Cactus and Succulent Gardening
Cacti and succulents are a group of plants that come in many varieties of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. The distinction that they all share in common is that they possess fleshy leaves and stems that store water. Understanding their basic requirements is essential for meeting their needs for successful cultivation and you'll find they are fairly easy to grow. Then you'll be rewarded with all the beauty and splendor they have to offer.
Cacti and succulents require fast draining soil. For container planting you may use a ready mix cactus soil, or a potting soil amended with sand, gravel, or volcanic rock to ensure adequate drainage. Perlite and pumice are also commonly used. For planting in the ground, add sand, gravel, or lava rock in sufficient amounts depending on the density of the soil. Always check the area for low spots where water may collect and not drain properly. They do not tolerate having their roots remain wet for extended periods.
They can be planted in almost any type of container that allows for adequate drainage and should generally be wider than deep, since their roots ten to be more shallow. Try not to use over sized pots as the extra soil tends to stay wetter and will not dry quickly.
Selecting Cacti and Succulents
Purchase plants that are healthy with full leaves and good color. Check for damage and any symptoms of disease or bug infestations. Plants should be transplanted with care as to not damage tender parts. Roots do not generally need to be pulled apart when planting and the top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil. Do not bury stems or lower leaves. After transplanting, do not water them for several days in case of any damage that may occur during planting. This allows any wounds to callous and heal over to prevent fungal infections.
Watering and Fertilizing
Water directly onto the soil rather than overhead as the plants do not care to have sitting water on their leaves. This also helps minimize leaf rot. Wet the soil completely so the water flows through the drainage holes. Allow the soil to dry completely between watering. Fertilize monthly during growing seasons using a specific cacti and succulent formula or a half strength solution of an all purpose fertilizer.
Most cacti and succulents prefer a bright light. Many are tolerant of full sun , but others prefer filtered afternoon sunlight. Species that grow well in full sun tend to take on deep color tones during warmer seasons. Often gradual exposure to sun is necessary to prevent sunburn on newer plants. Cold tolerance can be an issue if you live outside a frost free area. Depending on the hardiness of the species, covering with protective cloths or structures may be needed on nights with freezing temperatures.