Tips for Growing Cacti and Succulents
Cacti shipped early in the spring may be dormant. As the weather warms, these cacti will expand and green-up. Remember, after an initial watering to settle the soil around the roots, no further water should be applied until the weather warms up. If plants are dormant and the spring weather is rainy, protect the plants from too much moisture by covering them with a gallon plastic milk container with the bottom cut out. Leave the top off the jug so heat build up isn’t excessive in sunny weather.
All the species of hardy cacti and succulents require fast-draining soil.
Planting in the ground
Put the plants on a slope or raised area of the garden, not in a low spot which collects water. Select a bed with full sun exposure, preferably next to a south or west facing wall. These areas will provide extra winter warmth. In heavy clay soils, it is essential to replace half or more of the soil from a 10”x 10” or larger hole with coarse sand and gravel mixed thoroughly with the remaining soil to ensure adequate drainage. No compost should be added, only a small handful of Planters II and Yum Yum Mix®.
Planting in an outdoor pot or planter
Use a planting mix of 3 parts garden soil + 2 parts coarse sand + 2 parts coarse perlite (or similar material). When growing plants indoors in pots, use a good quality potting
soil to mix with the sand, and expanded shale instead of garden soil.
1. Cacti, agaves, and tap-rooted succulents (Aloinopsis, Titanopsis, Nananthus) should be transplanted bare-root. Let the soil in the pot dry out for a few days. Then remove the pot and gently loosen the soil so it falls away from the roots. Trim off any broken roots. Bare root plants should then be planted into a shallow hole. Spread out the roots evenly and sprinkle the soil into the hole until full. The base of the plant should rest on top of the soil. Mulch with a 1⁄2”-1” thick layer of pea-sized gravel around the base of the plant to protect it from contact with soggy soil over the winter months. (See planting diagram on page 12 of our Planting Guide.)
2. Succulents with fibrous roots (Ruschia, Delosperma, Sedum, and others) need not be transplanted bare-root, instead, the root ball should be scored and roughed out like
1. Bare-root cacti and tap-rooted succulents must not be watered right away, but should sit dry for a day or two to allow the roots to callus over any broken or damaged
areas. Other succulents can be watered in right away. Water thoroughly with a mixture of SeaCom-PGR and Superthrive to stimulate strong new root growth. Water again with this mixture two weeks later.
2. Outdoor beds with new plants should be initially watered once every 5 to 7 days for the first month or so after transplanting. Cacti and succulents enjoy regular watering
during the heat of the summer and will grow vigorously. After the first year, most cacti species need a good soaking only once every 2-4 weeks during the spring and summer if there has been no rain.
3. Potted plants require more frequent, regular watering, especially if the weather is hot and dry.
4. To prepare cacti and succulents for the approach of winter, begin withholding water in the fall so the plants can begin to dehydrate and shrivel. Plump, well watered plants are ripe for cold damage when temperatures plunge in late fall/early winter.
Cacti and succulents are very modest in their fertilizer requirements. When planted in the ground, fertilizing in spring with SeaCom-PGR and Yum Yum Mix® will encourage plentiful flowers and good stem growth. When planted in pots, remember to feed monthly with the same mixture as above, beginning in late summer.
Garden plants: Many cacti and succulents are quite cold hardy if kept dry in the cold winter and spring months. In areas that receive a lot of winter and spring moisture
(especially rain), it is strongly recommended that plants be protected from cold, wet soil conditions. For example, a temporary cold frame can be constructed using pipe or
PVC hoops covered with a clear plastic sheet to cover the entire bed. Or individual plants can be covered with plastic gallon milk jugs with the bottom cut out to keep
the ground around the plants dry. Leave the top off the jug so heat build up isn’t excessive in sunny weather. Problems will occur if plants are in wet soil all winter or
sit under melting snow for extended periods.
Potted plants: Should be moved under a roof overhang on the south or west side of the house or placed in a well ventilated cold frame. Water pots and other containers lightly a few times over the winter during warm spells.
All our cacti, agaves and succulents are seed-grown or cutting-grown in our greenhouses. Cacti and agave plants are 2-4 years old; succulents are 1-2 years old. Please, never collect cacti from the wild unless it’s to rescue plants from construction sites. Many species are close to extinction in their native habitats due to irresponsible collectors.