Crassula columnaris (Upright Crassula)

Crassula columnaris (Upright Crassula)

Scientific Name

Crassula columnaris L.f.

Common Names

Khaki Button, Scent Bottle, Upright Crassula, locally known as Koesnaatjie


Crassula columnaris subsp. columnaris, Crassula mitrata, Tetraphyle columnaris

Scientific Classification

Family: Crassulaceae
Subfamily: Crassuloideae
Genus: Crassula


This species is native to South Africa and Namibia.


Crassula columnaris is a dwarf succulent with a short, erect stem completely hidden by 8 to 10 tightly packed leaf pairs, forming a tapering columnar body. It grows up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall, up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in diameter, solitary, or spreads into small clusters by branching below ground. Leaves are brownish-green, up to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) long, up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) wide, and have a rounded tip. Flowers are white, pale yellow, often tinged with red, and appear in winter or early spring clustered in a compact, round head at the top of the plant. This species is monocarpic. It takes several years to mature and die after flowering.

The specific epithet "columnaris" derives from a Latin word meaning "column-like" and refers to the growth habit of the species.

How to Grow and Care for Crassula columnaris

Light: Crassula plants prefer full sun to partial shade. However, intense afternoon sun in the hottest period of summer can burn the leaves of the plants. Most Crassulas can be grown indoors if given enough light.

Soil: They are not particular about soil pH, but Crassulas require very porous soil with excellent drainage.

Hardiness: Crassula columnaris can withstand temperatures as low as 20 to 50 °F (-6.7 to 10 °C), USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b.

Watering: These plants have typical watering needs for succulents. Avoid overwatering by using the "soak and dry" method, where the soil is soaked with water, slowly drained, and left to dry out before watering again. Reduce watering in winter.

Fertilizing: Crassulas will benefit from a small amount of organic fertilizer in mid-spring when they start actively growing.

Repotting: Repot as needed, preferably in spring, at the beginning of a period of active growth.

Propagation: Crassulas are generally started by leaves or stem cuttings. They can also be grown from seeds and offsets.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Crassula.

Toxicity of Crassula columnaris

Crassula plants are generally nontoxic to people and pets.


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Crassula columnaris (Upright Crassula) - garden

Origin and Habitat: Republic of South Africa (Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape).
Habitat and ecology: Mainly Succulent Karoo. Crassula columnaris is found widely on gravel flats in Namaqualand and on the quartz fields of the knersvlakte. Plants are variously coloured to blend in with the harsh, dry and rocky habitat in which they grow. The typical subspecies is found in the Little Karoo, western Great Karoo and towards Vanrhynsdorp. it flowers mid-winter to early spring (May to August). The plant, being monocarpic, dies after flowering, but this single act must be any successful because the plants are quite common[4]. C. columnaris has a resting period in summer.

Description: Crassula columnaris (Stonecrop family) is a dwarf, compact, perennials or biennials succulent with with single short erect stems 1,5-6 cm high in which the grey-green to brownish leaves are rounded, fleshy, broader than long, arranged in 4 closed ranks the leaves are incurved and so closely packed over each other as completely to hide the stem. The plant takes five to ten years to reach maturity, at which time, and if rain falls, the round body opens and a dense 'shaving brush' of cream to orange-yellow sweet-scented flowers appears [4]. The plant is monocarpic, the individual rosette blooms only once, then dies. When not in flower, C. columnaris is difficult to distinguish from the closely related Crassula barklyi. Mature specimens of the latter are invariably branched, while C. columnaris plants remain unbranched or have short axillary branches at the base.
Roots: Fibrous.
Branches: Short, erect, simple, (3-)15-60(-70) mm high, 3-4 mm in diameter, rarely with short axillary branches at base, completely hidden by the 8-10 leaf-pairs throughout. As Marloth aptly states, the specific name is unsuitable, as the typical plants in nature are often sunken and globular, only becoming columnar in cultivation [4].
Leaves:Sessile, connate at the base, 4-ranked, broader than long, 10-15 mm long, 10-23 mm wide, becoming shorter upwards and forming a short tapering columnar, brownish-green, imbricate, tightly clasping and patelliform, rounded, fleshy, concave on the inner or adaxial surface and convex outwardly, lower face not keeled, tip rounded, rarely mucronate, often with membranous margins with grey-green to brown inflexed (slightly recurved) cilia.
Inflorescences: Flowers are borne in a sessile, capitulum (head) directly on top of the plant (often partly hidden among the upper leaves) 10 mm tall and to 22 mm in diameter, rarely a rounded thyrse more or less hidden by leaves below, densely many flowered.
Flowers: White, creamy-yellow or or tinged with red, sweetly scented. Calyx-lobes (sepals) linear to elliptic-oblong, (1.5)3-4(-5) mm long, obtuse, green to brown translucent, tips green. Corolla slender ampulliform, fused basally for 7-13 mm, white, pale yellow and often tinged red. Petals connate below, narrowly elliptic-oblong, 7-13 mm long, tapering above into a blunt, yellowish, beak 1 mm long. Stigma subsessile. Stamens with yellow to brown anthers. Filaments 1.2 - 2 mm. Anthers yellow or brown. Nectar-glands reddish.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Crassula columnaris group

