cactus-food

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 »

fear-and-loathing-cactus

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-big

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 »

Prickly-pear-cactus

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 »

saguaro-cactus

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 »

Tag Archives: cacti

Desert cacti

Speaking about desert cactus species we can name the following: ariocarpus, carnegiea, cephalocereus, cephaloceus, echinocactus, ferocactus, opuntia, and some others.

Types of cactus: Echinocereus subirnemisWhen we hear the word “desert” we usually imagine Sahara or Kara-Kum with their scorching sand-dunes devoid of any vegetation. But the soil of stony deserts of Central and South America is very rich in all necessary salts for cacti. Though its contains very little amount of humus, water dissolves salts and the plant can absorb them.

But if rains are extremely rare here, where does water comes from? Plentiful dews, falling at night and flowing down between ribs of cacti, the night fogs accumulating on prickly stalks – this is a poor water diet of desert types of cactus growing in Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador.

Roots of many cacti of these places are radish-shaped and are capable to save water within, or ramify widely near the surface. To reduce moisture evaporation, cacti aspire to curtail the area of the stalk surface. That’s why they have either spherical or a short cylindrical form.

Desert cactus types are not afraid of burning sun: some of them have thick and dense thin skin, which becomes flat and “hides” in the ground for the period of droughts; some have high sharp ribs causing shade; others are covered with dense prickles or setae, looking like a brush.

For their correct development desert types of cactus require much sun, soil containing little humus and careful watering. They can easily die because of water stagnation in the ground even during summer heat.

Forest Saguaros

There’s such a popular belief that all forest cactus types are bare and defenseless. But it’s far from being true. There is a whole group of cacti named Hylocereinae or forest saguaros, which texture differs under the influence of life conditions. Here belong such cactus types as aporocactus, hylocereus, celenicereus, chamaecereus.

Types of cactus: Chamaecereus silvestriiForest saguaros have thin and flexible creeping stalks and air roots on them, which deliver additional moisture from the air. As a rule, saguaros grow close to the edges of the forest, where there is more light and the air circulates freely between the trees. In case of drought their stalks wrinkle, but with the first rain they become juicy and green again. That’s why these types of cactus belong to another group of cacti – to xerophytes. This group is much bigger than the group of epiphytes, and includes various species from different areas of habitation.

Hylocereinae already have the means of protection from the excessive water evaporation or overheat of the stalk. For example, grey wax bloom and short but strong thorns of celenicereus, a countless number of small setaceous barbs of aporocactus and chamaecereus, etc.

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!

Potting cactus in proper soil

Potting different types of cactus in proper soilDifferent types of cactus plants are quite exacting to the container they grows in. The size of the pot must correspond to the rootage of the plant. If roots are long and have a main spur, then you should choose a deep and narrow pot. If the roots are developed better in the topping and they are not very long, the pot must be wide and shallow. Growth peculiarities should be taken into account as well. For example, mammillaria generates a lot of bulbils in one pot, so you should choose a wide and rather shallow pot. It’s a matter of taste to choose what the pot is made of. I grow my cacti in square plastic pots standing on the trail. The soil in such pots dries up less quickly than in the earthenware. The drain ports and a drainage layer are indispensable conditions for all the sorts of containers where you grow cacti: they can’t bear water stagnation near their roots. Another advantage of plastic pots is that they warm up slightly in the sun, but retain the warmth after sunset for a long time. Besides, thanks to their square form they take half place on the windowpane.

While preparing the soil mixture for your cacti you should keep in mind one rule: soil must be coarse-grained and loose, spongy and absorbent, but it must not contain any organic fertilizer like manure, droppings or sawdust.

Organic fertilizers are rich in nitrogen, and cactus need in nitrogen is very scanty because of their physical nature. Even a little excess of nitrogen can lead to fatal consequences: the stalk grows rapidly, gets friable and watery. Fuzz and thorns grow weak and many sprouts and bulbils don’t develop to healthy plants. The skin bursts and it leaves ugly scars. These surfeited cactus plants die easily of any infection.

Making soil for cactusFor my collection I prepare the following mixture: leaf mold, clay soil, coarse sand, charcoal and broken brick (2:2:2:1) mixed with one teaspoon of slack lime and superphosphate. Leaf mold is rich in nutrients that are necessary for succulents. Moreover it’s friable and light and absorbs water well. It dries up quickly and prevents water stagnation in the pot. Clay soil (or garden loam) retains water and dissolved nutritive salts perfectly. Its tenacity and thickness plays a large role by planting of high and big cacti. Coarse sand makes the soil loose and porous. It’s an obligatory component of the soil for all cactus plants. Charcoal has an antiputrefactive action. Broken brick is of double importance. First, it’s pieces make the soil porous. Second, it’s very hygroscopic and absorbs superfluous water. Slack lime is necessary for the right metabolism and normal assimilation of nutrients. Superphosphate acidifies the soil, which is very useful for cacti.

Hope my tips will be of use for you and your prickly cactus friends. I’ll write about how to water different types of cactus next time.

See you soon here!

How to place different types of cactus plants

There’s no other houseplant like cactus that needs such a sharp distinction between winter and summer placing. In summer your cacti have to grow intensively, but in winter it happens quite on the contrary, and you need to stop their growth to avoid deformed winter increase and exhaustion.

In their homeland different types of cactus plants have a natural period of rest during summer draughts and with the first rains they start growing again. But we have to establish simulated conditions of rest in wintertime and in late autumn, when cactus plants are short of light for their normal growth. First of all, it’s necessary to reduce watering gradually, just to prevent drying up and withering of roots. Second of all, you should lower temperature on windowsills to 5-10 °C.The second condition is a must, because if you keep cactus dry by usual room temperature, its stalk will go on evaporating water, the plant will fade without watering and won’t rest. Low temperature slows down its breathing and metabolism process. If you organize wintering for cactus properly, your prickly friend won’t get dry. It will grow stout and ripen.

The easiest way to low down temperature on the windowsill is to set a light glass frame on its edge. It will protect your cactus from the heating battery. Thermometer is essential to control temperature during all winter. If it shows 5 °C, it’s better not to risk and to warm your window-frames with a woolen blanket, but not on any account you should remove the glass frame until central heating is cut off.

The same placing is suitable for spring and autumn, but without a frame. Cacti can hardly stand abrupt changes of watering and placing. That’s why the general rule in cactus care is a graduality in condition changing.

In summer cactuses need maximum of fresh air and sun. Fresh air comes first for a reason: only those collectors achieve proper growth, good fuzzing and flowering of their prickly friends, who keep their cacti in the open air twenty four hours a day during the whole summer. If you have no balcony, you can keep your cactus types on weatherboards of your windows or in boxes strongly fixed on the outer end. But in that case you will have to protect your cactus plants from the rain, dust and wind. I’ve made a polyethylene film cap, letting ultra-violet rays pass through. So now my cacti have beautiful big thorns, which they would have never developed under a glass cover. I also advice you to keep and carry all your cactus pots on a tray. It is safe and convenient.