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A Cactus and Succulent Lover's Dream  
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Turbinicarpus panarottoi RH 151
Turbinicarpus panarottoi RH 151
Turbinicarpus panarottoi RH 151

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Because there are so many succulents and cactus, you should know something about them before you shop for plants. Study photographs and information in books and online, then decide which plants you want.


Good light is essential for the best growth of succulents and cactus; therefore it is wise to select plants according to your window space and available natural light. Choose those kinds that can be expected to succeed in the environments you can provide. Although optimum conditions are always desirable, some plants will adjust to less-than-favorable environments. In such situations your plants will not grow as well or bloom as profusely as you might like, but they will survive. Light affects the color of foliage and the formation of flower buds. In sun, leaves have strong color and there is abundant bloom; in dimmer light, plants are somewhat less colorful and flowering may be sparse, if at all. Turn potted plants occasionally so that light reaches all parts of the foliage evenly. The exception to this is plants that are ready to bloom: Do not move them, as the change in light can cause buds to drop. Jungle cacti, such as the Christmas cactus or Epiphytic cacti, don’t need quite as much sun. They’re accustomed to growing under trees or in tree canopies. If cactus or succulent's new growth looks spindly, thin, or misshapen, then it most definitely needs more light.


Planting or replanting a cactus need not be the hazardous task that the spines suggest it might be. A folded newspaper works very nicely; with this you can completely encircle the plant and lift it by holding the folded paper ends, or you may find it easier to grasp the plant with the folded paper between the plant and your hand. Heavy work gloves will allow you to handle most kinds gently without the spines penetrating to your hands. Kitchen tongs, too, can be especially helpful; those which hinge at the center and are operated like scissors are best. A newspaper "chute"or large, narrow funnel is the simplest convenience for filling soil in around the roots of a cactus you are repotting.


It's easy to propagate your favorite succulents and cacti; they are often so prolific with offspring that in a short time you may find yourself with a wonderful abundance. Even though you can buy nursery stock, there is something satisfying about propagating your own plants. Often rare or difficult species are nearly impossible to find, so multiplying your choice plants becomes the simplest if not the only means to obtain more of the same varieties. There is little cost in propagating your own plants, and you do not need special equipment. You can grow succulents and cactus from seed, start them from cuttings, or graft them. Each method has different advantages. Sowing seed is inexpensive and you get many plants. The stock is generally clean and free of pests, and with certain varieties the only way to be sure of having the true form is to raise plants from seed. Taking cuttings for new plants is perhaps the easiest and most popular method of propagation. There is no waiting for months (or even years) for growth and bloom; some species from cuttings make blooming- size plants in a few months. Grafting plants is an exciting adventure in which you bring together two plants to grow as one. Start seeds in spring or very early summer so they will have a chance to grow before cold weather starts.


It is a good idea to check the plant for mealybugs and scales from time to time. These tend to lurk in hard to see places, such as in the rosette, around the base of the leaves, or on the underside of the foliage. A cotton swap dipped in rubbing alcohol and carefully applied to the mealybugs helps counter these. The best way to prevent them is with proper air circulation / ventilation.

Neem oil is a good product to use against pests; it is not man-made and doesn't harm the environment. ('In India, the tree it comes from is variously known as "Sacred Tree," "Heal All," "Nature's Drugstore," "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases." Products made from neem tree have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties: Neem products have been observed to be anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptive and sedative. Neem products are also used in selectively controlling pests in plants. It is considered a major component in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin disease' - from Wikipedia)


Some cacti / succulents / bulbs 'shut down' during dormancy and appear dead. The vines or leaves drop off or they stop growing. No need to despair. Some are winter growers and some have other growth cycles. Read as much as you can about your plant selection and water accordingly. Most dormant plants need little to no water during dormancy. If you succumb to the impulse to water them you may end up destroying them. Err on the side of not watering.


Read up on the requirements of your cacti / succulents and exotics. A good idea is to create sections in your grow area grouping those that require more water to those that require less. Good water is slightly acidic. A steady diet of alkaline water causes cacti / succulents / etc. not to grow nearly as well. It is in fact detrimental to their health in the long run. Rainwater is a good thing for plants; if possible collect rainwater and save for watering. All plants can be watered from above; in nature rain falls from above (even in the desert). Avoid "blasting" tender seedlings but rather mist with a spray bottle.


A good soil contains a mix of standard 'cactus soil' along with perlite, gravel, broken pot pieces and other well-draining materials. Too much sand can weigh down your soil and prevent good drainage. A good idea is creating a layer of pebbles or small pot fragments at the base of the pot before adding the soil mix. This allows for water to filter out more quickly.

Overwatering or keeping plants water-logged causes root rot; this is the #1 cause of death in plants. Look for pots that have adequate drain holes.

You can use top-dressing to enhace the look of a specimen and add unusual rocks or shells or other well-sterilized material for visual appeal.


Select a pot that is not too large for your cacti; some prefer to be pot-bound. A plant with large tap-root will require a deeper pot. Lithops display nicely in shallower pots.