Saturday, January 31, 2004

Cacti and succulent tips

Water: Over watering is the most common mistake people make with cacti and succulents. Plants need to dry out between waterings.

In winter, horticulturist Mark House lets the Krohn Conservatory's desert room cool down. He waters once a month. Beginning in March he gradually increases watering to every two weeks.

Spring and summer House waters once a week. He feeds once a month with a low-nitrogen content fertilizer. In fall he gradually decreases watering to once a month.

Growing mix: House uses organic matter mixed with sand and coarse gravel to promote drainage. Other cacti enthusiasts have various recipes calling for sand or vermiculite or perlite in soil-less potting mix. Good drainage is key.

Pot: Don't use too large of a pot. The plants need to be pot-bound. After repotting, don't water the plant for about one week.

Light: Cacti need plenty of light. A south-facing window is perfect. If you don't have a south window, an east or west window works - especially for plants that adapted from the desert to the jungle, such as night-blooming cereus.

Handling: Be careful when handling cacti. The sharp tips can go through a leather glove and penetrate your skin.

Some euphorbias have a milky white sap and could be toxic if consumed by a pet, House said.

Propagation: To propagate, cut a piece off the plant and set it aside for one to three weeks. Let the cut heal over and pot. Wait a week before watering.

Information: The Cactus and Succulent Society of America's Web site is

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