Adromischus cooperi is a dwarf, miniature succulent plant that is native to South Africa. The name comes from the genus Adromischus which in turn is named after the German naturalist and poet Adolf Julius Reinhold von Schulze-Adorn who discovered it in 1856.
So, from its origin, this little gem was given a lovely Latinized genus name, followed by a species name and then the English co-op. Which is translated as its common name of Cooper’s Adromischus.
Origin and description of Adromischus cooperi
It was grown in England from 1856 -1890 and brought to America in 1893 by a sea captain who had seen it growing on the Cape of Good Hope. It was first listed in the United States in 1904 with the Royal Horticultural Society placing it into their catalog at number 689.
The popularity of Adromischus cooperi began to grow, as a potted plant, in America around the 1920s and by 1933 it had been given an Award of Merit. And since then, its popularity has continued to grow.
Adromischus cooperi is a small, low-growing succulent plant that grows in clumps with thick stems and rosettes of leaves that join around the center at their base. And it produces striking red-purple flowers resembling tiny miniature roses (1/4 inch wide).
Adromischus cooperi grows natively on rocky slopes and flat tops in mountain areas in South Africa. The plant forms a mat of leaves with stems that branch out from it. Each stem will produce up to six rosettes, or succulent leaves, which join together at their base as the plant grows larger. These rosettes can sometimes become damaged but will heal back together.
The leaves are almost identical to the rosettes from which they came with just a slightly different shape and coloration. They are dark green in color and have white or pink-colored “saddles” on their backsides.
The flowers it produces are tiny and grow in clusters at the ends of the stems. They are a bright red-purple color that can be either solid or mottled with lighter spots within them. And they produce fleshy fruits that disintegrate into a tan, papery “parachutes” filled with seeds.
Propagation of Adromischus cooperi is by division as new plants will appear at the base of their parent. They can also be grown from seed, which should be sown in early summer and then kept warm and dry until they germinate.
- If sowing the seeds straight away, sow them approximately 3mm deep in a well-drained mixture of equal parts sand and leaf mould. The seeds should germinate within 2 weeks, after which they can be pricked out into individual pots if necessary until they are large enough to plant into their permanent positions with care (for further details see our article on propagating succulents from seed).
- We advise against planting Adromischus cooperi in a hanging basket, as the branches will quickly become too heavy for its delicate stems to support. You should also avoid planting it into large containers which are likely to restrict the lateral growth of the branches. It is also best not to plant it in a ground location either, because it is likely to be exposed to too much sun and may dry out too quickly once the lateral growth has been restricted by pot size or poor soil conditions, resulting in fungal disease problems.
- Adromischus cooperi can be used as a ground cover in an exposed, dry location, although it may need protecting with some mulch or grit during periods of extreme cold weather. A south-facing aspect is preferable to get the most out of Adromischus cooperi.
General care information
Full sun exposure is best avoided for Adromischus cooperi , which should be planted in dappled shade or partial shade. It may however suffer from the effects of too much sun, especially if located on sloping ground.
The plant prefers sandy, well-drained soil that has little organic material in it. It needs a good amount of water during its growing season to make sure the soil remains moist, especially over the winter months, but over-watering can cause it to rot.
The use of well-drained, gritty compost which is kept at a minimum temperature of 12°C.
Adromischus cooperi requires well-drained soil which is kept on the dry side during the summer months. The addition of some grit (granite gravel, crushed quartz, or basalt chips) to the planting hole will help to prevent any poor drainage from causing rotten roots or fungal problems. It is also advisable to avoid watering if rain is forecast. Waterlogged soil can cause the plant’s leaves to turn a yellowish color which gradually becomes brown.
Adromischus cooperi does require regular watering during periods of drought or in very hot weather. Only water the plants when they are showing signs of wilting. If the plant has been given sufficient time to dry out before re-watering, the leaves will begin to shrivel slightly as a sign that it needs water.
Under normal conditions, Adromischus cooperi should be fertilized every three months during its growing period in spring and summer with an organic or chemical-free fertilizer. If fertilizing during the winter, apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or compost around their base instead.
Adromischus cooperi is a low-maintenance plant and easy to care for as long as it is kept in an area with bright but indirect sunlight and temperatures that stay within the range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
We do not recommend that Adromischus cooperi be grown in pots as they resent root disturbance and should only be repotted every other year or when overcrowding occurs (which it rarely does). They are best planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible since they can be difficult to transplant once established.
We recommend trimming any dead growth away from Adromischus cooperi in early spring and also pruning back hard to remove any overcrowded leaves or outgrowing stems that are shading others. This can be carried out to your own taste, although we usually remove just the very worst of the old-growth before it has a chance to start producing flowers and seeds. Once new leaves have appeared on the plant, avoid trimming them at all throughout that year so that as many chlorophyll producing cells are produced for food storage overwinter as possible.
A typical Adromischus cooperi plant will produce a flower spike every 2 years, although it can sometimes occur less frequently. Some plants never bloom at all and others may only do so once per decade or even once in two decades. The flowers are often missed as they appear so inconspicuously on the ends of the short lateral branches.
People often do not notice when Adromischus cooperi is flowering as it only lasts for three days and requires bright sun to show off its petals at its best. It takes a long time for new flowers to appear on an old plant, so be patient if you are waiting for another display to come along!
The seeds are contained within a capsule that is ripe and ready to be harvested when it has turned black and dry. Once the seed heads have been collected, leave them out in a well-ventilated, cool room for about two weeks until they are dry and then either store them in an airtight container or sow straight away onto new compost.
Repotting/transplanting Adromischus cooperi
We recommend repotting Adromischus cooperi every 2 years during the spring when new leaves are emerging. If you have young plants which need freshly-made compost, it is best to treat them as annuals and start again with a clean pot every year rather than disturbing their roots if they are allowed to stay in the same pot for too long.
As we have mentioned above, Adromischus cooperi is a relatively slow growing plant, so it will not need repotting very often, if at all. The best soil conditions to keep Adromischus cooperi happy are described above.
Pests and diseases
Adromischus cooperi is susceptible to whitefly, aphids and mealybug infestations.
Adromischus cooperi also suffers from a fungal disease called leaf spot or leaf blight which appears as dark-brown sunken spots that may spread along the leaves, stems and roots. The fungus can be treated by removing infected soil, and fungicides can be used.
Adromischus cooperi plants suffer from scale insects which appear as a white, cottony deposit on the underside of leaves. They feed off sap produced by the plant (but do not damage it otherwise) and can be removed with insecticidal soap or dishwashing detergent solution.