red; white autumn and winter
sun; rockery; gravel; grassland; roof gardens; slope bank; wildlife bees butterflies insects butterfly host
grassland; rocky places; bushveld; coastal eastern cape
thicket; highveld; bushveld savanna
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This gorgeous succulent has large scarlet florets that add punch to our grasslands in autumn. The leaves offer a bright green succulent look to the garden, a good contrast to the stunning flowers. In fact, the flower colour of this species is quite variable, with some having white, pink or yellow flowers but it is the red flowering form that is most common and the most robust of the species. Whichever colour swatch you are able to source, they make a beautiful show tucked between a variety of local grasses and other grassland species. Unlike many succulents, the plant dies back after flowering and shoots again from the base during the new growing season. This is characteristic of grassland forbs, a survival mechanism that enables them to survive the many fires that burn through this habitat, re-sprouting in the spring. It enjoys growing among rocks in the grassland, perhaps both as a protection mechanism as well as something to lean- up against. Description: Crassula alba makes a light-maintenance and beautiful garden plant with a mature height of up to 50 cm. The leaves grow up in a rosette from the base, in pairs along the stem where there are also tiny leaf-like bracts. Varying in length and thickness, from 60-170mm long by 5- 15mm in width, they are a bright green with a typical succulent style thickness, enabling it to store water in the leaves and stems. It is quite drought resistant. The flowers are large, flat-topped heads approximately 150mm in diameter. Each head is made up of tiny floral tubes each about 3-6mm in diameter, and in varying colours, but the red form does seem to be the most popular of the species, and by far the most dramatic! It has an extended flowering season the flowers appear towards the end of summer, initially white, with the red tubes beginning to open by mid-March. Large flower heads are heavy often flopping over as they age to rest on top of the soil. If this occurs, the flowers will curve back and stand upright once again. In this way, the plants will root and spread. While the main flowering season is autumn and winter, it can flower on and off through the year. Plant the Red Crassula in soil with good drainage to prevent rotting. If you don’t have a grassland section, mix it with rockery plants, or as a companion plant in a mixed bed. Remember though that there will be a period when the plant dies back before it re-shoots. Wildlife visitors... Crassula alba is the larval host plant of the Common Black Eye and Tailed Black Eye Butterfly, and is a favorite a nectar source as the flat-topped flower heads offer a comfortable Landing-strip. A variety of nectar loving insects like the honey bee are also frequent visitors. The Red Crassula can also be propagated from seed. Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West Albany thicket; grassland; savanna/ bushveld Rocky places on gentle slopes in moist grasslands; sometimes in shallow soils on rock ledges.