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Cacti and Succulents

Even if they look hostile, with all that needles, they have a special power to seduce us. Cacti live in the desert, where for being able to survive they need huge water reserves. That is why they have all those rounded strange shapes and also they show a minimum surface to the sun.
The needles are the logical involution of the leaves, designate to reduce the contact surface to medium to the minimum.
With their unique variety of sizes and shapes and a wealth of color and texture, cacti and succulents can make spectacular displays. Many bloom only briefly and bear large, brightly colored flowers, while others flower for longer periods, producing a profusion of exquisite blooms.
When buying cacti and succulents choose healthy, unblemished plants that show new growth or have flower buds forming. Do not buy any damaged or slightly shriveled specimens, or any with dull, dry or flaccid segments. Also reject plants that have outgrown their pots.
Cacti and succulents do not usually thrive in ordinary garden soil, because it is not sufficiently well drained. Good garden loam that has a pH level of 4-5.5 may be used as the basis of a homemade compost for cacti and succulents. It must be sterilized first to kill pests or weed seeds that might be present and to eliminate diseases.
To prepare the compost you have to mix up 2 parts sterilized garden loam with 1 part peat substitute or fine shredded sphagnum or sedge peat and 1 part sharp sand or washed grit and a little slow-release fertilizer.
If the garden loam is alkaline use a loam-based proprietary compost mixed with sharp sand or grit in a ratio of 1 part sand or grit to 3 parts compost.
 

Repot Cacti and Succulents

Most of the succulents do not present any special handling problem but prickly cacti have to be treated with respect. If you have the possibility choose a compost especially formulated for cacti because this will be well drained and have the right sort of structure and nutrients levels. If you can’t find this type of compost than a soil-based compost will be a practical alternative. Large specimens do not need regular repotting. Just remove about 2.5 cm of soil from the top and replace with fresh cactus compost.

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Succulents in Containers

For an attractive focal point on your patio or windowsill you can choose to grow in pots, bowls or troughs a collection of cacti and succulents and place them in the right spot. For good results is important to choose the right compost for your arrangement. It should be well-drained and slightly acid so a good mixture is made of 1 part sand or grit to 3 parts loam-based compost or 2 parts loamless compost.

The containers for your arrangement can be both clay or plastic but you have to remember that the compost in plastic pots retains moisture longer than in clay pots, which means that the plants in plastic pots will need less frequent watering, but clay pots provide better aeration around the roots. Make sure that the container you choose has one or more drainage holes in the base. Always consider the size of the pot to be proportionate to the size of the plants that you choose to plant but never less than 10 cm deep.

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Kalanchoe

kalanchoe daigremontiana image

Kalanchoe, a genus of about 130 species, is one of best known indoor succulent. The most common is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (Flaming Katie, Tom Thumb), with glossy, dark green leaves and tubular flowers that are usual scarlet in color but can also be white, yellow, pink, orange or red that appear from late winter to late spring. An other best known Kalanchoe, grown for its showy leaves is Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Devil's Backbone, Mother-of-Thousands), that form young plantlets which grow along the leaf edges. They are easily dislodged and can be found in profusion around the base of the adult plant.

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Crassula

Crassula Image

Crassula is a well known succulent that we grow indoor or under glass. The most common variety Crassula arborescens is also known as Silver jade plant. It loves full light and grow well in a standard cactus compost. From spring to autumn apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly and water moderately. In winter just water sparingly.

Crassula prefer a dried air and if you want to grow a little faster you will have to transplant it every spring in a bit bigger pot.

You can propagate Crassula from seeds sow at 15-18 Celsius degree (59-64 F) in early spring, but the fasted way is to root stem or leaf cuttings almost all year long but specially from spring to summer. If the atmosphere is too dry is develop aerial roots and this makes the rooting process even easier.

For the leaf cutting propagation you need to remove a healthy, firm, fleshy leaf by carefully pulling it away from the parent plant. Usually it should break off the base, with a small piece of stem attached. If it doesn't just sever the leaves with a sharp knife with a small piece of stem attached to the base of each one.

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Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cacti Buds Image

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is a genus of about 6 species of bushy, perennial cacti that originate in the tropical rainforest from SE Brazil. It is cultivate for its attractive flowers that bloom mostly in winter, around Christmas.

It need moderate watering and humidity. You can apply high-potash liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks when in growth and keep just moist after flowering. Repot every 3 to 4 years in the spring. Propagate from seeds in spring or take cuttings of stem sections in spring or early summer.

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