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Succulents & Cacti

Cacti & Succulents are widely diversified groups of plants with many unusual and even bizarre shapes and forms. All Cacti are considered succulent, however not all succulents are cacti. Succulents are known as survivors because of their water storing abilities and their tough exteriors. Succulents store water in their leaves, so they can often be identified by thicker, plump foliage. Many Succulents look like Cacti, but if they do not have small bumps – or areoles – from which spines, hair, leaves, and flowers grow, they are not a cactus. Succulents are also native to most parts of the world, but cacti are only indigenous from Alaska to Chile in the Western Hemisphere. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have never found a native cactus, but Canada has found several that have evolved to survive Canada’s freezing winters.

LIGHT: Cacti & succulents need the sunniest spot in your home to flourish. Too little light will result in spindly, soft growth. Turn your pots every so often to keep the plant from becoming lopsided. If introduced to the light gradually, they enjoy the summer outside.

WATERING: The key word to watering cacti & succulents is restraint. In winter, when most of these plants are dormant, watering once a month is enough for all but those in the smallest pots. As for the rest of the year, water about once a week unless there are conditions of excessive dryness or high temperatures, then water more often. Cacti & succulents should be plump and well filled with water. If they are puckered: increase waterings, wetting soil thoroughly, but let excess water drain into a saucer.

FEEDING: It helps to feed cacti & succulents about once a year or so in the spring when they are starting to grow. Use a high phosphorus fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen types. It is always better to feed too little rather than too much. Never feed a resting cactus or succulent.

POTTING: Since cacti & succulents do not like wet soil, it is best to keep them in the smallest pot practical for the size of the plant. For small plants, put them in a pot no larger than one inch wider than the cactus. For tall plants, select a pot that is a third to half as wide as the plant is tall. Clay pots are best. The best time to re-pot is spring. The only other housekeeping chore required of a succulent keeper, is the cutting away of dead and dying portions. Always cut at the nearest joint, uniting them to the main body of the plant. Under-achieving portions should be removed.

COMMON PROBLEMS: Cacti & succulents are basically easy care, low maintenance plants. However, they occasionally do have problems.

YELLOWING: Due to lack of iron, yellowing is treatable condition. As soon as you notice your cacti or succulent is yellowing, apply iron sulphate or iron chelate. Apply iron compounds in diluted liquid form, then repeat treatment once a year in the spring.

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