A Tame Indoor Cottonmouth

Legendary cottonwoods are rightly called one of the most "wild" beautifully flowering garden plants. The unrestrained temper and propensity for sprawl of this original garden beauty is unrecognizable in room culture. By taming Asclepias and moving it to pots and containers, it is possible not only to get rid of many problems in cultivation. After all, it is in room culture that the Asklepias appears not as a landscape "wild" miracle, but as a real beautiful flowering star.

A tame indoor cottonmouth
Vatochnik curaçava, or Asclepias curassavica (Asclepias curassavica)

Home relative of the garden Asclepias

The cottonwoods (Asclepias) represent the Cuthrus family (Apocynaceae) in room culture. In nature, Asclepias curassava is mainly distributed in subtropical and tropical climates, and is found in Africa and both Americas.

Few plants can boast such eloquent folk nicknames, indicating the original fruits and seeds. Asclepias is known both as cottonwoods and as grosbeaks, and as grosbeaks and grosbeak grass. Even with the official name of the plant, there is considerable confusion, for Asclepias is just one variant of the botanical name transcription. Equally, the plant can be called either Asklepias or Asklepias.

When mentioning Asklepias, or cottonwoods, the first things that come to mind are the peerlessly resilient and tenacious thickets of wild cottonwoods. And while this culture, widespread even in our nature, is actively tamed and transformed into a garden plant by breeding new forms and varieties, the status of this star plant for landscape style of landscape design is undeniable.

House Asclepias, unlike garden cottonwoods, remains a great rarity. And although we are talking about just different species of this genus, it is still not necessary to confuse between these plants. If in the garden mainly the blood-red and Syrian varieties are cultivated, the charming and beautifully blooming curassavica has found its new life in a room. The curassavica or Asclepias curassavica (Asclepias curassavica) is the only variegated plant which can be cultivated in a pot culture. And the most spectacular species in terms of beauty of flowering. The semi-shrub with densely foliated, rather thin shoots reaches a height of 70-80 cm when not formed. At any trauma it actively demonstrates the presence of the milfoil. Leaves sprouting from shoots' ends, arranged in opposite rows, create beautiful massive crown.

Leaves grow up to 12 cm in length, petioles short. The lanceolate leaves sit densely, standing out not so much for their shape as for their bright concave veins and rich tone of dark green, grassy coloration. The light reverse side with an almost gray color does not detract from the beauty of the greenery at all.

The flowering of the cottonwood would last all year round in the rooms, but due to the reduction of the duration of light day in winter the plant stops the flowering process and is forced to go into relative dormancy. The inflorescences of this cottonwood are original. They bloom on the tops of the shoots, glorifying the density of the arrangement of star-flowers in dense shields up to 10 cm in diameter. Bright, dark, orange or red petal-like bracts and a beautiful volumetric center give each flower a jewel-like beauty.

From a distance the blossoms appear fluffy due to the openwork structure of the flowers and their uniform distribution on the shrubs. But up close one cannot help but be surprised by the elegance of the individual flowers. The orange-yellow-red "fiery" palette of Asclepias curaçava perfectly contrasts with the bright herbaceous tone of the leaves. The beauty of the cottonwood is further enhanced by its strong scent, which attracts rare species of butterflies and crowds of insects to the garden.

The curaçava cottonwood can be used as a garden annual or garden potted plant. When placing it on a balcony or in the garden, it is worth bearing in mind that the mass attention of insects can significantly spoil the holiday, so it is better to place the cottonwood where frequent visits of all kinds of useful (and not very) guests will not disturb the owners of this plant themselves.

But even when growing in the room, it should be taken into account that cottonwoods are large perennials, which are closer in size to caddisflies than to ordinary indoor crops. They should be given enough free space and take into account that they occupy a lot of space and are not suitable for small rooms.

Asclepias sap contains strong irritating substances. The plant should be handled carefully, with full protection of the skin and mucous membranes.

A tame indoor cottonmouth
Asklepias in room culture. © BT Wursten

Home care of cottonwoods

While Asclepias are primarily associated with garden plants, in the rooms the charming curaçava cottonwood reveals the true beauty of representatives of these amazing plants. In room culture, cotton plants are neither perennials nor annuals: they are capable of blooming for more than one year, but they quickly degenerate and need to be replaced periodically with new bushes. Longevity is the only serious disadvantage of the plant, undemanding to temperatures and care.

Lighting for the cottonwood

In a room culture for this plant should choose the brightest, sunniest windowsills. The cotton grass grows well in diffused light, but it achieves maximum decorativeness only on the southern windows. Artificial extra light hardly notices, Asclepias needs good natural light.

Bright light is necessary for the plant during the whole year. In winter Asklepias is moved to the brightest places on the southern window sills.

Comfortable temperature regime

The endurance of cottonwoods is fully expressed in the fact that the plant perfectly adapts to any temperature during the active vegetation. Any special conditions of keeping a cotton candy plant is not necessary: the plant will feel fine in any warm room, it's not afraid of the heat, but the temperature changes do not like. The minimum allowable value of air temperature for Asklepias from spring to autumn - 18 degrees.

Winter conditions are selected from the number of cool or moderately room temperature. The minimum temperature at which Asklepias feels well is 13 degrees of heat. Optimal is considered wintering at 15-18 degrees. If the temperature rises above, the plant requires a corresponding increase in air humidity. But in general perfectly winters even in normal room conditions.

