I 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.
Free-wheelingly translated from www.flowersweb.info/cactusclub/interesting/experience-1.php
Image is taken from www.flickr.com/photos/mybloodyself/4686898430/