Succulents

Complete Guide to Orostachys Iwarenge: How to Grow and Care for “Chinese Dunce Cap”

Read our complete guide to Orostachys Iwarenge for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for “Chinese Dunce Cap” succulent plants
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Orostachys Iwarenge, also known as Dunce’s Cap or Chinese Dunce Cap, is a small perennial that belongs to the flowering plant family Crassulaceae, Genus Orostachys. It is a monocarpic lavender succulent (only blooms once in its life) that produces small flowers and plenty of offsets.

Chinese Duncecap is very easy to grow and to propagate, especially if you’re familiar with Hens and Chicks and other Sempervivum and Crassulaceae succulents. The name of the plant refers to its long bloom stalks with a conical shape that can reach 6 inches (15 cm) and that produce white and yellow flowers.

This delicate, soft succulent is native to Japan, Mongolia, and Northern China and it thrives in frigid mountainous regions so it’s suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5-10. It can be grown outdoors year-round in zones 6+ and it can tolerate frost by becoming dormant during the cold months and re-sprouting in spring.

Orostachys Iwarenge succulents make great ground covers and grow happy and healthy if they get good drainage, full sun, and cool temperatures overnight. They are quite drought-tolerant but they do need watering during their growing season. To avoid overwatering, apply the ‘soak and dry’ technique and cut back on water during the dormancy season.

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About Orostachys Iwarenge

  • Chinese Dunce Cap succulents thrive in the chilly forest valleys of the Japanese Alps, and other mountainous regions of Mongolia and China.
  • It is one of the few succulents that are native to the Asian continent and they can withstand freezing temperatures and snow.
  • Orostachys succulents are monocarpic, so they live in a perpetual life and death cycle. Each rosette will die after blooming but the plant produces a lot of offsets that continue the cycle.
  • When grown outdoors, Dunce Cap succulents prefer semi-shade and light sun and are quite sensitive to heat and wither in direct sun.
  • It’s recommended to use the ‘soak and dry’ technique to avoid overwatering and to cut back on water during the cold winter months when the plants are dormant.
  • Like all succulents and cacti, Dunce Caps need well-drained soil, but the great thing about them is that they can adapt to both nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor soil, which makes them a perfect choice for outdoor gardens.
  • They can also be grown indoors in containers that have drainage holes as long as the air isn’t too humid and they get good air circulation.
  • Their growth period is in spring and fall and they are dormant in winter when they most of their leaves.
  • Their white and yellow flowers emerge from the center of the mother rosette in late summer.
  • They are non-toxic so it’s perfectly safe to grow them around children and pets.
Orostachys Iwarenge
Orostachys Iwarenge

Orostachys Iwarenge Features: An Overview

  • Orostachys succulents are perfect for outdoor gardens as they make perfect groundcovers. They can also be planted indoors in well-draining containers.
  • Their lavender-grey leaves are fleshy and form small cone-shaped rosettes.
  • These succulents remain small – 1 inch (2.5 cm) tall, but they form patches and spread quickly. Outdoors, they cover cracks, crevices, and rock pockets, and indoors, they can fill a pot in one or two growing seasons.
  • Orostachys grow densely packed and their white, pink, or yellow flowers are attached to budding spires from the center of the rosettes.
  • The blooming period of Orostachys succulents is late summer and early fall.
  • After blooming, each rosette withers and dies but this life cycle will usually go unnoticed due to the fast production of offsets.
  • The Chinese Dunce Cap will hang and droop gracefully when planted in indoor containers.
  • Perfect for border edges, rock crevices, walls, rock gardens, patio containers, balcony gardens, etc.
  • Orostachys Iwarenge pairs well with Echeveria, Ice Plant, and Candytuft succulents.
Chinese Dunce Cap
Chinese Dunce Cap

Growing and Caring for Orostachys

Chinese Dunce Cap Succulents are low-maintenance and they don’t need much to grow happy and healthy. Like all succulents, they require well-drained soil and when planted indoors, their containers need to have drainage holes.

In their native habitat, Dunce Caps grow in mountainous regions, on rocks, and in crevices, so they can withstand temperatures as low as -10° F (-23.3° C), but they are quite sensitive to full sun and excessive moisture. To ensure that the soil doesn’t hold too much moisture, add grit or coarse sand.

These succulents do best in outdoor gardens, but you can also grow them successfully indoors. You’ll have to use a succulent and cacti well-draining potting mix. Alternatively, use a regular potting mix in combination with grit and coarse sand (50/50).

