How to Propagate and Grow Flowering Cactus/Cacti Plants
Cacti are popular plants that are grown in many countries. There are many collectors of cacti all over the world. Cacti can be grown indoors, outdoors and in greenhouses.
Pots and Containers
Most cactus plants grow best in containers. Small plastic and ceramic pots are suitable for small plants. Shallow containers are suitable for large clumping plants which spread sideways. Plants with long taproots may prefer to be planted in long toms. Larger cactus plants require full-depth pots with good drainage. Larger containers take much longer to dry out between watering than smaller containers.
Cacti can be grown in peat-based composts and soil-based composts. Peat-based soils are suitable for epiphytic cacti like Epiphyllums and Schlumbergeras. Other cacti prefer soil-based composts which are mixed with coarse sand and gravel to produce a free-draining mix. Ground pumice and perlite are also used in soil-based composts. Slow-release fertilisers are added to the compost for the plants to absorb slowly for up to 18 months. Most cactus plants are happy to be planted in the same container for many years.
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Cactus plants are best left to almost dry out completely between waterings. However, the different conditions need to be considered when watering the plants. Plants in smaller pots should be watered more frequently as they tend to dry out faster than larger ones. Porous pots like terracotta tend to dry out more quickly than plastic or glazed pots. Plants grown in hot areas with low humidity dry out more quickly than plants grown in humid areas. Plants grown in cold countries do not need to be watered frequently in winter because the plants tend to go dormant in cold temperatures.
Cacti grow very slowly and only need to be repotted every two to three years. When the plant has outgrown its container or the clumps look a bit overcrowded, it is time to repot to another bigger container. Watch out for spines when handling the plant. Some people use gloves and tongs when handling cacti plants.
There are three ways to propagate cactus plants.
- By Seeds. Cactus seeds are available from many specialist suppliers. To germinate cactus seeds, sow the seeds thinly on the surface of the cacti compost and then cover the seeds with a thin layer of grit. The optimum temperature for seed germination is around 21°C. It is necessary to maintain a fairly humid atmostphere for the seeds to germinate. The best way is to cover the pots with plastic bags or sheets of glass. Once germinated, the seedlings can be exposed to more light and air but they have to be kept moist at all times.
- By Cuttings. Cacti propagate readily by cuttings. It is important to keep the cut surface of the cutting clean. The cutting also needs to be left in the shade for three to four days to allow a dry callous to form over the cut area. Once the callous has formed the cutting can be planted into moist soil. Rooting powder is not really necessary for propagating cuttings but it may be helpful.
- By Grafting. Another way of propagating cacti is by grafting. This method is usually used on cacti species that are hard to propagate or weak growing species. A vigorous rootstock is required for this grafting method. The cutting is placed on top of the rootstock and then secured with rubber bands. This grafted plant is then left in a warm place out of direct sunlight for several weeks.
Basic Cactus Care Tips
Below are some quick and easy tips on how to look after a cactus plant. Follow the easy steps and you will be rewarded with blooming flowers from your cactus plant every year.
- Use a good quality cacti/succulent potting mix.
- Water the plant thoroughly when it is watering time.
- Let the soil dry up before the next watering.
- Feed with liquid fertiliser during growing season.
- Pot up every 2-3 years depending on growth.
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