CACTI

These greenhouse perennials are a class by themselves, growing slowly, of solid texture, having spines, some varieties flowering only at long intervals, and though a general even temperature must be maintained by day and night — say 45 degrees F. — they thrive if given plenty of air during periods of sunniness. The greater number are grown in pots; some of them are of small size, others of climbing habit. For growing soil, a gritty compost with some brick dust added is suitable. They require water, applied lukewarm through a syringe, during the early summer at the time of new growth, and from autumn till March very occasionally a little water may be given to prevent a bone-dry condition. Repotting can be done from March to May, using sizes only comfortably taking the roots. Cacti that are backward or look out of condition are best given a fresh start in new pots, after shaking out all the old compost, the composition being six parts fibrous loam and one part each of brick dust and charcoal. Propagation can be by cuttings, grafting, division or by seed. The last is slow though less complicated, but many prefer to experiment and need not be deterred from the other ways of increasing which mostly succeed. Sow in a sandy compost, well-drained, using small pots, in the warm house in spring. If making cuttings, the length taken varies according to variety, from I in. to I ft., but all need care in adjusting watering so that there is only little moisture. Lay cuttings on a sunny shelf for an hour or two before inserting in pots, or on sunless days put them there for a couple of days to evaporate a percentage of the sap. In grafting, the spines can be used to fix in. The most useful general purpose variety is Epiphyllum, but note it requires slightly more moisture than the more specialist kinds. Catalogues from nurserymen who specialise in these plants offer a wide range of species, varying in habit and colour. Many species can be grown in rooms. A window-sill is the best position and it is vital to guard against draughts and frost. Turn the pots round periodically to ensure that each side secures sufficient sunlight.

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