A long-standing passion - a passion most people find utterly boring and something only a cactus-lover will understand - THE LOVE OF CACTUS. So maybe this post is not for you, but if it is, read on!
It all started in the 1980's, when my (well-meaning) father gave me three Echeverias in a pot. I couldn't turn them down and hurt his feelings, but I had NO interest in those three succulents! When I got home, I hastily stuck them in the ground in some far-away corner in the garden, hoping they would disappear.
A few months later I was working in the garden and decided to do something about that 'little lost corner' of my garden. Upon investigating, to my surprise, the three Echeverias had multiplied and there were dozens of them, all displaying the most gorgeous little pink bell-shaped flowers on long stalks. I was hooked! I mean, forgotten and neglected, NO attention whatsoever, yet they blossomed forth with the most gorgeous gifts. I felt so guilty I almost cried!
Now those spiky flat coins and furry ground knobs make me go nuts. Finding a new specie not in my collection is like striking gold - my stomach churns, my heart starts pounding and I just HAVE to have it!
I can spend hours fiddling with my cacti and succulents, removing seedlings and siblings from the garden and potting them in terracotta pots, I have displays all over the house, on various patios and in my garden shed. You'll find them on window sills, tree stumps, on little tables, in terracotta pots, jam tins, glass jars, buckets, cracked coffee mugs, on wooden palettes, on my desk, next to my computer, in fact, anywhere there is a flat surface! And heaven forbid I come across someone selling them at a market stand, I could buy up all their stock!
'They' say "It takes real guts to love a cactus!", but I have found it the easiest thing in the world!
I need to get some more!
On the left and right some Crassula and in the centre some Cacti and Haworthia in an enamel bowl on my patio table.
Separating plants also gives one a chance to really study them, perhaps do some research and get names and some interesting information you might not have known before.
Echeverias in an old dog basket
Besides using bought or brand-new pots, it's a lovely challenge coming up with some innovative ideas of what to plant them in. Old shoes, baskets, wheelbarrows, enamelware, wooden crates, hollowed out logs, tea cups, coffee mugs (if they're not going to be standing out in the rain), the possibilities are endless. Many succulents and cacti can grow in very shallow soil so even a chipped vintage saucer can be used.
Obviously one thing to keep in mind is that the container needs adequate drainage. Normally, apart from a few exceptions, cacti and succulents don't need all that much water as many of them store water in their leaves, very water-wise plants! And they are so easy to care for. As long as they have adequate sun, or enough light if you are keeping them indoors, a bit of water, maybe some dappled shade, they will provide you with years of beauty and enjoyment.
Do not use regular potting soil. Succulent plants have a need for a well draining soil, whereas most house plant soil is the opposite. Succulent soil should be approximately 1/3 regular soil, 1/3 horticultural pumice or gravel, placed right at the bottom of the pot to aid drainage, and 1/3 horticultural, coarse sand. Compost is not necessary as this can do more harm to your succulent than good. Too much compost can kill your plant.
You can find some more information on caring for your cacti and succulents at "Cactus and Succulent Society"
Crassula Imperialis - this dainty succulent grows and spreads beautifully in the garden provided it gets enough water. They are also self-seeding.
Crassula and an aloe in a bread baking tin on the patio
Bunny Ears cactus - a fairly new acquisition so I'm still not quite sure what its preferences are. The yellow parts is the original part and all the green is new growth over the past two seasons.
A new Rattail Cactus in the making. Just stick one of the tails in some soil and soon it will make new ones. But be careful, not matter how careful I am, gloves and all, I ALWAYS manage to get some thorns on my hands! The only thing I have found that helps to get rid of them, is scrubbing my hands with a nail brush and soap.
Echeveria glauca cascading out of an old piece of found concrete
Echeveria glauca growing in my wooden wheelbarrow
Echeveria glauca planted in an old printers' tray
Echeverias in a wheelbarrow enjoying the companionship of the Nasturtiums
Haworthia and cacti in an enamel bowl
Gasteria - these no-fuss little succulents need shade or dappled sunlight, so are often found in the wild growing under bigger plants for protection
Haworthia in a terracotta pot
Haworthia Cymbiformis in pots in the garden
Old Man (or bearded) cactus - I still need to gather some info on him. But I do know he likes sun and a fair amount of water.
Euphorbia in my bathroom where it gets morning sun - also a recent acquisition and I need to do further research.
A collection of succulents on a plant stand under some trees awaiting a perfect space
Sympervivums and Crassula in miniature terracotta pots
Crassula on my potting table
Echinopsis cactus in my garden with lots of babies ready to be harvested!
A transplanted baby Echinopsis cactus
Echinopsis cacti in full flower - these large flowers completely dwarf the cactus and unfortunately only last a day or two.
One of my Rattail cacti before flowering
One of my Rattail cacti in full flower standing on a white-painted log on the patio. I bring them inside every winter and as soon as I take them outside in spring, the flowering starts.
My other Rattail Cactus in full flower on the patio table. These cacti tend to get a bit messy-looking, with spent flowers (and seeds) sticking to the tails, which also sometimes die on their tips, so I usually do a good clean-up at the end of summer and early spring by removing spent flowers with a pair of long tweezers and cutting off any dead pieces.
My Barrel cactus in the garden before the shade over-took it
One should approach a Barrel Cactus with extreme caution. A puncture to human skin from one of the spines is considered a 'dirty wound'. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, antibiotics may be needed; and could take several months for the wound to heal properly. Barrel Cactus plants are one of the more dangerous Cacti.
My Barrel Cactus now completely covered in new babies - hmmmm, now how on earth can I steal one to start a new one...?
Using an old table outside
"Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus!"