Succulent Care Through the Year

January/February

Succulent plants, such as this Aloe, store wat...

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Epiphyllums, Zygocacti, Rhipsalis and climbing cacti, the leafy Euphorbias, Crassulas, Echeverias, and Conophytums may be given a very light watering with lukewarm water once or twice during the month if the weather is really fine and sunny.

Ventilate on sunny days and lightly spray your collection of plants, but it is essential that all surplus moisture should have dried away before sundown.

Make plans for the sowing of seeds. Consult the catalogues and decide on the varieties you wish to purchase and grow. Seed-raising is one of the most fascinating phases of the hobby. Keep the temperature of the greenhouse, if the plants are grown there, about 400 to 42° F. during this month.

The growing season is approaching and much useful preparatory work can be done this month. Seed and potting composts can be purchased ready mixed, or they can be mixed and got under cover so that, without drying them out, the winter chill has been taken off by the time you wish to use them. Pots and pans can be scrubbed and sterilized.

The greenhouse can be cleaned up. Wipe down the window-panes to admit more light. Check up on your plant labels and names, and it is beneficial to the plants to stir the soil on the surface of the

H pots, using tweezers or a small fork; this is in order to aerate the soil, and so encourage healthy root growth. Whilst doing this, observe any signs of mealy root aphis attacking the roots, and if any are discovered, set the affected plants aside, later to be cleaned and repotted.

Towards the end of the month, start to sow seeds of succulent plants. Germinate in a temperature of 70°to80°F.

MARCH

This is a busy month for the enthusiast, for some species of cacti commence new growth. Start to repot any plants requiring it. Sow more seeds.

A little water can be given to the general collection about once a week. Avoid splashing water over the plants, for if it remains on the plants overnight there is a risk of rot setting in, but a light spraying early in the day when the weather is fine will do no harm.

As light is an important factor to the growth of plants, keep the greenhouse glass clean in order to admit all the light possible. Your plants are still tender from the lack of light and sun during the winter, and some shade may be required in really bright sunshine, but as plants become used to more light, the temporary shading can be dispensed with.

APRIL

Continue to repot plants. After repotting, do not water them again for a few days. It is usual to repot small plants annually and larger ones every two or three years. This month tall-stemmed Echeverias can be beheaded and rooted afresh to make neat short-stemmed plants. Dry the tops after cutting them off for a week or longer, to ensure a good callus. Root the tops in dry sand or vermiculite.

At the beginning of the month, withhold further supplies of water from Conophytums. These should now remain dry until August.

MAY

The majority of succulent plants should now be growing well, and many varieties will be in flower.

Watering may be done once a week. The frequency, however, depends on weather conditions, and to a large extent upon your soil, as some soils retain moisture longer than others. When watering, water well and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

Towards the end of the month, Lithops may receive their first watering of the year, provided most of last year s leaf pair has dried away, but water should be sparingly given at first.

By the end of the month give plenty of fresh air to the plants when the weather is favourable, but avoid draughts.

Keep a sharp look-out for pests which may now become active, particularly the mealy bug and red spider.

Continue with the sowing of seeds.

This is a good time to take cuttings. Sometimes an old plant which looks unhealthy can have its healthy parts cut off and these treated as cuttings.

JUNE

Your plants can now be watered once or twice a week, and an occasional light spraying will be beneficial, but avoid flower buds or flowers, for water may cause damage to them. Air should be admitted freely.

Throughout this month, and until the end of August, continue to take cuttings. Besides Cono-phytums, Pleiospilos should also be kept dry until the end of July. Succulent plants are sun-lovers, but there are a few that prefer light shade. Of these, Epiphyllums, Rhipsalis, Ceropegias, Gasterias, and Haworthias will respond better in shade than if grown in full light.

Epiphyllums should now be in bloom. Cuttings of these can be taken this month.

This is an ideal month for grafting. Many species of succulent plants like to grow out of doors in summer. Choose the sunniest part of the garden and sink the plants in their pots into the soil, or, if this is not possible, place the plants in any sunny spot out-of-doors.

Echeverias, Pachyphytums, Sedums and Crassulas propagate easily this month from leaf cuttings. Euphorbia cuttings can be rooted. When these are selected they should be taken at a junction of a branch or section with the main stem. They are apt to be slow to propagate, partly because of the abundant latex that exudes from the cut surface. Sometimes, if the cutting is given a quick dip into water, this will remove the latex and stop the flow. Dry the cuttings thoroughly for two or three weeks before placing in the rooting material. Bottom heat is helpful to quick rooting, and the cutting should not be buried but should rest on the surface of the compost, held in position by a small cane.

AUGUST

Epiphyllums should now be given a period of rest for a month or so. This is a good time to repot those plants requiring it. Usually the new shoots appear in late summer. The plants will benefit greatly if, for the next few weeks, they can be placed out-of-doors in some shade.

Start to water Conophytums and Pleiospilos. Anyone going on holiday this month need not worry about leaving their plants providing they plunge them, pot and all, out-of-doors in the garden, and give them a good soaking before leaving home.

SEPTEMBER

Succulent plants which flowered early in the season such as Echinopsis and some of the Cereus, should be repotted early in September rather than in the spring, otherwise flower buds are apt to dry off. After repotting do not water again for a few days in case of rot setting in, following possible damage to the roots. Many plants continue to make strong growth and, although, we are still having sunny days, the nights are getting longer and cooler. Great care should therefore once more be exercised when watering. If the weather is dull and cool, reduce the watering to about once a week. Avoid evening watering. Soon the plants will be resting, and it is necessary now to start preparing them for the winter s rest. There are certain exceptions, however. Stapelias flower well this month and still require fair amounts of water. Kleinias, Senecios, and Crassulas are at their best and need reasonable amounts, as do Lithops and Conophytums.

At the end of the month, bring any plants you may have had in the garden, or outside the window, back to the window-sill or the greenhouse.

Watering must now be reduced, but such plants as Epiphyllums, Rhipsalis, Kleinias, and Conophytums should continue to have a reasonably moist soil. If heating apparatus is used in the greenhouse, this should be checked over, for soon you may want to use it. Keep a sharp look-out for sudden early frosts. A double layer of newspaper round or over your plants will give some protection if a sudden fall in temperature is expected and you have no heating. When the curtains are drawn, plants growing on a window-sill should be protected from frost and draughts by bringing them into the room. They should never be left between the curtain and the window-frame as on cold nights there is always the risk of frost near the window.

On really sunny days, you can still give a little water to plants where the soil has dried up unduly, but great care is necessary not to overdo it.

Epiphyllums, Zygocacti, Rhipsalis, Echeverias, Crassulas, Kleinias, Senecios, Haworthias, Aeoniums, Euphorbias, Conophytums, can have an occasional light watering to prevent them shrivelling. Endeavour during the month to keep the air, especially in the greenhouse, as dry as possible. High temperatures are unnecessary, for the plants will winter safely at 400 to 42° F.

Zygocactus plants will be showing buds, and a fortnightly feed with a liquid plant food will be beneficial to them. As the buds are very delicate and are drawn towards the light, every care should be exercised to see that the plants are not turned, but remain always in the same position, otherwise the buds may drop off.

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