Cactus Food on Your Breakfast Table

Everybody knows that cactuses are prickly. However, the fact that they are also an important source of food is far less popular. Stems, fruits and seeds of cactus have been have been More »

Psychedelic Cactus Adventure

We are human beings and, as the Eden’s incident proves it, it’s typical for all of us to cherish a desire for something forbidden and adventurous within. How about growing a plant More »

Mountain cacti

Have you ever been to or have you ever seen the pictures of the Andes or the Cordilleras? These are the places of such cactus types as astrophytum, cleistocactus, echinopsis, lobivia, notocactus, More »

Did you know these prickly things?

We all got used to cactuses as original and beautiful houseplants. So when we hear the word “cactus” we usually think of those natty prickly green things in small pots on our More »

Taking care of saguaro cactus

When you hear the word “saguaro” you probably imagine a large, tree-sized cactus with a mighty ribbed stalk that grows in the Caribbee coastwise. I also once thought that all representatives of More »

Category Archives: First Steps

How to Take Care of Your First Cactus

First cactus careI suppose, nearly every person at least once in his or her life tried to grow a cactus at home. It is even possible that this attempt was successful, and the unusual plant still pleases an eye while standing on the windowsill. But more often the first experience is a complete failure, especially if you the plant was give to you as a present and you were completely unprepared for that. I would like to give some practical advice to those who wants to keep his “firstborn”.

To begin with, your cactus baby might be of Dutch, Chinese, or Iranian descent. Or it might simply come to you from your grandmother, what is, oddly enough, much more preferred in this situation – just because it grew up under our sun, in our soil and sucked in our water. But, wherever it comes from, it must be first properly transplanted. Chinese cactuses are often sold bare-root, what is not bad at all – you are not buying a pig in a poke, but have a good opportunity to pick up a healthy plant with strong roots.

A cactus plant from Holland will quickly poke out of the pot with a lump of peat. After that it must be carefully cleaned starting from from the roots. The same thing must be done with a plant from Iran. But in case of “grandma’s cactus” you will probably have to work hard while trying to pick it out of a tin.

A healthy cactus plant usually has a plenty of roots. But if you see short and weak and pity rootlets or fail to find them at all while removing the plant from the pot, don’t be too much upset – this is not the end. Put the plant upright in a bright but not sunny place for 3-5 days. Don’t worry, it will do it only good.

But if the roots are all right, you can safely proceed to transplanting. In order not to overload you with all sorts of professional details about the proper soil for cacti, I will put it short – the substrate should be composed half of washed river sand and half of mountain foliated soil. Both components can be easily found in the mountain area. It is best to avoid clay pots – plastic ones are more suitable in our climate.

Don’t forget about the drainage. It could be a few potsherds, fragments of bricks, stones, or pieces of foam. When planting make sure that the roots of a cactus are not bend upwards. It’s better to cut them out, if they are already very high. Another important point: the substrate must not be above the root collar, a place where the roots actually begin. If the root collar looks ugly, or the cactus is unstable, you can put some stones around it. They will not only serve as decoration, but also won’t let water wash away the particles of soil and significantly reduce evaporation.

Well, we finally came to the stage, when the biggest mistake is often made. DON’T water the cactus right after you finished transplanting! Make a pause of 3 and more days in case of tiny seedlings and up to several months for large plants. 7-10 days will be perfect for a cactus with the size of a small apple. To make it easier for the plant in these waterless days, put it in a bright but not sunny place and slightly spray it with warm water from time to time. When the waterless period is over, start watering with a small amount of water gradually increasing the portion. Also make your prickly friend accustomed to the sun gradually preventing it from getting sun-burnt, otherwise the scars will stay forever.

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Arranging greenhouse at home: cactuses and succulents

Hanging cactus typesEvery year different types of cactus plants and succulents become more and more popular as house-plants. And it can be easily understood: the variety of extraordinary forms of these plants, their slow growth, their unpretentiousness and relative resistance to insects and disease have contributed to their popularity in flats and houses.

Well, I’ve already pointed it out in What’s Cactus? that all these different cactus types are succulents, but not all succulents are cactuses, and we should keep that in mind. A succulent is any plant that can keep water either in its roots, leaf or stem.

Most types of cactus and succulents can be raised on a window-sill. As a matter of fact, succulent plants need bright light and should be exposed to sun at least 4-5 hours a day. It is advisable to turn the plant and change its place every few days. But remember, the so called tropic cactus types, such as Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas cactus, should only be raised in filtered light. For such succulents as Gasterias, Aloes and Haworthias direct sun is also nit recommended.

One more important tip to remember – never let succulents and cactuses stand in water. They should be watered only if soil is dry.  The planting pots should have good drainage with good soil and sand.  Never fertilize soil in winter, when the plant rests.  Soil should be fertilized only in late March to October.  Different types of cactus plants should be repotted once a year.  New post should be clean and contain new potting soil.  Nevertheless, cactus and succulent plants can be planted in the same pot, but be careful to take plants with the same light and water demands. You can look more “fast tips” in ABC of  Cactus Care.

