Secrets of Growing Cacti and Succulents


Through millions of years of evolution, cacti and succulents have developed unique water storage methods and self-protection. This evolution enables them to survive in some of the most desolate growing areas on earth.

For indoor plants, cacti and succulents are the perfect choices. Typical hot, dry indoor conditions are often harmful to leafy foliage plants but provide the ideal climate for many succulent plants. Besides, these plants are very tolerant of neglect, requiring little watering or other care throughout the greater part of the year. The results are often large colorful blossoms, a bonus whenever they appear.

Outdoors, cacti and succulents are a great addition in the landscape or on a patio during the summer. Although most cacti and succulents cannot protect themselves from frost, a few will survive even the coldest winter climates.

No matter what you desire in plants, cacti and succulents have the diversity and adaptability to suit almost any lifestyle. A small investment will reward you with enjoyment for many years to come.

Photo via pinterest.com

A succulent is generally considered any plant with the natural ability to store water in its body or roots. There are over 1800 species of cacti. Hundreds of these species are available commercially. All cacti are native to the Western Hemisphere, and although many bear spines, this characteristic alone does not make them cacti. A cactus is distinguished by the presence of areoles, small nubbin-like structures that occur over the plant's body. Cactus spines, as well as roots and the flowers, always grow from these areoles, whereas spines on succulents other than cacti grow directly out of the body of the plant. Their unique adaptation also enables succulent plants to store water quickly and in great volume.

Remember: Cacti and succulents, even though they are tough, adaptable plants, they do not "thrive on neglect." Instead, they "exist" with neglect but "thrive" on tender loving care. Due to their low humidity requirements, many cacti do better in the dry air of homes with central heat than most other houseplants. They also do very well outside during the summer months in areas of the country with low humidity and warm night temperatures.

Light

Indoors give them as much bright light as you can or your sunniest window. They will stretch and get weak and skinny, trying to get to more light if kept in a dark or shady location. Outdoors they can burn if given too much direct hot sun all day, so try to provide an area with filtered sun or a place where they receive a few hours of direct sun and then bright light the rest of the day.

Watering

Most cacti have small root systems and are susceptible to damage from too much moisture. Allow plants to dry thoroughly between waterings. A good rule of thumb for watering is to skip one week for every 1 inch (2.5 cm) of pot size. Example: 2 inches (5 cm) pot – water once every two weeks, 3 inches (7.5 cm) pot – water once every three weeks, etc.

Another thing to remember is when you water, water well! Ensure that the water is running through all of the soil and flushing out the bottom of the pot. A well-watered pot will feel much heavier than one that did not get thoroughly saturated, and never let the plant sit in standing water for any length of time. If you have watered the pot well, you will know when it is time to water again by just sticking your finger about an inch (2.5 cm) down into the soil. If it's damp, it's fine. If it is dry, then it's time to water again — and water well!

Temperature

Regular household temperatures are great, but in the wintertime, be sure to keep them away from freezing temperatures next to a window. They can handle 35 to 40 °F (2 to 5°C) just fine and will be dormant (resting, not growing) at these temperatures. The same goes for outdoors; if it goes below 35 °F (2 °C), bring them inside to shelter. Freezing temperatures will turn most cacti and succulents into goo!

Soil

There are plenty of garden centers around that carry commercially packaged cactus and succulent mix for sale. If you need to make your own, here is a good all-purpose mix: for every one part of good potting soil or humus, add two parts of perlite or pumice and one part washed builder's sand.

Fertilizer

Cacti and succulents are not heavy feeders but benefit from light feeding during their growing period – usually the warmer months of the year. Any all-purpose balanced liquid fertilizer is fine, something like a 20-20-20. Mix it to half or even a quarter of the recommended strength on the label and give it once a month. When in doubt, it is always better to not fertilize than to overdo it.

Little to no feeding during the dormant months, usually during the winter months, is necessary.

Transplanting

Your plant will be perfectly happy in the original pot for at least a year and does not really need to be moved. However, if it has been a year and it is getting too big for the pot or just want to put it in a special or favorite pot, here is what to do. First, be sure to choose a pot that is only a size larger than the original.

If your plants are in a 2.5 inches (6 cm) pot, the best next size would be a 3 inches (8 cm) diameter and be sure the pots have drain holes.

Gently tap the plant out of its pot and carefully loosen some of the soil around the outside of the root ball. Put some soil mix in the new pot and set the root ball on top of it. Fill in around it with new soil, lightly firming it in making sure that the plant is sitting at the same soil level it was originally.

