Didierea madagascariensis is native to Madagascar where the plant grows on dunes composed by red sandy lime-free soil.
Didierea madagascariensis is a rare shrub-tree succulent belonging to the Didieraceae botanical family. The plant is solitary, has an erect habit and can reach up to 6 m in height. The main stem is thick, woody at the base, stout, branched and specialized to store water and withstand drought periods. The leaves are strip-like, greyish green in color, deciduous, arranged in cluster and borne at the apex of the stem. The spines are long, thin, needle-like, sharp and greyish-brown. Blooming occurs during the spring and the blossoms are borne at apex of the stem. The flowers are funnel-shaped, greenish white and very beautiful. The plant is dioecious, so there are male plant and female plant.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light during the summer. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. Temperatures below 12° C can damage the plant so it is best to shelter it or place it in a cold greenhouse during the winter. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 12 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. In Spring and Autumn, the plant can be watered with half a glass of water every week; in summer it can be watered with two glasses of water a week; in winter stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant is used to growing in poor soils, for this reason it does not need abundant fertilization, it is sufficient to fertilize once in spring and once in summer. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by seed or grafting. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°. By grafting you can use Allaudia procera. Make the cut as close to the growing tip as possible, then chose a stock with a diameter similar to that of the scion. After the cut, wash away the latex until it no longer remains. Bring the scion closer to the stock and held together with elastic bands. The plants should be left in an airy and shady place for 7-10 days before the bands are removed.
The genus was named after the naturalist Alfre Grandidier, and the plants of its two species are also called “Octopus trees”, for the sometimes twisty form of its branches, that might look like tentacles. The genus has only two species of plant, endemic to Madagascar: Didierea madagascariensis and Didierea trollii.
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