Conophytum pageae, also known as Lips Plant, Cone Plant, Button Plant, or Dumplings, is a small, adorable succulent that’s perfect for novice gardeners. It has a unique shape and growth habit, making it a great addition to any collection. This evergreen plant belongs to the Aizoaceae family and is found in rocky soil and outcroppings in southern Namibia and the Cape provinces of South Africa. C. pageae blooms daisy-like flowers nocturnally from the red-ringed fissure, each highly fragrant, yellow, rosy-pink, or white flower develops into a small capsule with many tiny seeds. These plants go dormant during late spring and summer and then resume their growth in the fall. They are very slow-growing succulents that can live well over 50 years.
While Conophytum genus plants have sedative properties, their uses extend almost exclusively to the horticultural trade. These appealing little succulents are hardy and can be grown outside in warm regions in rock gardens, alpine gardens, stone walls, and containers. Indoors, they make excellent houseplants if given the proper care. However, within the last decade, they have been poached in South Africa, and some populations have almost been eliminated. They are not endangered since they are widespread, and measures have been taken to protect these unusual succulents.
Conophytums love bright light, but not direct, harsh, afternoon sun that can burn their tissues. They can grow in temperatures down to 35° F (1.6° C) and are hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. Conophytums are native to dry areas in Africa, so they grow best in low to medium humidity and appreciate good air circulation. A porous, gritty potting mix is best for these little plants. For excellent drainage, you can use a cactus or succulent mix amended with perlite or sand. Conophytum pageae only needs to be fertilized once a year with a dilute, all-purpose fertilizer when new growth begins in the fall.
During the fall and winter, when the plants are actively growing, they will need to be watered thoroughly when their soil dries out. Allow the water to run through the pot and out the drainage holes until it drains completely, and be sure to empty any excess water from the tray or dish underneath. Conophytums can be propagated by seed or division in late summer before their growth season starts. They are not prone to many pests or diseases, but root mealybugs can be a problem. To control this, unpot the plants, wash off the soil, prune away any dead roots, soak the roots in a dilute insecticide, then repot the plants in fresh soil mixed with some diatomaceous earth to prevent re-infestation. Overwatering can cause root rot, so ensure the soil is completely dry before watering, and never allow the roots to sit in water.