Care Instructions

Care for your plants

Care for your plant!

 

Watering and Fertilizing

During their growing season, these plants like regular watering and fertilizing. For most, the period of growth, from spring into fall. Many plants rest (stop putting on growth) from late Fall to early spring, when temperatures are cool and daylight length is short, and during mid-Summer, when temperatures are at their peak.

How often to water and fertilize: While growing, your plant should be watered by giving the soil a good soaking, so that water runs out of the 'drainage holes' of the pots. During the growing season, a balanced fertilizer, which has been diluted to 1/4 strength, can be added to the water for each watering. (A balanced fertilizer is one that has roughly equal proportions of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. A 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength is ideal.)

When the weather cools and day-length shortens, plants enter a rest period. During that time, increase the interval between watering, and let the potting mixture dry out between watering. Some people say that during dormancy, cacti and succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shriveling. Use some common sense here. If your plants are kept indoors on a window sill in a heated room during the winter, they will need more water than if they were over-wintered out-of-doors. In any case, do not fertilize your plants during dormancy.

There are exceptions to the above guidelines, as some cacti and, especially some succulents, are winter growers.  

Light

Place your plant in a place with bright light, but not direct sunlight, especially in conjunction with high temperatures.

While optimal lighting conditions depend on species, there are some general signs that indicate your plant is getting either too much or too little light:

Too much light: When your plant is getting too much light, it can appear "off color," taking on a "bleached out" look, or turning yellow or even orangeish. Keep in mind that these signs can also indicate other stresses, such as disease or too much water, so use common sense when making your diagnosis.

Too little light: If your plant is receiving too little light, it might etiolate and/or appear to really reach for the light source. (Etiolation is the condition where a plant becomes "drawn," for example, a cactus plant that is normally round begins to look as if it is being stretched out from the growing point at its center). Your plant will suffer if left in such light conditions for very long Note that in most cases, it is quite normal for a plant to slowly grow toward the light. What you want to avoid is the condition where it is really reaching for the light. For example, if your columnar cactus is bent toward the window at 90°, it's trying to tell you something. Soil: Cactus and succulent potting mixes are sometimes available commercially. There are some basic characteristics that a potting mix for cacti and succulents should possess. The soil should drain very well. The best way to achieve this is by adding sand and grit to the compost component of the soil. A good starting ratio for the mix's components are one third soil one third sand, and one third grit.

The sand component should be horticultural grade, relatively coarse, and sharp. Never use non-horticultural grade sand, such as fill sand, as this is usually not washed, and can contain, among other things, salt.

For the grit component, horticultural pumice or perlite is the best.  

Like everything else discussed so far, there are no hard and fast rules for potting mixes, so you'll need to experiment with ratios. The above ratio of components represents a good starting point.

Repotting: Ideally, your plants should be repotted every year so that you can provide them with fresh soil, inspect and address problems with their root systems, and move them to bigger pots if necessary.

To re-pot, invert the pot and gently tap it to loosen the soil and roots from the pot. If the plant is really root-bound, you might need to resort to breaking the pot to get the plant out. Be careful when doing this, as you want to minimize damage to the roots.

Repot the plant into the new pot, then place the plant in the pot with fairly dry, fresh mix.  Now, don't water the plant right away. Instead, allow the plant to rest out of direct sunlight for a week or two before watering it. This allows any roots that were damaged to heal, as unhealed wet roots are very susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.

Pests: Cacti and succulents are, no doubt, tough plants. They are, however, not without their problems. Aphids, snails, slugs, thrips, and nematodes are among some of the guests that can leave their mark on your collection. Below is a discussion of some of the more common pests to cacti and other succulents.

Mealy Bugs are tiny insects about 0.1 inch (3mm) in length, which shroud themselves in a oval-shaped, cottony covering. Minor infestations can be handled by dabbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.  Systemic insecticides are often used to control widespread mealybug attacks.

Spider Mites: Spider mites really tiny critters.These pests are often found in their whitish webs, which are often spun close to the plant's surface. Infected plants often develop yellowish spots which later turn rusty brown, scarring the plant overhead watering and misting is often listed as a preventative and a cure for spider mite problems. Mites are not insects, so insecticides often have little effect on them. The use of a miticide, however, is recommended for widespread problems.

Scale: Scale are pinhead-size insects that appear as raised tan or brown spots resembling marine limpet shells. The shells are actually hard coverings that protect the insects underneath.  Outbreaks of scale can be treated similarly to mealybug infestations.

Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are often a nuisance rather than a problem. When present, they are small black flies that can often be seen on and around the surface of the soil. In some cases, mostly when seedlings are involved, their larvae can cause damage and plant loss.