Airplane Plant, Buddha’s Temple, Propeller Plant, Red Crassula, Scarlet Paintbrush
Crassula perfoliata var. falcata
KRASS-oo-la per-fol-lee-AY-tuh fal-KAY-tuh
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT
Synonyms of Crassula perfoliata var. falcata (9) (Updated on 4-8-21 from Plants of the World Online): Crassula decussata DC., Crassula falcata Dum.Cours., Crassula falcata J.C.Wendl., Crassula falx Linding., Crassula perfoliata var. minor (Haw.) G.D.Rowley, Crassula retroflexa Meerb., Crassula swellingrebliana DC., Larochea falcata (J.C.Wendl.) Pers., Rochea falcata (J.C.Wendl.) DC.
Crassula perfoliata L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Crassula. Both the genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Crassula perfoliata var. falcata (J.C.Wendl.) Toelken is the correct and accepted infraspecific name for the plant on this page. It was named and described as such by Hellmut R. Toelken in the Journal of South African Botany in 1975. It was first named and described as Crassula falcata by Johann Christoph Wendland in Botanische Beobachtungen in 1798.
At this point, this plant is most commonly listed online as Crassula perfoliata var. falcata and Crassula perfoliata var. minor, the latter is now considered a synonym. Previously, it may have been the other way around. The reason “var. falcata” is accepted and “var. minor” is a synonym is because the latter was named and described in 1978 while “var. falcata” was named and described in 1975. The early bird gets the prize… Whichever name was described first is “usually” chosen as the accepted name… Just keep in mind that the links at the bottom of the page may have this species listed by either name… Both names were validly published…
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 205 species in the Crassula genus (as of 4-8-21 when last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Crassulaceae with 36 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.
THERE ARE A FEW LINKS AND GROWING RECOMMENDATIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
I brought this Crassula perfoliata var. falcata home from Wagler’s Greenhouse. I had wanted one of these plants for a long time, so I was very happy to see a few at the greenhouse. The plant measured 4″ tall, after standing it up, and 6″ wide from leaf tip to tip. It will need repotting in a proper soil mix plus I have to check the roots. I don’t want its roots trying to grow through a plug wrapper…
This species hails from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa (Eastern Cape Province) where it grows in quartzitic sandstone outcrops on north, east, and west-facing cliffs along dry river valleys.
The Crassula perfoliata var. falcata is a neat plant with awesome thick, glaucous, gray-green, sickle-shaped leaves arranged in overlapping pairs. The glaucous appearance comes from the soft “bloom” on the leaves giving it a grayish glow… Hard to explain, but I am sure you know what I mean. The leaf margins have a feeling similar to a closed zipper due to very tiny teeth. PlantZAfrica (see link below) says the leaves can sometimes have reddish markings… Plants are normally unbranched but offset at the base.
The species name, perfoliata, comes from where the bases of the opposite leaves surround the stem. With several wildflower species I have photographed and written about with the same species name, the opposite leaves seem to become one at the stem, and the stem looks like it passes through the leaves. It is very neat indeed!
I suppose for most people, and probably for me when I see them, are the flower clusters of this species. The flower clusters, around 6″ in diameter, produce a multitude of bright orange to scarlet red flowers that last about a month. Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) says the flowers have the scent of sweet cinnamon… I am not sure how old the plant has to be before it produces flowers…
Information suggests the Crassula perfoliata var. falcata is a SSSSLLLLOOOOWWWW grower but easy to care for as long as a few basic rules are followed. They prefer bright light and regular watering during the growing period in fast-draining soil. As with any succulent, extended periods of wet soil will cause their roots to rot. Basically, they sound like they have similar requirements as most succulents, especially others in the Crassula genus (and the plant family Crassulaceae).
I just acquired this plant, so I don’t have any experiences to share. In the past, I have grown several crassula species but when I moved back to the family farm in west-central Missouri in 2013 I didn’t have adequate light. Now I have a plant shelf in a south-facing window that will provide better light. SO, I will give the Crassula perfoliata var. falcata, the Propeller Plant, my best shot… I WILL add more photos and information as time goes by.
Origin: Cape of Good Hope in South Africa
Zones: USDA Zones 9b-11 (25 to 40° F/-3.8 to 4.5°C)
Size: Hmmm… 12-18” or taller.
*Light: Full sun to light shade…
**Soil: Fast-draining. Good quality potting soil amended with pumice (50/50) or additional perlite and chicken grit (2-1-1).
***Water: Regular watering during the summer and barely during the winter, only if leaves start to shrivel.
*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom.
**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it…
You have to sort of mimic the soil where species grow in their native habitat. For that, you almost have to go see for yourself… Typically, they grow in fairly rocky soil.
***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside.
When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus, species, and/or cultivar of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know. Of course, you can always send me an email at email@example.com.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES/ var. falcata)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES/var. falcata)
TROPICOS (GENUS/SPECIES/var. falcata)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES/var. falcata)
INTERNATIONAL CRASSULACEAE NETWORK
LLIFLE (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIVING FORMS)
SAN LUIS OBISPO BOTANICAL GARDEN
INLAND VALLEY GARDEN PLANNER
THE CENTRAL OHIO CACTUS AND SUCCULENT SOCIETY
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
PLANT CARE TODAY
GARDENING KNOW HOW
NOTE: The figures may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates (and if they update their sources or even read what they say). Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. There a few widely used websites that haven’t even been maintained for several years. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates at least once a year and when I write new pages and add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