Expert Advice

Cacti at Home: The Pleasure of Succulents

Exceptional plants for beauty and resistance, cacti lend themselves to ignite curiosity: here are which ones to choose and how to treat them.

The charm of cacti is linked to their legendary ability to survive in extreme conditions of heat and drought, to which are added the sculptural and extravagant forms and, at times, a surprising flowering. But that’s not all: some cacti also have the virtue of purifying the home air of toxic factors, and their moderate need for care makes them ideal for those with little time and little patience.

Simple rules for growing cactus and succulents

First of all, it is worth clarifying that “cacti” are not only thorny ones; succulent plants are belonging to the Cactaceae family, almost all originating from Central America, and succulent plants (succulent, that is, with fleshy leaves) belonging to other species. Aloes, for example, are not cacti, as are some types of spurge. They share some basic needs with Cactaceae. If they are grown at home, definitely very bright positions are needed, even with direct sunlight from a window. In these conditions, they do not go completely to rest and require very little water every 10-15 days (it depends on the size of the jar, the amount of light/sun and the ambient temperatures). If instead, they are in a position with little light, the temperatures must be very low, around 10-15 °C,

Fertilization and repotting

Small cacti grown at home deserve fertilization from April to October; it is suspended in winter unless it is a succulent that blooms, such as Kalanchoe and the Christmas cactus. A dose of fertilizer monthly is sufficient for them. repotting should be done if the pot is decidedly undersized compared to the size of the plant; the new container must be equipped with a layer of clay marbles on the bottom, as drainage.

How to obtain flowering

Some types of Cetacean and succulents do not bloom in pots, others can only do so after many years. But some (Mammillaria, Notocactus, Echinops and the “living stones”, Lithops, manage to bloom. The formation of the buds is favored by optimal cultivation conditions in the summer period (sun and moderate but regular irrigation, avoiding long-suffering from dehydration) and an autumn period in cool conditions: this favors the formation of flowers, which often appear in winter, but not in all species and varieties. When choosing, it is, therefore, advisable to ask for help at the point of sale to identify the types of cactus that more easily they are brought to bloom even in the non-ideal conditions of our apartments.

Cacti for children

Perfect plants for small gardeners, cacti are ideal for children. For the little ones you can choose the varieties without thorns, easily available in the garden centers and on the stalls of specialized nurserymen; the older ones will surely be conquered by the strangest and thorniest cacti and, with the help and advice of the adult, they will soon learn to take care of them.

A special case: aloe

Famous for its therapeutic virtues, aloe is truly indestructible. It is enough to wet it very little in winter (just a little water once a month if it is indoors in a warm and bright place) but in summer, if it is in the sun and a well-drained pot, regular watering will help it grow well with beautiful fleshy leaves, in which precious healing and cosmetic properties are hidden. If the aloe is stored in the winter in a bright but cool environment (however it must be above 7-8 ° C), the watering can be suspended from November to March. In summer, it is good to fertilize once every 20 days with liquid fertilizer for succulents.

Expert advice

• A custom-made substrate is essential for repotting: Loam for succulents is ideal for all types of cacti and succulents in general.

• fertilization requires the use of Manure succulents liquid, or, to simplify the treatment, supplement in drops Plants Grass: simply place in the soil a vial to obtain gradual nourishment which is expressed in 15-20 days,

• Have you noticed the presence of small, apparently motionless white insects? They are mealybugs, very common on succulents in the home. General Universal insecticide comes in handy: it must be administered after cleaning the plants as much as possible from the insects, removing them with a brush to pass between the thorns.

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