Growing Cacti and succulents – Cactus Plants Types

Growing Cacti and succulents – Cactus Plants Types

Cacti and succulents are well suited to house culture because they offer much in the way of interest, are at home in a contemporary setting and yet seem to adapt themselves especially well if surrounded by Victoriana. They are also welcomed for their hardiness and toughness under fluctuating indoor conditions.

Almost all these plants should have maximum sunlight and dry air and dislike stuffy damp conditions. Too little water should be given rather than too much, which causes the plants to rot. Frost is the only major hazard.

Cacti are almost all spiny, with perhaps the exception of Epiphyllum and Zygocactus. They generally take some time to reach any considerable size. The following selection are some of the more popular species.

Cactus Plants Types

astrophytum Astrophytum myriostigma is known by the common name of Bishop’s Cap or Bishop’s Mitre from the arrangement of the five deeply divided ribs. Its green appearance is subdued by a covering of white dots; each a small tuft of white hairs. It has no spines and will reach 20 inches, although most grow no larger than 4 or 5 inches. The yellow flowers generally appear freely on plants that are over two or three years old.

Cephalocereus senilis is known as the ’Old Man Cactus’ because of the long white hairs that completely cover the plant. Among the hairs grow numerous grey spines. It requires a warm sunny position and frequent watering in summer, taking care not to wet the hairs. It grows slowly.

Lobivia species are globular cacti, sometimes confused with species of Echirzopsis. The flowers range in colour from deep carmine or bright orange to pale pink or yellow.

Mammillaria zeilmanniana has a glossy green cylindrical body with short hooked spines. It grows freely and the plants will flower when only very small. The flowers are purple with a pale throat and appear at the crown.

Neoporteria species are at first globular and later become more cylindrical in shape. They are generally deeply divided by furrows and have woolly areoles with long spines.

Opuntia microdasys comes from Mexico and is a popular species of cactus. The many-jointed plant can reach a height of 20 inches and the joints can reach 4 inches across. The areoles are yellow, covered with numerous barbed hairs, which can easily penetrate a hand if they are lightly touched. The plant should, therefore, be handled with great care. The yellow flower rarely appears. There is a variety rujida, which has red brown hairs.

Phylocactus hybrids are characterized by having long branches that resemble leaves. In the natural state they are epiphytes and so should be grown in a fibrous soil, shaded from sunlight. The large flowers can be found in a wide range of colours.

Trichocereus candicans Trichocereus candicans can have columnar stems that reach 5 inches after a few years growth. The spines are yellow-gold and brown at the base and make this an attractive plant to grow. It branches from the base and has large, white, lily like flowers.

Zygocactus truncatus is one of the most popular cacti, especially since it flowers freely during the winter. It is commonly known as the ‘Christmas Cactus’ or ‘Crab Cactus’. The branches are segmented and new plants can be started off by placing one or two segments in a suitable growing medium. It is often confused with species of Epiphyllum and Schlumbergera.

Most succulents are suitable for growing as separate pot plants as they will grow into fairly sizeable specimens quite quickly. They also appear attractive with selections of other plants. Some of those suitable for house cultivation are described as follows.

Agave ferdinandi-regis produces a rosette of very hard leaves, along the edges of which are narrow white lines. At the tip of each leaf are two or three small spines. It does not grow very large and can be kept for a long time in the house. It should have a winter temperature of not less than 10° C.

Aloe variegata (Partridge breasted Aloe) has dark green, stiff, keeled leaves, banded irregularly across with white markings. This is the show piece of the family and has loose spikes of orange-red flowers in spring. A. humilis is a dwarf plant, with very thick, blue-green leaves and white teeth along the edges. There are many varietal forms. A. mitriformis grows upright with a stem and has spoonshaped leaves edged with pale yellow teeth. The aloes like sun, free watering in summer, little in winter and a temperature above 7°C.

Crassula arborescens Crassula arborescens will tolelerate a wide range of conditions and is very suitable for room culture. To induce the pinkish-white flowers to appear, the plant should be kept cool and dry in a bright situation. There are innumerable species belonging to this genus, all popular and easily cultivated. Two more recently discovered species C. arm and C. calumnaris have a resting period in the summer and should have a winter minimum temperature of at least 10 deg C.

Cotyledon undulata is widely grown. The leaves are close together on a short stem and have white wavy edges and a waxy coating over the whole leaf. To preserve this covering, plants should be watered from below.

Echeveria species are innumerable and can often be grown outside if they can be wintered under glass. They can be propagated by division, from leaf cuttings or from seed. Echeveria elegans has very regular dense rosettes of leaves, each of which has a distinct point. They are often slightly translucent and reddish around the margins. E. pulvinata has the leaves covered with white hairs, which gives it a felt-like appearance. Older leaves turn brownish. The flowers are produced on long leafy stems.

Gasteria verrucosa are invaluable for collections as they will tolerate shade. A minimum temperature of 8°C is adequate for the winter, providing the plants are kept dry. There are many popular species in this genus and this particular plant has 4 to 6 inch long leaves covered with white warts. The upper surface is grooved.

Kalanchoe is a genus of half-hardy succulent plants found chiefly in tropical and South Africa, Madagascar and eastern countries. Their great attraction lies in their attractively coloured leaves and sometimes their bright scented flowers. K. blossfeldiana is probably the most successful as a house plant. It is a small shrub about 12 inches high, from Madagascar, producing many stems with dark green notched Kalanchoe-beharensis-variegata leaves edged with red, and panicles of small orange-red scented flowers, in the winter months. Two more kalanchoes, K. beharensis and K. tomentosa are also native to Madagascar. The former has stems up to 2 feet tall and large, heart-shaped, toothed leaves that are rust-red with fine hairs in youth, turning white later. The latter plant is about 18 inches high with thick, small, oval leaves. Silvery hairs give a plush-like feel and are rust-red at the tip. This plant is grown for its foliage as it will not flower.

Kleina articulatu (Candle Plant) is a succulent sub-shrub, native to the Canary Islands and South Africa. It grows with erect, round, jointed glaucous-blue stems covered with a grey waxy bloom, which earns it the name Candle Plant. It grows during the winter and produces small leaves, which soon wither, and long-stemmed corymbs of yellowish-white flowers. These plants should be given as much light as possible with a minimum winter temperature of 7°C. Moderate (once a week} watering should be given during the winter and a brief rest after flowering. Propagation is by summer cuttings.

Lithops is a generic name derived from the Greek ‘lithos’ meaning ‘stone’ and ‘ops’ meaning ‘like’. They are commonly known as living stones and the bodies of the many species may be solitary or in clumps. Water should be withheld during winter. The plants usually make new bodies in the spring and nutrients are obtained from the old plants, which eventually become skins that are split open by the developing young leaves.

Sempervivum soboliferum Sempervivum soboliferum (the Houseleek) has flattened rosettes and can usually be grown outside in a rock garden. Clumps of plants are easily separated or single rosettes detached and rooted. S. arachnoideum is another popular species that has stem- less rosettes, which have each leaf terminating in a long, silky, white hair. This gives it the appearance of being covered with a spider’s web.

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