CACTI and SUCCULENTS MY WAY
(In the East of Scotland)
By Allan Weepers
To grow cacti and
succulent plants, a basic understanding of their native growing conditions
is useful. This group of plants grow in arid (dry) areas of the world
where regular rain is not guaranteed, so the plants have adapted to
store water to preserve life during these dry periods. Therefore, in
cultivation a dry period is required, usually October to March depending
on temperature. The lower the temperature the longer the dry period
and the warmer vice versa, never going below 3 to 4 months of "drought"
minimum temperature 400 or 500 F.
The arid areas of the world have little growth, therefore not much decomposing
vegetable matter, resulting in poor soil with little organic content
so we should add a quantity of sharp sand, grit, gravel or expanded
clay to our growing medium. This also aids drainage allowing us to water
freely in the summer months. A top dressing of gravel is also recommended
giving super drainage in the top of the pot, meaning that the bottom
of the plant does not sit on wet compost which causes rotting. It also
effect of little growth is limited shade so cacti and succulents have
adapted to high light levels producing "wool" to shade themselves
or dense spination, both acting as a "sun block". Thus by
giving our plants maximum light, we can achieve good balanced growth.
Care is required in early summer after months of dull winter light to
ensure plants do not burn. This can be achieved by netting or paint-on
shading. Keeping plant bodies dry stops patch burning by magnified light
through water droplets. [Back to Top]
The containers we grow our plants in can be clay (my preference) or
plastic, but should be large enough to accommodate all the plant, including
spines. Thus neighbouring plants cannot be damage. [Back
mixed by volume
Humex or Westland with added J I mixed with
½ scoop Grit
½ scoop Sharp
sand or crushed expanded clay
½ scoop Vermiculite
varies depending on the grit/gravel substitutes I have at the time.
[Back to Top]
can be harling, granite chips, pea gravel or grit. A reasonable layer
Last but not least, chemical additives are required for growth and health.
A high potash food is recommended such as phostrogen or tomato food.
Alternatively, Chempak supplies specialist food. [Back
Although many pests do not affect cacti and succulent plants, some do.
Red spider and mealy bugs are the main ones. Mealy bugs on the plant
body may be removed using cotton buds soaked in methylated spirit. However
root mealy bug needs a soil drench (good watering containing insecticide).
With so few chemicals on the market, this is getting more difficult
but Provado seems to work even although it is for vine weevil. [Back
Now that you know
how to grow succulent plants, all you have to do is choose the ones
you want, remembering that some require higher minimum temperature than
others 40 or 50 degrees F as mentioned above. Using a proper Cacti Nursery,
you can check this out. However using Supermarkets and DIY Stores you
cannot. A rough guide is tall cacti; all succulents with swollen roots
(turnip like with shoots out of the top) and Melocactus ALL require
the higher temperature. [Back to Top]
So now you have bought your plants, here is my quick reminder
- WATER in Summer,
once a week, twice if really hot
- FEED one week
- DRENCH with
- REPOT when plant
out grows the pot - using open compost
- REMOVE DEAD
FLOWERS - do not allow to stay on the plant and rot. [Back
But most important
of all - HAPPY GROWING.