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Adromischus maculatus, also known as Calico Hearts or Chocolate Drop, is a low-growing succulent native to the Eastern Cape and Western Cape regions of South Africa. Specifically, it can be found growing on the sandstone slopes of the Langeberg Mountains.
Calico Hearts is a widely cultivated succulent loved by gardeners around the world. In fact, this succulent has even earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It’s also non-toxic to pets and children.
Adromischus maculatus Appearance
A maculatus is a small, leafy succulent that tends to grow in clusters or mats. The stems are short, woody, and can reach up to about 6 inches in length. The stems typically do not stand upright and instead tend to lie close to the ground.
The leaves of Calico Hearts are rounded and wedge-shaped. They measure about 3 inches in length and around 1.5 inches in width. The leaves have a horny leaf margin and are usually grayish-green or grayish-brown in color.
The leaves of mature specimens of this succulent are speckled with dark green, scarlet, or purple spots. The color of these spots will deepen with stress from the sun and drought. Young plants typically do not have spots.
In the summer, Adromischus maculatus produces a green inflorescence covered in tiny, tubular flowers. The flowers are usually white in color, though some may be tinged with pink.
Caring for Adromischus maculatus
Generally speaking, Calico Hearts is not a complicated succulent to care for. Like most succulents, they have a preference in soil type and watering frequency, but as long as you can provide them with the basics they will thrive.
One thing that is important to note is that the leaves of Adromischus maculatus are quite fragile and may fall off during handling. Any time you need to handle your succulent, such as during repotting or taking cuttings, it’s essential that you handle your plant carefully.
When grown indoors, A. maculatus prefers bright light. An east or west-facing window is ideal, but a south-facing window may also work in some climates. Too much direct light can result in sunburn, so it’s important to make sure the lighting is just right.
Since this plant thrives on bright light, some indoor environments may not be able to provide enough light for this light-loving succulent to thrive. That’s where grow lights come in handy.
Grow lights allow you to grow your succulents anywhere you’d like, regardless of window placement. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a home full of windows for our plants, but grow lights are an effective and inexpensive way of making succulents happy even in the dimmest of indoor spaces.
Remember, if your Adromischus maculatus isn’t getting enough light, it might start to etiolate or stretch out. If you don’t want your plant to become leggy, you may need to move it closer to a window or invest in a grow light.
If you plan on growing your Calico Hearts outdoors, filtered or partial sun is best. Though this plant does enjoy sunshine, it’s best to keep it shaded during the hottest hours of the afternoon to prevent burning.
With increased light levels, you may notice the spots on your succulent becoming more scarlet or purple in color. This is a completely normal reaction. However, if you start noticing brown or black patches on your succulent’s leaves, it’s likely getting too much sun.
Those discolored areas are likely to sunburn, which is not fatal as long as you move your plant as soon as you notice the discoloration. The damaged leaves can then be trimmed away or simply ignored until they’re replaced by new growth.
Calico Hearts is no different than most succulents in that it prefers to be watered deeply but infrequently. When watered, it should be given enough that the excess drains from the bottom of the pot, but the soil should be allowed to dry out between watering.
Otherwise, you risk overwatering your succulent, which will eventually lead to root rot. This is why it’s important to check the soil moisture levels each and every time you water your plants.
To check the soil moisture, insert a soil moisture meter or your finger a few inches into the soil. If it feels damp, it’s not time to water yet, but if the soil feels dry, you can go ahead and water it.
This is a far more effective watering method than watering on a set schedule. If you water your Calico Hearts on a set schedule, you may end up accidentally overwatering or underwatering your plant.
Your watering schedule will likely change throughout the year due to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. Obviously, in hot, dry weather, your plants are going to need water more frequently than in cooler temperatures or humid weather.
Additionally, Adromischus maculatus actively grows throughout the summer, so it will need a steady supply of water to support its growth. But in winter, growth slows, and watering will need to be reduced to accommodate the plant’s reduced intake.
If you plan on growing your Calico Hearts indoors, you likely won’t need to worry too much about seasonal temperature changes. You should still consider placing your succulent in an area free from sudden drafts.
A maculatus is not a frost-hardy succulent, however, so if you plan on keeping it outdoors, you’ll need to bring it inside anytime you expect temperatures to drop below freezing.
This plant is also more tolerant of cool weather when it’s dry, so it’s important to reduce watering during the winter. However, you still need to bring it indoors if frost is in the forecast.
Adromischus maculatus has similar soil needs to many other species of succulent. It requires soil that drains quickly and provides adequate airflow to the roots.
Commercial cactus or succulent soil is a great place to start, though many gardeners choose to add in additional material to create the perfect substrate.
When shopping for soil, look for a mix with plenty of coarse sand, perlite, and gravel. Though a small amount of clay or perlite is acceptable, large percentages of these materials can cause the soil to remain too moist.
Propagating Adromischus maculatus
If you’re looking for a succulent that’s easy to propagate, Adromischus maculatus may not be the plant for you. Not all methods of propagation have a high rate of success with this plant. However, for the determined grower, anything is possible.
The easiest and most effective method of propagating Calico Hearts is with offset separation. This low-growing succulent regularly produces clumps of offsets around its base, which can easily be separated and transplanted.
To remove offsets, you can either gently cut them away with a sharp, clean knife, or carefully remove them from the soil with your hands.
You’ll need to be very careful handling the offsets as the leaves are quite fragile and may drop with rough handling.
Once the offsets have been separated, you can allow them to callous for a few days before planting. After you’ve transplanted them to their new container, you can treat them just as you would a mature succulent.
Propagating Adromischus maculatus from cuttings can be a challenge, but it is popular. Stem cuttings have the highest rate of success, but leaf cuttings are also possible, but generally less successful.
Leaf cuttings are often taken on accident when handling the plant since the leaves tend to drop quite easily. Stem cuttings should be taken with a sharp, clean knife or pair of scissors or garden shears.
Allow the cuttings to air dry for a few days to let their wounds callous. This helps prevent infection from bacteria and fungus and gives your cuttings a better chance of survival.
You might also consider dipping the cuttings into a rooting hormone pattern prior to planting. This can encourage faster root growth, but it isn’t required for successful propagation. It all depends on how much patience you have.
Once calloused, the cuttings can be placed on top of the soil. With leaf cuttings, it’s important that just the stem has contact with the soil. Within a few weeks, new roots should appear, and you can start watering the plant normally.
Though it is possible to grow Adromischus maculatus from seeds, it’s not a quick process, nor does it have a high chance of success. If you are unable or unwilling to collect seeds from your existing plants, you can order them from any reputable succulent seed vendor online.
Most gardeners recommend soaking the seeds for between 12 and 24 hours prior to planting to encourage better germination. After soaking, the seeds can be sown in a moist, well-draining soil mix.
It’s recommended to cover the soil until seedlings sprout to help conserve humidity, but it’s important that the soil is not overly wet. Sopping wet soil can cause the seeds to rot, so be sure to keep the soil moist, but not wet.
Soon, you should see tiny Calico Hearts appearing above the soil surface. As the seedlings appear, you can remove the cover and start treating them more like a mature plant.
However, it’s not recommended to transplant the seedlings until they’re large enough to be handled safely. Remember, these plants are delicate at this stage, so be sure that they’re strong enough before moving them.
If you need more guidance on growing succulents from seed, read more here.