the new born a little more light. So arrange the tray or pot so that they receive a little light, but not too much, so as to respect even the seeds that have not yet germinated.

Once the seedlings are large enough to be handled, they are transplanted into the final pot as indicated for adult plants and treated as such.


The Cotyledon, like all succulent plants, they are not particularly disease-prone plants. In their case, perhaps it is more correct to speak of physiopathies that is to say diseases due not to pathogens but to bad cultivation techniques.

The stem of the plant rots

This is the classic symptom of too much watering.
Remedies: unfortunately if the whole plant looks like this, there is nothing more to do. If, on the other hand, some stems are not yet affected, you can try to save the plant. Remove the plant with all the earthen bread from the pot and leave it in the air so that the soil dries quickly. Check the roots and remove any rotten ones by cutting them for at least 1 cm above the rotten area with a sharp and disinfected (possibly flame) scissors, as well as the dead stems. Sprinkle the cutting surface with a broad spectrum fungicidal powder and then repot. Wait at least two weeks before watering again and, above all, take more caution in the amount of water you administer for the future.

The plant withers and sheds its leaves

Mostly this symptom is due to too low temperatures or cold drafts.
Remedies: place the plant in the most suitable position.

The green parts of the plant discolour and appear hollowed out

This symptom is usually due to too little irrigation. If we stay several months without watering the plant, especially in summer, the plant runs out of all the water contained in the tissues and therefore appears as "emptied".
Remedies: if you reach this stage it is not always possible to recover the plant, in any case, it is worth giving a little more attention to our plant with the right irrigations.

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in the presence of cochineal: brown cochineal or mealy cochineal. To be sure, it is recommended that you make use of a magnifying glass and observe. Compare them with the photo shown, they are characteristics, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or if the plant is large and potted, you can wash it with water and neutral soap, rubbing very gently with a sponge to remove the parasites, after which the plant is varisced very well to eliminate all the soap. For larger plants planted outdoors, you can use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.