  • Crassula columnaris Thunb. : plants remain unbranched. Lower keaf-face not keeled, tip rounded. Distribution: Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape.
  • Crassula columnaris subs. prolifera" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Crassulaceae/26656/Crassula_columnaris_subs._prolifera'> Crassula columnaris subs. prolifera Friedrich : plants are much branched at the base. Lower leaf-face with a distinct keel. Tip mucronate. Distribution: Namaqualand, Bushmanland (Northern Cape, Republic of South Africa) and southern Namibia.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Crassulaceae” Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 05/Nov/2012
2) J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa”, 2003
3) W. H. Harvey “Flora Capensis”, Vol 2, 1894
4) Doreen Court “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” CRC Press, 01/June/2000
5) Gideon Smith, Ben-Erik Van Wyk “The Garden Succulents Primer” Timber Press, 2008
6) Joan Compton “Knowledge through Color House Plants” McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP
7) Peter Joyce “Flower Watching in the Cape: Scenic Routes Throughout the Year”
Struik, 2004
8) Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Crassula columnaris Thunb. subsp. columnaris. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2017/08/06
9) Vera Higgins “Succulent Plants Illustrated” Blandford Press, 1949
10) Hermann Jacobsen “A Handbook of Succulent Plants: Descriptions, Synonyms, and Cultural Details for Succulents Other Than Cactaceae”, Volume 1 Blandford Press, 1960
11) “The Illustrated London News”, Volume 223, 2nd Edition, Illustrated London News & Sketch Limited, 1953

Place: Crassula needs a lot of light, so you need to provide it with a lot of indirect light. Grownup plants can sustain up to a couple of hours of direct sunlight exposure.

Substrate: Considering the fact that Crassula is in the succulent family, as all succulents it thrives in garden soil, sand and pebbles added for better drainage.

Repotting: This plant is usually not repotted often, once during a period of two to three years or when it overgrows the container. When such thing occurs, choose a container which is one size bigger. Clean the roots from the old substrate and lay pebbles at the bottom of the container. Repotting is best done in spring, so then you can even cut the branches that started to bend.

Watering: You should water it in summer only when the soil is completely dry. It’s best to water it generously and let the water drain completely. Stop the watering completely during winter, or if you see that it’s necessary you can water it up to three times in the period from November to March. When watering the plant, make sure that the leaves stay dry.

Wintering: Crassula should spend the whole winter at a temperature of 50°F (10°C), and the watering should be reduced to a minimum. If your Crassula will spend winter in a heated room, find a bright space for it so it doesn’t lengthen and water it once or twice a month.

It’s best to plant Crassula in spring or summer because the natural conditions required for the seed germinations and seedling growth are perfect at that time. However, if you can provide these conditions artificially (warmth, light and moist air), then you can plant it during any time of the year.

The adequate substrate for Crassula is similar to the Cactus one. This means you can use a readymade mixture you can find at the garden centre. The adequate substrate can be created by mixing garden soil and sand in a 50:50 proportion. In addition to that, you need to enhance permeability by adding pieces of broken bricks, tiles or purchasable perlite.3. The next step is the sterilization of the substrate in order to avoid fungi occurrence. You need to put the substrate into a microwave oven for 3 minutes at least, or in an oven for at least 45 minutes. Cool the substrate afterwards.

Containers for planting Crassula need to be deep around 1.5 inches (4cm). Lay the pebbles at the bottom of the container to enhance drainage. If you previously used these containers for something else, it would be good to disinfect them with hot water or alcohol.

Never fill the container up to the top, leave about 0.4-0.8 inches (1-2 cm) of space for the future seedlings. Lightly press the substrate surface with a flat object.

Dissolve the fungicide in water according to the package label and water the substrate. It’s best to water it by submerging it, but you need to make sure that the excess of the water decants later on.

Strew the seeds across the surface and gently tap it. You don’t need to cover it with the substrate.

Now you need to find the right conditions for germination. It’s important that the seed is provided with an ample amount of moisture. Keeping the substrate moist is easily done by using a transparent glass, foil, plastic bag or similar.

The optimal temperature for Crassula germination is 70°F (22°C). Day temperature can be as high as 77°F (25°C), and during the night the temperature can be as low as 64°F (18°C). Avoid direct sunlight exposure.

Germination usually starts in 5 days, whilst most of the seeds germinate during the period of 3 weeks.

The container should be ventilated every day for half an hour, and two months after germination you can completely uncover it. Do it gradually, so that the seedlings can get accustomed to it.

The first repotting should be done when you come to the conclusion that the seedlings are strong enough to move and have 3 leaves minimum. The seedlings should be moved with a part of the substrate around the root, to avoid root damage.

The seedlings need to be exposed to a medium amount of moisture the substrate should never be let to dry off completely. It needs an ample amount of light too.

Watch the video: Crassula Mesembryanthemoides