How to Grow and Care for Calico Hearts (Adromischus maculatus)

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Calico hearts is a low-growing succulent with attractive succulent leaves. The leaves are wedge-shaped and thick. They are green in color with interesting chocolate-colored splotches. This gives them a marbled appearance.

These plants are ideal for growing in pots due to their compact size and low maintenance requirements. They have a fairly shallow root system so must not be overwatered. Adromischus maculatus is also frost-sensitive, so it’s best to grow it indoors or at least bring it in during the colder months.

Because these plants originate from a semi-arid climate, they are exceptionally drought tolerant so can handle a little neglect quite well.

History

The name Adromischus comes from two ancient Greek words, ‘Adros’ which means ‘thick’ and ‘mischus’ which means ‘stem’. The meaning of ‘maculatus’ is ‘spotted’. These words describe this plant very well. 

Plant Facts

Scientific nameAdromischus maculatus
Common namesCalico hearts, Chocolate-drop
GenusAdromischus
FamilyCrassulaceae
HeightUp to 8 inches
WidthUp to 8 inches
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9a to 11
OriginSouth Africa, Cape Province
Flower colorsPale yellowish-green or white-pink
Blooming seasonSummer
Plant/Flower special featuresPlants are toxic to humans and pets. This plant rarely flowers when grown indoors.

How to Plant and Grow Calico Hearts Succulent

Most people grow Adromischus maculatus in a pot indoors. This way, it’s much easier to control the growing environment. These plants like to be kept warm and don’t do well in cold winter weather.

The main growth period for Adromischus maculatus is spring and fall because the plant actually goes dormant in summer. 

adromischus maculatus

How to Propagate Calico Hearts

Calico hearts succulent is really easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. All you have to do is choose a nice healthy leaf and remove it from the plant by gently twisting it.

Put the leaf in a dry spot and allow the end to callous over for a few days. Once the callus has formed, you just need to place the leaf on some succulent mix and mist the mix to keep it slightly moist.

It’s a good idea to try and keep the leaf a little upright if you can so that the roots can easily grow downward into the mix.

Always remember that the leaves may fall off the plant quite readily if it is being handled. Therefore, take care when repotting. If any leaves do fall off, don’t waste them but, instead, use them to propagate new plants.

calico hearts succulent

Care and Maintenance

This pretty little succulent is extremely easy to grow and requires very little maintenance. As long as the plant receives around 6 hours of bright light daily and a watering when the soil is dry, it should live happily in your home for many years.

The added bonus is that Adromischus maculatus is super easy to propagate from healthy leaf cuttings. Therefore, you can increase your collection quite quickly or have some extra plants to give away to family and friends.

Soil

Calico hearts plants aren’t too fussy when it comes to soil requirements except that the porous soil needs to be well-draining. When growing this plant in a pot, it’s best to use a commercial cactus or succulent mix as these mixes are nice and open and free-draining.

If you live in a more tropical climate and want to grow your calico hearts outside, choose a spot that is very well drained. A nice sandy loam is ideal.

Water

Only ever water your calico hearts succulent when the soil or potting medium feels dry to the touch. Like all succulents, it’s better to underwater rather than overwater your plant.

To check whether your plant needs water, just poke your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, you can give the plant some water. If the soil is still slightly damp, hold off watering for a few days.

Remember that Adromischus maculatus has fleshy succulent leaves that store water. Therefore, your plant can survive for quite some time even if the soil is completely dry.

Fertilizer

It’s a good idea to feed your succulent during its main growth period in spring and fall. Make sure you use a fertilizer that is specifically designed for succulents or cacti. This plant is fairly slow-growing so it does not require a lot of feeding.

Sunlight

These plants require at least 6 hours of bright light on a daily basis. If growing outdoors, plant in a spot that receives morning sun but is shaded from the harsh afternoon sun. 

If growing your calico hearts plant in a pot indoors, place your plant near a south or east-facing window. This should give the plant plenty of indirect light so that it can flourish. You’ll also notice that the more light your plant gets, the brighter the spots will be.

If you notice that your plant starts to etiolate or stretch toward the light, it’s a sign that it’s not getting enough light. If this is the case, either move the plant to a brighter spot or maybe, invest in a grow light that will allow you to give the succulent the light requirements that it needs.

Temperature and Humidity

The preferred temperature range for calico hearts is 66 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 30 degrees Celsius). These plants do no like the cold and are frost-tender. Therefore, your indoor temperature should not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) if at all possible.

In areas with cold winters, it’s better to grow this succulent in a pot indoors. You can put it outside during the warmer months but make sure you bring the plant back inside again once the temperatures start to drop.

Pruning

This succulent does not require any pruning.

Pest and diseases

The only pests that may attack your calico hearts are mealybugs and scale insects. If you spot these pests on your plant, spray it with a little neem oil mixed with water. This should get rid of the problem.

The other thing to watch out for is root rot. However, if you don’t overwater your plant and never let the roots sit in water, then you shouldn’t have a problem.

Uses of Calico Hearts

Calico hearts does not have any medicinal uses. It is mainly grown for its ornamental value. It’s important to note that the plant is toxic to both humans and animals if ingested.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are over 30 species and varieties of Adromischus with at least two others that have the common name ‘Calico hearts’. These are:

  • Adromischus triflorus – has distinctive heart shaped leaves
  • Adromischus trigynus – a dwarf version that only grows to around 2 inches high

Conclusion

Calico hearts is an interesting little succulent that is easy to grow and care for. The plant is grown for its colorful leaves that exhibit bright purple or darker red to brown spots. These spots become more prevalent when the plant is exposed to plenty of bright light.

Like most other succulents, calico hearts likes to dry out in between waterings and prefers a nice, well-drained medium. This plant is highly suited to growing indoors unless you live in a warm region.

Because the leaves can drop off quite readily when the plant is being handled, you can use these to propagate new plants quite easily. This means you can quickly grow your collection and have some spare to give away.