CACTI & SUCCULENTS

Feb 2018
Sherrie Eoff

 

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. While some types of succulents have somewhat exacting care requirements, most are easy to grow because they evolved with special water-storage tissues that allow them to survive in environments that are too dry for most other plants. Cacti are fleshy plants that store water, making them part of this group. In order for a succulent plant to be considered a cactus, the plant must have areoles. Areoles are small, round, cushion-like mounds of flesh where spines, hair, leaves, flowers, and more grow from the cactus.

* Cactus and succulent plants are very easy to care for, and because they are drought tolerant, they can survive (not fl­ourish!) for several weeks at a time without water.

* Place your plant in an area well lit with natural light, such as on a windowsill or on a patio. Avoid intense, direct sunlight until plant has acclimatized to its new environment.

* Water when soil is dry to the touch, which is approximately every 7 – 10 days, indoors. Water less frequently during winter months, as this is the natural dormancy period of many plants.

* Fertilize with a half-strength general fertilizer once a month, if desired.

Containers

If you bought your succulents from a nursery or online store, the first thing you’ll want to do is repot them as soon as possible (or at least within 24 hours). Why? The small plastic pots and highly-absorbent planting soil that come with most succulents are not ideal. You’ll want move them into larger terra cotta containers with drainage holes and surround them with soil that dries quickly (more on that in a bit).

Succulents don’t thrive when they sit in wet soil, which makes a drainage hole very important. Cassidy Tuttle, the blogger behind Succulents and Sunshine and the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents, says terra cotta pots are the perfect options for beginners because the vessels dry quickly, they pull out water from the soil, they’re breathable, and they prevent water from building up. You can also plant succulents in ceramic, plastic, or metal containers—as long as there’s some sort of hole for drainage. Glass containers are okay too, but they’re not as easy to work with. “The quickest way to kill your succulent is to trap it in a glass bowl without drainage,” Tuttle says. “They do need water, but they like their roots to dry out really quickly. Being in a typical terrarium or glass bowl doesn’t really allow that.”

The size of your container should also be considered. You can control the growth of your succulents by planting them in a pot that encourages or discourages growth—they’ll “bonsai,” or take the shape and size of the container in which they’re planted.

Soil

Succulents do best in soil that doesn’t hold water, and you can give that to ’em in three ways. First, if you already have gardening soil at home, you can add pumice or perlite to your mixture, both of which you can buy at your local nursery. Alternatively, you can purchase succulent-friendly Gritty Mix soil, which mimics the natural soil they prefer to grow in. Your last option is that you can try making your own succulent soil at home by combining pine bark fines, turface, and crushed granite. These options ensure your succulents are growing in materials that pull the water away from them.

Lighting

You can grow almost any succulent indoors as long as you give it enough access to bright light. Ensure their health and growth by placing them next to the sunniest window in your home for at least six hours per day. “South-facing windows are going to give them the most sunlight, all day long,” Tuttle said.

Watering

Knowing when and how much to water your succulents is one of the trickiest parts of caring for these plants. “Ninety-nine percent of taking care of succulent is watering,” says Darren Irwin, the founder and owner of The Succulent Source in Southern California. His rule of thumb: Water when dry; never water when wet, damp, or moist. “If they dry out completely in five days, you can water them every five days. If they dry out completely in two weeks, then water every two weeks.” When you water your plant, drench the soil with liquid, you’ll know you’ve watered the plant enough when water exits through the drainage hole. Let the succulent dry completely, and then wait a few days before watering again. We repeat: There should be no moisture or water in the container before you water again!

From Country Living website

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