Do not water for a few days; this allows any roots that might have been broken a chance to heal over – then water and let it drain thoroughly.

Propagation

The main ways in which cacti and succulents are propagated are by cuttings, seeds, and offsets. To select the appropriate way to propagate your plant, observe how it grows. Most barrel types are grown from seed or offsets. Columnar or pad types are grown mainly from cuttings. Certain forms are grafted to another in order to grow.

Most seeds are easily germinated, and many commercial varieties are self-fertile. Offsets (pups) can be stripped from the mother plants and replanted immediately. Cuttings should be left to dry, out of direct sunlight for up to 2 weeks. This drying period allows the cut area to "heal."

Source: toptropicals.com

Links

  • Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus

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Protect succulents from extreme temperatures

If you plan to grow your succulents outdoors, be aware that only a few varieties can withstand below-freezing conditions. And although most succulents like sun and heat, some desert environments can be too extreme. “There are exceptions,” says Jesch. “Sedums and sempervivums (alpine species) can tolerate below-zero cold. And succulents such as agaves, some aloes, and most cacti can tolerate high desert heat conditions.”

Sempervivum, a type of succulent that tolerates below zero temperatures, is planted densely in a repurposed tree stump.

For mild climates, there are a number of reliable succulents that can tolerate outdoor conditions year-round. Jesch recommends planting hens and chicks Echeveria ‘Sahara’, Agave ‘Moonshine’, Crassula ‘Ripple Jade’ and Crassula ‘Hobbit Jade’, many types of Elephant’s Food (Portulacaria afra), and Aeonium ‘Plum Petals’


Caring for Succulents and Cacti Plants

Most succulents and cacti require a lot of light. They are suitable for the sunniest of spots in your home. If you build some shelves across a sunny window you will be providing them with what they love. You want to be sure to turn the plants regularly to make sure all sides of the plant get equal sunny exposure.

Every garden center has a great collection of cacti and succulents you can grow in your home. Some cacti, like the forest-growing Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas cactus), are sold a seasonal plants or gift plants in department stores. It’s best to buy cacti that are already in flower because it takes years for this to happen. You should check them over and make sure they are sound with no trace of rot or areas that are shriveled or dry. They should be just the right size for their pot and you should make sure that they are not exposed to drafts when you get them home.

If you purchase desert cacti, make sure they are planted in well-drained compost. They should be well watered with tepid water in spring and summer. However, the compost should be allowed to almost completely dry in winter months, especially if they are in cool conditions. This allows the cacti to go dormant.

During periods of active growth, cacti should be fed about once every three weeks. You can use well-diluted tomato fertilizer for this purpose. Also, desert cacti like temperatures of 50-55 F. (10-13 C.). in the winter. You only need to repot desert cacti when the roots completely fill the pot.

Forest cacti are very different. They usually have beautiful hanging flowers that grow from the tips of segmented stems. These stems look like chains of fleshy leaves. They grow this way because they’ve been trained to grow over trees. They are used to shade, but they do need some bright light. They need lime-free, light compost that is well drained and should be misted with tepid, soft water. They can be rested in 50-55 F. (10-13 C.). Water them moderately and feed them weekly with a weak fertilizer after winter and place them in a room with higher temperatures.

There are 50 or more families of plants that can be considered succulents. They should be watered freely in the summer but only when their compost becomes dry. In the winter, they tolerate temperatures around 50 F. (10 C.). In the summer you should fertilize with well-diluted fertilizer every few weeks and they prefer fresh air instead of humidity.

Desert cacti, forest cacti and succulents can all be grown together. They make stunning displays for your houseplant collection. They don’t take a lot of care, but you still need to know what they like and need.


Secrets of Growing Cacti and Succulents - garden

Cacti and succulents are among the most unique type of indoor plant. Through millions of years of evolution, they have developed amazing methods of water storage and self protection. This evolution enables them to survive in some of the most desolate growing areas on earth.

For indoor plants, cacti and succulents are the perfect choice. Typical hot, dry indoor conditions are often harmful to leafy foliage plants, but provide the ideal climate for many kinds of succulent plants. In addition, these plants are very tolerant of neglect, requiring little watering or other care throughout the greater part of the year. The results are often large, colorful blossoms, an added bonus whenever they appear.

Outdoors, cacti and succulents are a great addition in the landscape or on a patio during the summer. Although most cacti plants are not able to protect themselves from frost, a few will survive even the coldest of winter climates.

