Cactus and succulent gardens

Cactus and succulent gardens

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cacti can be distinguished from other succulents by the small tuft of felt or hair at the base of the spines called an areole. The spines are partly for protection and partly to help the plant gather moisture from dew in the desert -its natural home.

General care

Cacti and succulents can both survive a lot of neglect, but will flourish and flower regularly if given attention. They should be treated as normal houseplants in summer and watered frequently. They require plenty of air, and in the winter time should be allowed to dry off. They flower after new growth and prefer to be pot-bound. Plants over three or four years old should produce flowers every year.

How to plant

Cactus gardens are always popular and are best planted in a shallow bowl to allow little root growth. Use a potting compost mixed with an equal quantity of sharp sand and choose plants to give a mixture of shapes, sizes and textures. A suitable selection would be opuntia, espos-toa, echinocactus, cereus and rhipsalis. The top of the dish or bowl can either be dressed to look like a desert with sand, gravel and one or two small protruding rocks; or in the style of a Japanese garden, with little ornaments such as figures, bridges, temples and a mirror. To complete these gardens, top dress with coloured stones.

Looking after the garden

Cactus gardens should be watered sparingly, as there is no natural drainage in a bowl and cacti will rot if waterlogged.

Dust by using a small, soft brush, but be careful as the spines of the cacti can be dangerous.

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