Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cactus Maintenance

I am a huge fan of all kind of cacti, sometimes called Succulents.  I find them intriguing.  They are relatively easy to grow.  Some are slow growers, others a little faster.  But they are all beautiful and majestic.

A quick lesson in cacti and succulents.  “What is the difference between a cactus and a succulent?” Cacti are native to North and South America.  Succulents grow everywhere. There is a difference in the way that the thorns of the plant are attached. Cacti thorns emerge from a pad. Succulent thorns are an extension of the body of the plant.  Most succulents can only tolerate temperatures down to around 50`F, but there are some cacti that can handle temperatures down into the 40’s.  Just remember if you decide to grow cacti or succulents that they are plants.  They have similar needs to other plants: water, food, air and light. Cacti and succulents are, of course, adapted to fairly extreme conditions but they cannot thrive, no matter where they are grown, without these elements.

No cacti or succulent grow in a true desert.  Most grow in what is usually described as semi-desert, i.e., there is rainfall for at least some number of months in the year. The soil in these places are usually relatively poor in humus, but are often rich in mineral nutrients.  Many cacti and succulents can grow in wetter areas than their natural habitat.  Cacti and succulents are adapted to absorb and store water from the rainfall so that the plants can survive throughout the dry season.

I have a large Euphorbia cactus that I bought several years ago that has grown by leaps and bounds.  I am not certain where I got this plant.  I would venture to say at Lowe's since I do a lot of shopping in their garden and houseplant section.  In the beginning it fit perfectly in this metal pot.  But over the years it has outgrown the pot.  Plus the bottom rusted and fell out of this container.  So it was time for a re-do.

I found this wonderful clay pot in the shed.  This has held many different plants over the years.  I cleaned out the potting soil and left just a small bit covering the pea gravel at the bottom.

Then we added a bag of this Cactus, Palm and Citrus Potting Mix.

I thought it would be difficult to remove the cactus from the metal container since it had been in there for so long.  But it turned out to be not difficult at all.  It took very little effort for the root ball to slip right out.  I left a good amount of the existing potting soil around the roots system so as not to shock it too much in its new home.

We filled the pot halfway with the cactus potting mix and made a large indentation in the center in which to sit the root ball.  Ever so gingerly I lifted this massive cactus up and then down into the pot.  I held it in place while Steven poured a second bag of cactus potting mix around the root ball and then tamped it down tightly with his hand.

Euphorbia Cactus

After I felt it was well secured in the soil, I let go and it stood on its own.  We added a layer of cyprus mulch for added stability.  I will add decorative rocks to the top over this coming weekend.

I will leave this out until we have reports of frost.  It will be brought in for the late fall and winter and placed on the plant ledge in the kitchen.  More on that over the coming couple of months.  I suggest giving cactus a try in your home and garden.
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