Pouring of cottonwood and humidity

In room culture this plant retains not only the drought tolerance of its garden counterparts, but also their dislike of dampness. Any excessive watering, not to mention watering of the substrate, can be fatal for this plant. Asclepias should be watered carefully even in the midst of flowering. Between waterings, the substrate in the pots should partially dry out. The soil humidity should be stable throughout the flowering period. When it stops flowering, the plant is switched to the winter regime, but the soil humidity is not greatly reduced, not letting the substrate dry out completely, just reducing watering as compared to summer care.

Asklepias should be carefully monitored for water quality. It should not only be soft in characteristic, but also warmer than the air in the room. Watering with cold water can cause flowering to stop or a health problem for the indoor cottonwood.

Although the Asclepias is actually an outdoor plant, it likes high humidity in room format. There is no need to grow it in closed cabinets or with humidifiers running constantly. It is enough in periods when the air becomes drier to introduce spraying into the care program. The more often the leaves are sprayed, the more attractive the greenery of the cottonwoods will look. When spraying, you should make sure that during flowering, the drops of water do not fall on the inflorescences. Be sure to spray during the heating season, in warm winter and on hot days in summer.

A tame indoor cottonmouth
Cultivation of curacaud in a pot, at home

Fertilizing the cottonwood

With annual replanting and using very fertile substrates, fertilizing the plant can be done without. But Asclepias achieve the greatest lushness of flowering, however, with regular fertilization throughout the flowering period. Asklepias blooms and develops actively, for them carry out standard fertilizing with a frequency of 1 time in 2 weeks. During the dormancy period, or better during the whole period of reducing the length of the light day from autumn to winter, it is desirable not to apply nutrition.

Trimming and rejuvenation of cottonwood

Asclepias grow in dense bushes and from nature look quite compact and lush. But indoor plants are prone to degeneration, elongation, and a sloppy appearance. To maintain the density and beauty of bushes, it is recommended to prune cottonwoods every spring, after transplanting. Pruning is done to achieve the desired shape and size of the bush, simply by controlling the size of the plant. The more the shoots stretch out, the shorter the "stumps" can be left.

Even with annual pruning, the Asclepias loses its decorativeness rather quickly, the shoots become coarse and flowering deteriorates. As soon as the plant begins to look neglected and does not restore density and lushness after pruning, it is worth to root cuttings or grow a replacement for it by other methods.

Transplantation of the cottonwood and substrate

Like any other indoor plant, it is better to transplant Asclepias only in spring, at the beginning of its active development stage. For this perennial it is better to take into account the day length: As soon as the sun gets warm and the light improves in spring, you can transplant the plant into a new container. Like any herbaceous perennial that has adapted to conditions of limited soil, the potted cottonwood is grown in the same container as long as there is free soil. Only when the plant has fully utilized all available soil space can it be transplanted to a new container. In years when there is no need to change the container, simply replace the top layer of substrate.

For indoor Asklepias, it is desirable to choose large, spacious containers. The diameter of the pot is increased by 4-5 cm compared to the previous container.

For Asklepias, the main characteristic of the soil is nutrition. The plant develops well in any universal loose soil mixture, both purchased and self-mixed substrates. A simple mixture of equal parts of sod and leaf soil, adding half a part each of humus, sand and peat, can be made for the plant.

Water plants are not transplanted, but transplanted without destroying the ground ball and removing the loose crumbling soil.

A tame indoor cottonmouth
Curasavian Buttonwood in a pot

Diseases and pests of Buttonwood

Buttonwood even in indoor crops is remarkably resistant. In very dry air and in hot conditions they can suffer from spider mites, in waterlogged soil - from rot. The latter problem must be dealt with by urgent transplanting and correcting care, but mites can be easily dealt with by insecticide treatment and increased air humidity.

Common problems in cultivation:

  • dropping leaves when the substrate dries out;
  • drying flower stalks, stopping flowering if not watered properly.
A tame indoor cottonmouth
Separated and cut bush of curaçava cottonwood, transplanted into a pot. © Gail Morris

Pot cultivation

Growing your own potted cottonwood can also be done from seed, or by using the much more complicated method of cuttings. However, the difficulties do not arise in the rooting methods, but because of the release of milky juice and the need to take time to dry the cuttings. Rooted cuttings in the usual sandy-peat substrate, under the hood at a temperature of 21 degrees of heat. Plants are planted immediately after rooting.

Seeds of cuirassava cottonwood do not require pretreatment. The best dates for sowing are March and April. Sowing is carried out in a sandy-peat mixture or soil consisting of equal parts of the usual substrate for sprouts and sand. The substrate is moistened intensively before sowing. Sow superficially, covering the seeds with 1-2 mm of sand from above. For germination, containers are covered with glass or film, removing them daily to air them out.

Germinate seeds of cotton grass in a month, but unevenly, sometimes the last sprouts have to wait up to 3 months. Sprouts are picked in small containers, one at a time, as soon as a couple of true leaves appear on the plants. Already at the stage of young plants for thickening, it is worth pruning the tops of shoots. A seeded bud will bloom the next year, and under favorable conditions - 5-6 months after sowing in the current year (garden varieties of buds flower only in the third or fourth year).

Capacious bushes of cotton plants can be divided into 2-4 divisions and planted each as an independent plant. Pruning is done immediately on the divisions to maintain decorativeness, provide increased humidity, low heat conditions and moderate watering before adaptation and the beginning of active growth.

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