Chinese Dunce Cap succulents love bright light, but they cannot withstand excessive heat and bright sunlight, which can burn their leaves. If you live in a warm environment, make sure your Dunce Caps get enough shade.

You can fertilize the plants once or twice during the growing season (spring and late summer) with a fertilizer with low levels of nitrogen.

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Watering Orostachys

Like most succulents, Orostachys should be watered only when the first inch of soil feels dry to the touch. It’s recommended to apply the ‘soak and dry’ technique to avoid overwatering.

Chinese Dunce Caps can withstand long periods of drought but high levels of humidity can be fatal for these tiny succulents.

Fresh Orostachys plantings need more water to grow roots so it’s recommended to water them daily for a few weeks. Once the plants have adjusted to their new environment, switch to a normal watering schedule based on the soil, the weather, or the indoor environment. Sandy soils dry quickly and clay soils hold a lot of moisture, so make sure you take these aspects into account.

Because the leaves of the Chinese Dunce Cap are sensitive to moisture and rot easily, try to apply the water directly to the root zone. You can invest in a soaker hose to keep your plants happy and healthy and to optimize the watering process. Hand watering is another great option especially if you are using a watering wand.

How to Water Succulents
How to Water Succulents: Complete Beginner’s Guide

It’s best to water your Dunce Caps in the morning so the fleshy leaves will have enough time to dry over the day. Try to avoid getting the leaves wet, as this water can easily damage them.

Orostachys prefer a thorough watering once in a while as deep watering encourages root growth which in turn leads to healthier and sturdier plants that can withstand drought. Add enough water to soak about 8” (20 cm) of soil and check the soil moisture regularly. If you notice that the top 2-4” (5-10cm) is completely dry, it is time to add water.

Fertilizing Orostachys

To encourage the growth of your Chinese Dunce Caps to fertilize them twice during their growing season (one in early spring, once in mid-summer), using a low-nitrogen fertilizer.

When preparing the beds for your new Orostachys offsets, incorporate some fertilizer into the succulent soil mix.

There are many types of fertilizers available on the market such as liquid feeds, slow-release, and granulated. Select a product that fits your needs best based on the nutritional balance (5-10-5 will encourage blooming) and opt for organic solutions if possible.

By applying a 1-2 inch (3-5cm) layer of compost or mulch on top of the soil annually you will reduce the need to fertilize the plants. Mulch and compost break down and all the nutrients are absorbed by the soil so the plants will receive plenty of nutrition.

Pruning Orostachys

Orostachys succulents grow quickly so you might have to prune them a little. Depending on the flowering schedule, remove each faded flower. You can also wait for the blooming period to end and remove an entire flower stalk.

It’s highly recommended to remove the stems as soon as the flowers have withered. This will redirect the energy of the plant towards growing new leaves and becoming sturdier instead of seed production.

If you notice any discolored or damaged leaves, you can freely prune them throughout the season for aesthetic purposes.

Propagating Orostachys

It’s very easy to propagate Orostachys as they are monocarpic and produce a lot of offspring.

To propagate these succulents by division, identify an offspring that’s big enough to have its own rooting system, cut it with a clean sharp knife and plant it in a pot filled with well-draining soil or directly in the garden bed.

When planted indoors, Chinese Dunce Caps are susceptible to mealybugs. Keep an eye out for pests and if you notice a waxy, cottony substance during the propagation process, pick it off with a toothpick. Once all the visible mealybugs have been carefully removed, spray a little insecticidal soap or isopropyl alcohol on the plants.

Never spray the plants if they’ve been sitting in full sun or if the temperatures are above 90 F. (32 C.) as you might severely damage the leaves.

How to Propagate Succulents
How to Propagate Succulents

In conclusion

Orostachys Iwarenge succulents are a perfect choice if you’re looking for a ground covering succulent that can withstand freezing temperatures. If you’re familiar with Hens and Chicks and other similar perennials, you’ll find that growing and propagating Chinese Dunce Cap is extremely easy.

These plants are low maintenance and although they thrive outdoors, they can also be grown indoors in well-draining soil and containers with drainage holes.

To grow healthy and happy Orostachys, use the ‘soak and dry’ technique, keep them away from direct sunlight and fertilize them twice during the growing season. They are non-toxic, so it’s perfectly safe to grow them around your children and pets.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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