Cacti & Succulents have interested adults & children alike for hundreds of years. The resurgence in their popularity in recent times is partly as a result of trends to minimalistic, low maintenance garden styles. Other reasons could simply be our busy lifestyles and the constant demands on our time and the fact that they look so wonderful and take very little care to grow well. These particular plants do not require a lot of time and maintenance.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLANTS
When choosing cacti and succulents at the local nursery, there are a couple of points to look out for:
- Purchase fresh plants
- Plants should be free of diseases
- They must be reasonably firm in their pots but don't shake them, this can damage roots.
- If your interest is flowers and colours the best time to view them in flower in spring (a lot of varieties flower then.)
The position they are to be placed in at home should be chosen carefully. Naturally, this will depend on whether they are to be kept in containers or transplanted into the ground. Containers are ideal for cacti and succulents as they are assured excellent drainage at all times and plants can also be moved around if necessary. For best results, plant into Searles Cacti & Succulent Mix.
You can use most varieties inside a well-lit house for a week or 2 at a time quite successfully. Outside container plants will perform at their best positioned in an easterly or northerly place. Against the house is excellent, as cacti and succulents appreciate the radiated heat from walls and also overhead eaves on the house will undoubtedly give them some protection from heavy summer rains. A minimum of 4 - 5 hours sun or full sun is best.
Planting into the ground in the subtropics needs a bit of planning. Sloping or raised beds are best where there is no clay present. Improve drainage and raise beds by using Searles Cacti & Succulent Mix or washed river sand. A full sun position or 1/2 sun position in the garden will be fine. As they will grow rapidly once established & happy, it is important not to underestimate the space each plant may require. Having them leaning out over paths or driveways may be uncomfortable to all especially if it needs to be transplanted as a result.
This needs to be done regularly or when the plant is too big for the pot it is currently in. Rubberised gardening gloves are a must to avoid the spines. Some newspaper or cardboard will also be useful. Fold the paper into the shape of a collar and place around the cacti and succulents to support the plant itself. Your choice of container (terracotta, plastic, ceramic, tin) is not too important but the size and drainage is. It must have one or more holes in the base and only measure 5 - 10cm (2 - 3 in) larger than the last pot. Cacti and succulents like to be potted on slowly, not into extremely large containers straight away. In the bottom of the new container, use Searles Cacti & Succulent Mix. Supporting the plant in it's paper sling, gently remove the old pot and position the plant evenly in the new container keeping the soil level as it was in the old pot the same as in the new pot. Fill around the plant with more mix. Decorative stones and pebbles in various colours are a great compliment.
Don't water plants in immediately instead wait 3 - 4 days for root hairs to heal after repotting. This may prevent rotting after transplant. Repotting should be done annually. Watering plants will depend on lots of individual factors. Rainfall is one; if rain is bountiful don't water plants by hand. If rain is very heavy or persistent you may consider moving plants undercover to avoid excess water. Otherwise watering at least once a week in summer allowing soil or potting mix to be dry before repeating. In winter only water when mix or soil is dry. This may only be once every 2 weeks. Cacti and succulents definitely don't require saucers. Instead, they should be allowed to drain freely.
Fertilising is simple and should not be overdone. Apply Searles Flourish Cacti & Succulent Soluble Plant Food at an indoor rate once per month from spring through to autumn. For specific varieties suited to your area pop down to your local nursery.
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