I’ve been online shopping again. The last time I did this I ended up with 600 terracotta plant pots couriered to the door. This time I have been bulk buying cacti and succulents from Poland. I did have a slight feeling of ‘why did I do that’ but it was nowhere near the same intensity as the pots.
The plants in question were only about 2 cm in width and height so take up very little space. Unlike the pots which take up the garage.
I ordered 35 small cacti and 25 succulents. They came very well packed in a box half the size of a shoebox. The cacti are about two top three years old and all have roots, not the largest but enough to secure them firmly into multi cell modules trays that I have. In a way I feel as though I have gone back to my roots, so to speak, as cacti and succulents were the first plants I grew as a youngster. They are pretty robust and can stand the neglect of not watering them every week. In fact from November to March you really don’t have to water them at all unless they are close to a radiator.
Succulents have to be attended to a little more often though but as long as the soil dries out in between watering and the roots are not constantly in water, they usually give trouble free displays all year round.
I’ve been playing with the soil mixture. Most books and the Internet all say different percentages of grit, compost, sand and feed. I’m just using what I have around me to come up with what I feel is the best for my plants (cheapest option). This consists of sieved sand to get 2-5mm grit, coir compost, but any will do, and some horticultural grit mixed together. Peat is good as it keeps the soil slightly acid which the plants enjoy as it releases nutrients easier for them. I’m not adding any plant food just yet as I think the lack of nutrients will entice the roots to grow faster as they look for food. I can be so cruel sometimes. Some other alternatives would be pumice and perlite to aid soil aeration.
For those of you with an interest in spiky plants (not for the feng shui lovers) here are a few simple tips to get the best out of the plants.
Succulents and cacti enjoy being kept in a light, airy position all the year round. A south-facing window is ideal for most types, although plants like Aloe will be quite happy in more shaded areas.
In general, to keep looking healthy, a succulent plant should have sunlight falling on it for at least part of the day.
Many would be quite happy with either morning or afternoon sun in an East or West window. I have taken to putting my large Mother in Laws Tongue outside this summer and it has really benefitted by a bit of fresh air and rain. I think most succulents would be the same as long as they are taken in when it gets cold and stay well drained.
Rain water is always better than tap water if you have a choice.
Once flowering size is reached, they will flower every year and some even twice in one year. Many cacti reach flowering size at two years old, while some take ten years to mature.
To produce flowers, some cacti need a cool, dry, rest period in the winter. A cool bedroom is ideal for this. Given this rest each season, and plenty of sunshine, many varieties will flower on a windowsill, although there are some that produce better results in the greenhouse or conservatory.
Most of the plants can withstand full sun but leave airflow or they will cook. In the winter, most plants are happy if kept at above 5ºC if dry.
When to re-pot?
The plants are not too demanding and can be kept in very little soil. But like all plants that will grow better (and happier) if there is a bit of spare compost for them to grow into. Unless you want bonsai plants, repot them every year into a slightly bigger pot.
Take cuttings during the active growth period – that is in spring and summer. Take the cuttings (stem or leaf cuttings) on a dry, sunny day (so the cut surface forms a callus quickly) Succulents will grow better if the leaves are not put into soil, leave them on a plate. When you see roots appearing on the base (in about 3 weeks), pot them carefully into slightly moist soil. Cacti can have offshoots that can be placed into sandy compost. I have a packet of free seeds from the Polish suppliers. They are called Astrophytum mix. I’m not sure what to do with them so I will have to go online to look. Hopefully I won’t have to go on any sites that are trying to sell me things. I have enough to be getting on with!