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 (Crasulla, Echeveria, Agave) and root succulents do this of course in their underground parts (Pterocactus tuberosus).
All cacti form the catus family (Cactaceae). We usually call the non-cacti succulents, although we should actually say sap plants, these occur in various families such as the afternoon flower family, the thick-leaf family (Crasullaceae), 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 with more rainfall per year than in Belgium. This precipitation does occur 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 introduced.
Also many succulents are from the New World, Agave, Echeveria, Dudleya and Lewisia to name a few. Africa supplies us with the midday flowers, many carrion flowers, aloeids and spurge flowers. Asia and Australia only supply a few varieties.
A sunny windowsill or bay window provides a good location 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 are hardy and can therefore be used in the garden. Many enthusiasts put their cacti and larger succulents in the garden during the summer between the border plants or on the balcony.
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 know their growth 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 hottest of summer, and then slowly decreases and finally stops in late autumn and winter. Winter rest is essential for most plants. They are then sufficient at a temperature of 6 to 8 ° C. Many species can tolerate even lower temperatures, provided they are sufficiently dry, other species such as Melocactus and Uebelmannia must have higher temperatures of 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 flowering), more water, a lot of light, higher temperatures.
Watering is one of the hardest things in the cactus business. Here are a few tips:
- only pour during the growing period
- Only pour when necessary, so when a plant is dry
- pour more when temperatures rise and less when they fall. So little watering in the spring and autumn and more in the summer.
- it does not matter much whether you water from above or below. However, it is better not to pour white-haired and white-frosted plants over
- in the summer it is best to pour the entire collection thoroughly wet.
- if you have a lot of lime in the tap water, do not pour too much over the head, it is better to goat with rainwater or well water at the right temperature
- during the rest period, no or very little watering (a few species), so most plants (cacti) are dry from November to about mid-March.
- spraying is always possible in preparation for the real pouring.
In nature, the plants can develop their roots unhindered. They go in search of food in all directions, even when they grow in crevices they still have plenty of opportunities to find food.
In a pot, however, the roots cannot leave, so that after a while they fill the pot completely or even grow out of it. In addition, after some time the soil will become saturated with lime or fertilizer residues.
When to repot?
In principle, this can be done 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.
Cacti and succulent cuttings are generally very easy. Cuttings are best done in warm and dry weather. With cacti and succulents that form side shoots, a shoot can be cut off with a sharp knife, often they already have roots, and are then planted in a cutting soil. 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. When 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 tolerate some nutrition. Succulents can even grow from a leaf that you simply put on the ground. And in my conservatory they even grow in the dirt between the grids at the bottom of the hallway. You see, apparently everything shouldn't 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, which you can also use later on.