No matter what you desire in plants, cacti and succulents have the diversity and adaptability to suit almost any lifestyle. A small investment will reward you with enjoyment for many years to come.

A succulent is generally considered to be any plant which has the natural ability to store water in its body or roots. There are over 2500 varieties of cactus. Hundreds of these varieties are available commercially. True cacti are one type of succulent they are members of the plant family Cactaceae. All cacti are native to the Western Hemisphere, and although many bear spines, this characteristic alone does not make them cacti. A true cactus is distinguished by the presence of areoles, small nubbin-like structures which occur over the body of the plant. Cactus spines, as well as roots and the flowers, always grow from these areoles, whereas spines on succulents other than cacti grow directly out of the body of the plant. Their unique adaptation also enables succulent plants to store water, quickly and in great volume.

Caring for cacti & succulents

Remember: Cacti and succulents, even though they are tough, adaptable plants, they do not "thrive on neglect". Rather, they "exist" with neglect, but "thrive" on tender loving care. Due to their low humidity requirements many cacti do better in the dry air of homes with central heat than most other house plants. They also do very well outside during the summer months in areas of the country with low humidity and warm night temperatures.

Indoors give them as much bright light as you can or your sunniest window. They will stretch and get weak and skinny trying to get to more light if kept in a dark or shady location. Outdoors they can burn if given too much direct hot sun all day, so try to provide an area with filtered sun, or a place where they receive a few hours of direct sun and then bright light the rest of the day.

Most cacti have small root systems and are susceptible to damage from too much moisture. Allow plants to dry thoroughly between waterings. A good rule of thumb for watering is to skip one week for every 1 inch of pot size. Example: 2" pot - water once every 2 weeks, 3" pot - water once every 3 weeks, etc.

Another thing to remember is when you water, water well! Make sure that the water is running through all of the soil and flushing out the bottom of the pot. A well-watered pot will feel much heavier than one that didn't get thoroughly saturated, and NEVER LET THE PLANT SIT IN STANDING WATER FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME. If you have watered the pot well, you will know when it is time to water again by just sticking your finger about an inch down into the soil. If it's damp, it's fine. If it's dry, then it's time to water again ------ and water well!

Regular household temperatures are great, but in the wintertime be sure to keep them away from freezing temperatures next to a window. They can handle 35В°F to 40В°F degrees just fine and will be dormant (resting, not growing) at these temperatures. The same goes for outdoors if it is going to go below 35В°F, bring them inside to shelter. Freezing temperatures will turn most cacti and succulents into goo!

There are plenty of major garden centers around that carry commercially packaged cactusi and succulent mix for sale. If you need to make your own, here's a good all purpose mix: for every one part of a good potting soil or humus, add two parts of perlite or pumice and one part washed builder's sand.

Cacti and succulents are not heavy feeders but do benefit from light feeding during their growing period - usually the warmer months of the year (March through October). Any all purpose balanced liquid fertilizer is fine, something like a 20-20-20. Mix it to half or even a quarter of the recommended strength on the label and give it once a month. When in doubt it is always better to not fertilize than to over do it.

Little to no feeding during the dormant months, usually during the winter months, is necessary.

Your plant will be perfectly happy in the original pot for at least a year and doesn't really need to be moved. However if it has been a year and it is getting too big for the pot, or you just want to put it in a special or favorite pot, here's what to do. First be sure to choose a pot that is only a size larger than the original.
If your plants are in a 2.5" pot, the best next size up would be a 3" diameter, and be sure the pots have drain holes.
Gently tap the plant out of its pot and carefully loosen some of the soil around the outside of the root ball. Put some soil mix in the new pot and set the root ball on top of it. Fill in around it with new soil lightly firming it in making sure that the plant is sitting at the same soil level it was originally.
Do not water for a few days this allows any roots that might have been broken a chance to heal over - then water and let it drain thoroughly.

The main ways in which cacti and succulents are propagated are by cuttings, seeds, and offsets. To select the appropriate way to propagate your plant, observe how it grows. Most barrel types are grown from seed or offsets. Columnar or pad types are grown mainly from cuttings. Certain forms are grafted to another in order to grow.

Most seeds are easily germinated and many commercial varieties are self-fertile. Offsets (pups) can be stripped from the mother plants and replanted immediately. Cuttings should be left to dry, out of direct sun light for up to 2 weeks. This drying period allows the cut area to "heal".


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