Succulents are those plants that somehow have the ability to store water (moisture) in special tissues. Stem Succulents do that in a thickened stem or trunk (most cacti and Euphorbias), leaf succulents do that in thickened leaves (Crassula, Echeveria, Agave) and root succulents do that of course in their underground parts (Pterocactus tuberosus).
All cacti form the cactus family (Cactaceae). The non-cacti are usually called succulents, although we should really say sap plants, these come in several families such as the afternoon flower family, the thickleaf family (Crassulaceae), the silk plant family and the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae).
Where do the succulents come from?
They can be found all over the world. Many think that they all come from arid desert areas, but sometimes they are in places where there is more precipitation per year than in Belgium. However, this precipitation then falls in a relatively short period, in which these plants absorb enough water to overcome the next drought period.
All cacti come from America. They occur from Canada to Argentina and Chile, from the high mountains to sea level. It is clear that within such a distribution area there are enormous differences in climatic conditions and soil conditions. The cacti found in other areas (Mediterranean) have all been imported.
Also many succulents are from the new world, Agave, Echeveria, Dudleya and Lewisia to name a few. Africa supplies us with the afternoon flowers, many carrion flowers, aloes and spurge. Asia and Australia supply only a few varieties.
A sunny windowsill or bay window provide a good place for cacti and succulents. Since a lot of light is needed, a location on the south, southeast or southwest is the ideal solution.
Garden and balcony
A small part of the succulents is hardy and can therefore be used in the garden. Many enthusiasts place their cacti and larger succulents in the garden between the border plants or on the balcony during the summer.
But as a true enthusiast who has the space for it, a conservatory is of course the place to house his or her collection.
Growth and rest times
Most cacti and many succulents have their growing period in our summer. This means that growth will gradually start during the spring months. The main growth is then in the summer months, sometimes with a short rest period in the heat of the summer, then slows down and finally comes to a halt in late autumn and winter. Winter rest is essential for most plants. A temperature of 6 to 8 ° C is sufficient for them. Many species tolerate even lower temperatures, provided they are sufficiently dry, other species such as Melocactus and Uebelmannia must have higher temperatures around 15 to 18 ° C.
The following combinations of factors always belong together:
- Winter: rest, no water, little light, low temperature.
- Summer: activity (growth and bloom), more water, lots of light, higher temperatures.
Watering is one of the most difficult things in the cactus hobby. Here are a few tips:
- only pour during the growing period
- only pour when necessary, so when a plant is dry
- pour more as temperatures rise and less as they fall. So little water in the spring and autumn and more in the summer.
- it doesn't matter whether you water from above or below. However, it is better not to pour hairy and white frosted plants
- in the summer it is best to thoroughly wet the entire collection.
- if you have a lot of lime in the tap water, do not pour too much on the head. It is better to use rainwater or well water at the right temperature
- during the rest period one does not water or very little (a few species) so most plants (cacti) are dry from November to about mid-March.
- spraying is always possible in preparation for the real casting.
In nature, the plants can develop their roots unhindered. They look for food in all directions, even if they grow in crevices they still have plenty of opportunities to find food.
In a pot, however, the roots cannot leave so that they fill the pot completely or even grow out of it after a while. In addition, after some time the soil will become saturated with lime or fertilizer residues.
When to repot?
In principle, this is possible all year round, even in winter, but then the soil must be dry and have the same temperature as the old soil. However, the best period is from March to September. However, never transplant plants that are in bloom. I transplant myself when I have the time.
Cuttings from cacti and succulents is generally very easy. Cuttings are best done in warm and dry weather. With cacti and succulents that form side shoots, one can cut off a shoot with a sharp knife, often they already have roots, and are then planted in cuttings. Certainly not in water because then they are guaranteed to rot.
When you have made a wound, you must first let it dry until a wound tissue has formed. If the cutting is sufficiently dry, it can then be potted.
Certainly do not water when a cutting has just been potted.
If the plant looks tense and new growth appears, the cutting is rooted and you can water it again and it can also tolerate some nutrition. Succulents can even grow further from a leaf that you simply place on the ground. And in my conservatory, they even grow in the dirt between the grates at the bottom of the hallway. You see, apparently everything should not be so sterile. As long as the plants are strong and healthy enough.
To get more plants quickly, you can cut off the head of a larger plant and let it root. Shoots will then be formed on the remaining piece that you can also take cuttings later.