Tropic cactus types as well and many other succulents look marvelous in hanging baskets. These cacti usually flower in the short days of fall and winter. Holiday cacti (Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving cactus) planted that way will be the best decoration of your house especially if there’s not sufficient amount of space. Look around. It often happens that there’s an empty corner or window-sill in your living room, bedroom or sitting room that needs “something.” Cactus and succulent plants are undoubtedly that “something” that you might need!

Why collecting cacti is so amazing

Why is collecting cacti so popular? I think that the answer to this question lies in versatility of cactus collecting.

Echinocereus reichenbachiiI believe that almost every man has something of a collector inside. It is always interesting to collect things. If it is not done mechanically it can be very useful: how many new things people collecting stamps or coins can learn out of their hobby!

Each collector has a goal – to find this or that item that is missing in his collection. And at the same time when this goal is achieved, the collector starts looking for another item that can be even more difficult to get. Ad infinitum.

From the point of view of the collector, cacti represent the greatest interest: in fact there are more than three thousand cactus species, so there’s always something to look for. By the way, still nobody has a complete cactus collection at present.

If we take cognitive value of cactus collecting , perhaps, cacti have no contenders in this respect. In contrast to coins or stamps they are alive, they require a closer and more careful approach. It is necessary to understand their needs, “tastes”, even “whims”, and for this purpose you will need a great experience and knowledge.

That fact that a cactus lover deals with alive plants seems to me very important also because everyday care for cactuses, observation of different phases of their development, germination of seeds or unwrapping petals help the person to get closer to nature, to get to know pleasure of a gardener, and this pleasure can be yours everyday throughout the whole year. Cactuses don’t require much space and can grow in room conditions. A large collection of cacti can be easily placed on a window-sill.

It is impossible to ignore the aesthetic side of collecting cacti. I don’t know why cactuses are sometimes called “green freaks”, but I know for sure that those who call them so never saw cactuses as they really are: all what they saw is just emaciated echinopsises and clumsy prickly pears. I’m delighted with cactus plants – they have sculptural cleanliness of the form, generous richness of colours and filigree and lacy patterns of fuzzes and thorns! To say nothing of flowering: cactus flowers are the finest in the world: they have characteristic metal shine and a nacreous transparency of edges.

The most interesting thing is that the beauty of cactuses is not seasonal, as it is in case of deciduous plants. Cactuses are equally beautiful throughout the whole year, if kept and cared properly.

And last but not least, there’s one thing that makes collecting cacti pretty much different from, say, collecting postcards, ancient porcelain or Chinese masks. You can look for, buy, exchange, classify and describe all these items, you can become a real expert in the given area, but you will never feel happiness of creation that every cactus collector can feel. And it’s a real happiness when you have the opportunity to create a beautiful plant from a tiny seed or a cutting, and the entire process of such creation is in your hands.

How I began to collect cacti

Pediocactus simpsonii (a difficult North-American echinocactus)As it always happens in life, just when you cease to believe in luck it comes to you out of the blue. It came to me from my best friend, a charming and incredibly fussy woman, always having something new and interesting in reserve. During one of our meetings she spoke about the guitar she bought and her first attemts to play it. Naturally my first question was about her progress as a guitar player. But she only waved away and said that there are much more interesting things, for example, cactuses. “I collect cacti. Do you know what a cactus is?” she asked.I was sure I knew and I told her confidently everything I heard about the subject matter: “Well, it is something… prickly… and round?” And then she told me that cacti are not necessarily round, they also can be long and flat and even like a “cat’s tail”. I listened to her with bated breath. Eventually I went to look at her cactus collection the same evening.

Coming back home and looking at the streets in twilight I tried to contemplate my impressions. Certainly, I saw different cacti before. But it was for the first time that I could see such a great variety of them so near and in the same place. I liked them very much as they reminded me of something dear and lovely that I could not remember.

At that moment I caught the contour of the trees standing on the twilight streets and understood everything. They reminded me of children’s drawings, so simple, laconic and expressive at the same time.

A week later I called my friend and told her that I also wanted to collect cacti and asked her what my first steps should be.

“First of all buy tweezers to pull thorns out and then come to me with a big basket – I will give you my collection.” she said.  “They have bothered me. I’m pricked like a pillow for pins, and they die for some reason. And besides, I have a crab that I’m much more fond of now. Her name is Lisa and she is horribly angry! I keep her in the jar with sea-water. So funny to look how she swallows up worms!”

Thus I became the owner of a pretty large cactus collection. I washed and cleaned my cactuses, rearranged and replaced them. I asked all my acquaintances and friends whether they know people who have cactuses, and whether it is impossible to get a cutting or a shoot for me.

So I became a recruit in the numerous army of cactus collectors.