Julia followed Clara into her kitchen before they were to have dinner with their husbands that evening. “Look, here’s the plant you gave me,” said Clara, as she held up a very sickly looking plant with a smile on her face. She didn’t realize the plant was hurting.
“I told Mark to re-pot that immediately when I gave it to him for you,” replied Julia. “This plant really needs well-draining soil.”
It was clear the plant was suffering and had barely grown since last summer when Julia gave it to him to replace a plant Clara had killed. And Mark, Clara’s husband, did not follow Julia’s instructions at all, which surprised Julia because he is an amazing outdoor gardener; he understands the requirements of plants.
But apparently, Mark just placed it on Clara’s windowsill that day to sit beside her many other houseplants. He knew the fact he didn’t repot it would not be noticed by Clara, or perhaps he felt it was her job. It is not that Clara does not adore her many houseplants, or that she doesn’t take some time to care for them, but she just doesn’t seem to understand or see the importance of the soil environment. She overlooks the essential ingredients needed for the plants to thrive.
Clara could tell Julia was irritated by the thought of the plant looking sad, so she told Julia they would repot it after dinner, but she first gave her an enthusiastic tour of her other plants in their dining room.
Julia recognized them all – aloes, jades, African violets, Philodendrons, and Begonias – and every single one of them were growing in dry, poor, overrun soil and in small pots, some without drainage holes. The white crusty edges on the soil’s surface representing a salt buildup from hard water or fertilizer not leached through was visible in every pot. Many were reaching for light sources and had stretchy growth, but rather than lecture her good friend, Clara, who obviously is a non-green thumb gardener, she took another sip of her Pinot Noir and listened with interest to everything Clara told her about her treasured plants.
LACKING A GREEN THUMB
Do you lack a green thumb like Clara? If yes, a succulent, like Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ is an option for you. Succulents store moisture in their leaves, one factor which helps the non-green thumb gardener because it enables the plant to withstand drought. Dyckia is actually in the Bromeliad family, and it doesn’t store moisture in its leaves like typical succulents, but it is tough all the same and you can refer to it as a succulent in general.
It is accustom to growing on rocks or rough rocky soils and in areas lacking rainfall, so naturally it developed the ability to go dormant to survive dry periods of time. This is the number one reason why it is perfect for non-green thumb gardeners, because of their practice of forgetting to water their plants. When it finally gets some water, it pops back to life quickly so you will be relieved you didn’t kill it.
Dyckias also have ability to take cold temperatures, so if you keep the heat low in the house during the winter, it will adjust accordingly.
Heat tolerance is another bonus about these plants. You can put them out in a hot part of your landscape or outdoor sitting area in the summer months, and pretty much ignore them, but you should remember to give them more watering attention (low to moderate), especially deserving after accommodating all your non-green thumb traits during a long winter.
When you look at the rosette style leaves of this Dyckia hybrid, it looks similar to the top of a pineapple (and pineapples are in the Bromeliad family too), but ‘Burgundy Ice’ has a beautiful and useful dark rich burgundy color with white spines, making it a wonderful candidate to contrast with other tough drought-tolerant type plants in container gardens or smaller pots.
You can find lots of succulents or cacti with spines, stripes and patterns, but not many with a rich darker almost black coloring, making it a little more dramatic and alluring. The rosette shape allows the plant to collect moisture and funnel it towards its roots, and this form gives it an architectural interest too. Its physical attributes contributes to the visual appeal from a design perspective.
Incorporating this plant into a combination of succulents or drought tolerant perennials or annuals with a lighter or brighter color will give you a great visual contrast situation.
In the photo above, it is growing with a Portulacaria afra (dwarf jade plant or elephant bush/food). If you look closely, the stems of Portulacaria afra are the same color as Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ so it “echoes” the color of the focal plant in this glazed blue pot. Additionally, P. afra has a spiller-type habit and smaller rounded leaves. This feature helps to soften the edge of the pot and provides a textural difference in this combination. Always think about mixing the textures; the softer texture will make the bolder texture even more noticeable.
The Dyckia leaves tend to rise up a bit and curve downward at the tips. Notice the tips sitting above the Portulacaria afra. This makes the burgundy color more apparent because the lighter color is filled in behind it. Another spiller plant that would work well with this is something like the temperennial called, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’. It grows long thin stems with soft silvery fuzzy leaves; a silver contrast to the ‘Burgundy Ice’, or try something like, Helichrysum petiolare (Licorice Plant) with similar coloring, both cascading downward. Delosperma cooperi or D. floribundum (Ice Plants), a perennial with fleshy shiny leaves is another example of smaller foliage with characteristics to make ‘Burgundy Falls’ stand out. It has a trailing habit and produces daisy like flowers in midsummer. Pick a Delosperma cultivar that has a flower color that will pop against the burgundy color of ‘Burgundy Ice.’
Dyckia‘ Burgundy Ice’ is a full sun to part shade plant, so when used outdoors in your container gardens, a full sun location is best because the rosette’s color will intensify. When you move it inside for the winter months, it can take a reduction in light but it will green up more. Because we tend to get dreary, cloudy days during the winter, placing them by the sunniest window in your home is recommended, so they at least get some sun on the good days.
HOW TO SAY IT
DY-kee-uh, DIK ee uh, or DICK’ea are three ways. Just let it roll off your tongue, it doesn’t really matter how perfectly you pronounce it. If you are a non-green thumb gardener, say it quickly and with confidence and no one will know the difference. You can just call it ‘my tough succulent’ too if you want. But because this plant was named after a Prince, you may want to give it a nickname, the “Prince”. Whatever you name it doesn’t really matter, as long as you continue to enjoy it.
THE TECHNICAL STUFF
Habit: Clumping. Blooms: Mostly for foliage. Size: 6-12″. Hardiness/Zones 9-11: It is treated as an annual here in CT. Water: Dry to normal, okay to let go through some periods of drought. Light: Full sun to part shade; okay to have low-light in house during winter. Care Level: Easy – Perfect for the non-green thumb gardener. Offered by: Proven Selections.
GREAT REFERENCE INFORMATION
- The Bromeliad Society Houston has an excellent article detailing the specifics of Dyckia genus. http://bromeliadsocietyhouston.org/genera-intro/dyckia/
- Missouri Botanical Gardens has a detailed fact sheet on Bromeliads.
- Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulents Simplified is an amazing site with wonderful design ideas, tips, and links to videos. http://www.debraleebaldwin.com/
Container Crazy Cathy T
P.S. Clara did take Julia into her basement after an amazing dinner, where her potting bench and many broken pots were laid out. Julia’s face had to be kept straight as Clara pulled out old dusty bags of potting soil, none filled with soil able to hold water anymore – they were very old and dried out. Julia told her, “Those won’t do.” So Clara held up a bag of African violet mix, and said, ‘How about this?” Julia took another sip of wine, and replied with a sigh, “What the heck, give it to me.” 🙂