Whether in the rock garden or on the balcony: Siskiyou lewisia, also known as cliff maids, impresses with a long flowering period and minimal maintenance. Here you can find out what you need to take into account when cultivating it.
Profile of Siskiyou lewisia:
Scientific name: Lewisia cotyledon
Plant family: portulaca family (Portulacaceae)
Other names: cliff maids
Sowing time: autumn
Planting time: spring
Flowering period: April to July
Location: sunny (but no direct sun) to partially shady
Soil quality: stony to sandy, low in humus
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flowerbeds, planters, flower garde,n roof garde,n rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of Siskiyou lewisia
Plant order, origin and occurrence of Siskiyou lewisia
Lewisia cotyledon, also called cliff maids, is an evergreen and succulent plant from the genus Lewisia within the family of the purslane family (Portulacaceae). The perennial originally comes from southern Oregon and northern California, where it grows on rocky cliffs. The plant was named after the American explorer Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), who is known for his planning and participation in the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806), the first American overland expedition to the Pacific coast and back. This attractive and robust plant is currently becoming a popular balcony and patio plant, providing a variety of colors without much maintenance. It has been found in rock gardens for quite some time.
Characteristics of Siskiyou lewisia
Siskiyou lewisia grows to about 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in) high and about 15 centimeters (6 in) wide. The leaves sit in basal rosettes on an approximately 2 centimeter (0.8 in) thick rootstock with tuberous roots.
The evergreen perennial forms 4 to 12 cm (1.6 to 4.8 in) long, spatula-shaped basal leaves. The leaf edges are smooth, sometimes wavy.
The flowers appear from April to July. The flower stems grow up to 30 centimeters (12 in) high and have two to four opposite bracts below the inflorescence. The flowers are 2 to 4 centimeters (0.8 to 1.6 in) wide and stand in multi-flowered panicles. Depending on the variety, they are white, pink or salmon-colored or often with white stripes.
The fruit of the cliff maids is 4 millimeters (0.16 in) in size and elongated to ovoid. It contains shiny, small black seeds.
Siskiyou lewisia – cultivation and care
The cliff maids loves a sunny location, but also thrives in partially shady areas. If it gets too little sun, it grows poorly and refuses to flower. You should allow your plant at least three hours of sunshine.
In order to grow, Siskiyou lewisia absolutely needs lime-free, permeable and humus-poor soil mixed with gravel or sand. Areas interspersed with stones and rocks with a guaranteed water drainage are also suitable. In tubs and pots, you should mix potting soil and clay pebbles in a ratio of 1:1 and add an additional drainage layer of expanded clay or gravel at the bottom of the pot.
Planting Siskiyou lewisia
Water the Siskiyou lewisia thoroughly before planting or repotting. This will remove old substrate and loosen the roots. In addition, the plants will soak up water, which is quite useful after a long transport or a period of moderate watering.
The planting hole should have a slightly larger diameter than the root ball. Add some humus or well-rotten compost, place the Siskiyou lewisia in the planting hole, fill up with fresh potting soil and water the plant well. When planting in pots or tubs, first apply a drainage layer of old clay shards, expanded clay or coarse gravel.
The Siskiyou lewisia does not tolerate it when its roots dry out. You should therefore water the plant regularly. The cliff maids does not require much fertilizer. A little compost or bark mulch in the spring is sufficient for outdoor plants. If your cliff maids is placed in a planter, you should give it liquid fertilizer about once a month.
The cliff maids does not require much fertilizer. A little compost or bark mulch in the spring is sufficient for outdoor plants. If your cliff maids is placed in a planter, you should give it liquid fertilizer about once a month.
Propagation of the low-growing plant is simple and can be carried out using leaf cuttings and daughter rosettes.
This type of cuttings is taken from a single leaf. You can do this method all year round on the windowsill at home.
- Separate a strong leaf from the plant.
- Cut through at the leaf vein intersection.
- Place the leaf on a sandy, lean substrate.
- Keep evenly moist.
- The location for growing must be warm and bright.
As soon as strong roots and new shoots have formed, you can transplant the young plant into humus rich soil.
Use a sharp knife to separate the small daughter rosettes from the existing Siskiyou lewisia. Plant each rosette separately in a small container with lean soil and keep moderately moist. After a few weeks, they will develop their own roots. After that you can move the plant into the garden or into a larger plant container.
Propagation by seed is long and difficult. Due to the origin of the plants, Siskiyou lewisia is one of the cold-germinating plants and must be stratified before sowing. You can either sow the seeds directly in the field in autumn or store them in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks. In the latter case, the seeds can be sown at home. For the germination itself it is not important whether the container is placed in a bright location. However, as soon as the first shoots show, you should move the seed tray to a bright place.
A pruning is not necessary with the robust Siskiyou lewisia. You should only remove withered parts of the plant. Often the plant will produce a smaller number of after-flowerings. Withered or dead shoots can be cut all year round. Evergreen Siskiyou lewisia species usually retain their dark green leaves over the winter, and new leaves only develop in spring. However, you do not need to help here. Withered, fallen leaves are a valuable fertilizer for the plants and do not have to be disposed of in the compost.
Diseases and pests
Harmful insects are hardly to be found on the American mountain-plants. Even the little picky aphids often turn away from bitterroot. But the rosette-like growing leaves of the plants are on the menu of snails. If no precautions are taken, the slimy garden animals can destroy complete plants within one night. In order to successfully combat these unpleasant animals, you can resort to a variety of measures.
Snails are nocturnal and come out of their hiding place already during twilight. During this time you can pick up the animals in large numbers. However, snails avoid certain plants, such as tomatoes and lavender. Surround your flower beds with these plants so that the ever hungry creatures can’t even get to the tasty plants. The use of a copper-bearing plate has also proven to be a good idea. The material has a toxic effect on the snails. Chemical agents are not recommended. These are not only extremely expensive in the long run, but can also be fatal to other animals and insects.
Siskiyou lewisia are extremely sensitive to waterlogging. Drainage of the soil is therefore already essential during planting. If tubular fungi have already attacked the roots of the bitterroot, you can only limit the damage. Transplant the affected plant immediately into dry substrate. If there is still sufficient healthy root system, the plant can regenerate itself. Prevent root rot by watering only moderately.
For winter care, you must distinguish between the hardy and frost-sensitive varieties. It is best to ask about this when you buy your plants, provided there is no mention on the label. Winter-hardy varieties of Siskiyou lewisia need protection against moisture rather than cold at temperatures down to about -20 °C / -5 °F. Frost-sensitive varieties should winter indoors if possible.
Use in the garden
Whether in rockeries, in perennial borders, on rocky slopes or in planters on balconies or terraces: Lewisia is always an absolute eye-catcher. You can plant the flowering plants individually or combine them, for example with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) or bellflowers (Campanula).
Many Siskiyou lewisia varieties are offered as a colorful mix under the name ‘Elise’. They are all characterized by a very long flowering period. They are available with orange, pink, salmon, yellow and white flowers. A favourite variety is ‘Rainbow’. It has a large number of semi-double flowers, reminiscent of rose heads. The flowers are yellow, pink, reddish orange or purple. This variety is especially suitable for smaller pots on the balcony or terrace. Lewisia cotyledon ‘Alba’ produces white flowers. Sunset Strain’ is a hybrid with orange, pink or yellow flowers.
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