Growing cacti is an extremely rewarding hobby as well as a marvelous experience to unravel the mysteries of nature. You may come across scores of other cacti lovers who can share their knowledge and expertise with you. Within a brief period of time, you'll be able to utter the Latin names of popular cacti or interact with other cacti lovers on ways to increase your collection. What's more, you'll find every day an absorbing as well as rewarding day.
The first step to successfully growing a healthy cactus plant is to purchase one that is already in good health. Avoid any plant that has damaged spines, obvious signs of bruising, or that has lopsided or uneven growth. Ideally, a cactus should be purchased in the greenhouse where it was grown, or as soon as possible after it has been shipped to a retail outlet.
The care a particular type of cactus requires is largely dictated by the climatic conditions where that cactus would be found growing in nature. A good rule of thumb for looking after any plant is to provide conditions that are as close as possible to the environment where the plant would be found growing naturally.
Generally, the two most common classes of cacti are those which are:
1) Sun-Loving &
A potting medium composed of equal volumes of coarse sand, peat and perlite is suitable to grow most cacti. Vertical plants should be planted in a container that has a diameter 1/2 the height of the plant. Plant Round cacti in containers that have a diameter 2 inches greater than that of the plant. Take care to prevent rot from developing on recently potted or repotted plants. Be sure the pot is dry before transplanting, and transplant into dry soil. Wait a week before watering to allow for the damaged roots to repair.
The quantity and frequency of watering provides one of the biggest dilemmas to cactus owners. Since a cactus does not wilt at the first sign of drought stress, the plant offers few cues that it needs water. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top 2 to 3 centimeters of soil is dry. This should be adjusted with the season.
You may water freely in Spring and Summer when the plants are growing well. Water in the early morning once a week if the plants are in the greenhouse, or once a fortnight if in the house on a window sill. Try not to water on cool or wet days, so that plants have a chance to dry off after you have watered. Only a few plants grow in the winter, so no water should be given at all from about mid September until the end of March. Remember that cacti are resilient plants and can go a long time without water.
Waterlogged soil can quickly lead to rotting of the roots with disastrous consequences for the plant. Cacti do need to be watered and fertilized, but not as frequently as other plants. Water the pots when they dry out and allow the soil to dry thoroughly between watering. Do not water during rainy spells, during winter or immediately after repotting. Some varieties have dormant periods when watering can be very harmful. Unglazed clay pots require more frequent watering than glazed clay or plastic pots. Small pots require more frequent watering than large pots. If your soil is heavy you can construct raised beds with rings of stones filled with a gravely mix.
Cactus and succulents need, at the least, very bright light to maintain good color and shape. Spiny, fuzzy or hairy varieties generally require more sun than do the smooth, soft, leafy types.
While most cacti tolerate a wide range of growing temperatures, most will do best at temperatures similar to that of most other houseplants. When temperatures are either too hot or too cold, a cactus will often simply go dormant. An ideal placement for a cactus in winter would be a sunny cool room. During the summer, cacti will appreciate being moved outdoors where they can receive brighter light in combination with cooling breezes during the day and cool humid conditions at the night. If you are moving your cactus outside for the summer, be sure to place it in a position of partial shade for the first few weeks, and slowly move it to a sunnier location. A plant going directly outside into full sun will likely be scorched by the more intense light found outside the home.
The appearance reveals a great deal of the plant. Under the following conditions, the plant may require repot.
When potting up use pots that are just the right size for the plant, never too large. Tap the compost around the roots, but never press it in. It will settle when the plant is watered later. Re-potting should not be necessary more than once a year into a next size pot. When plants are larger, re-potting only becomes necessary when the plant has outgrown the pot, or it does not grow well. It is best to re-pot plants at the beginning of their growing season in early Spring. After re-potting, never water until the plant has settled down for week or two in warm weather.
All these plants require a very open and free-draining compost. You can make up the compost yourself or buy it from the market. Adding compost will add minerals and help beneficial bacteria release the minerals naturally present in most soils.
Never use garden soil or old compost from a source where it may have been lying around for months. Don't be tempted to use builders grit or sand! whilst this makes good concrete, it does not make good potting compost.
Fortunately, Cacti have few pests and diseases. The most common is mealy bug which may attack the plant and its roots, but watering with systemic insecticide eradicates them.
Some of the most important points for growing successfully are cleanliness and good ventilation at all times. Ventilation particularly on warm or hot days is most important. It is best to leave the doors and windows open all day and even on warm nights. This will prevent a lot of unwanted problems.
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