Succulents and Cacti
A succulent, simply put, is a plant which has leaves or stemsthat are more than usually fleshy due to the development of water-storing tissue. Many plant families have multiple succulents found within them, including the Cactaceae (cactus) family. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
The varieties and features of succulents include little to no leaves, rounded leaves as well as stems as the main site of photosynthesis. They can be compact, cushion-like, columnar or spherical shapes. Succulents can be waxy, hairy or spiny and they come in a great variety of colours. Most succulents have shallow roots.
Succulents are easy to care for. They are generally pest resistant, hardy, and require little watering.
- Faded colors or turning yellow may be a sign that your plant is receiving too much light. These symptoms may also be a result of disease or too much water, so assess the situation before moving the plant to an area that receives less light. Always adjust one care factor, e.g. reduce water, to see if this has an improving effect, before adjusting everything at once.
- Plant looks ‘stretched’ out:If your plant looks abnormally tall/stretched out from the growing point, it is receiving too little light. Stretching occurs as the plant ‘reaches’ for the light source. If it is left in such conditions for too long it will suffer and look unsightly. Take note that it is normal for the plant to grow towards the light – however, you want to avoid conditions where it is abnormally so. Transition your plant to an area with more light, slowly, to avoid scorching. Rotate your potted plant regularly for a balanced growth.
- Spider mites:Infected plants often develop yellowish spots which later turn brown, scarring the plant. Spider mites are found in whiteish webs spun close to the plant’s surface. Although succulents don’t like to be misted, neither do spider mites. Mist the plant to rid it of spider mites.
- Wrinkled, dry leaves:This is a result of under-watering. Decrease the intervals between watering or give the plant more water at each watering. Within a week or two, the succulent will recover. If the plant is too far gone, it will not recover.
- Yellow or transparent leaves/Leaves feel soggy/leaves fall off easily,an early sign of over-watering is if the leaves fall off at the slightest bump or touch. Cut back on your watering.
Black spots on leaves or stem:You see soft black spots on the leaves or stem, the over-watering is getting severe and it will be more difficult to save your plant as it begins to rot. Cut back on your watering and consider changing to a better soil mix if the soil is waterlogged because it does not drain well. If you see black spots on the stem you will need to propagate the top section and replant. Remove any soggy or blackened bits from the cut-off section and allow it to dry well (3-5 days) before replanting.
- Origin: Worldwide
- Height: Varied
- Light: Place your plant in a space that receives bright light where it can receive at least half a day of sunlight. Some direct sunlight is preferable.
- Water: During the warmer, growing months, water your plant regularly – at least once a week. Give the soil a good soaking so that the water runs out of the drainage holes in the pot. During winter, succulents go through a dormant period and they will need less water. Increase the intervals between watering and let the soil dry out between watering. In general, don’t mist succulents.
- Humidity: Average to dry air
- Temperature: Temperatures of 21-26°C during the warmer months and 10-15°C during the colder months are suitable for succulents.
- Soil: Loose, well-draining soil is important so that the plant doesn’t sit in standing water. Cactus soil may be purchased or you can incorporate sand or gravel for better drainage. The pot you use should have a drainage hole.
- Fertilizer: During the growing season feed the plant a balanced fertilizer, which has been diluted to ¼ strength, with each watering. Don’t fertilize during the cold months.
- Repotting: Ideally, your plant should be re-potted every year to provide it with fresh soil, or a bigger pot if needed. Remove all the old soil mix, even among the roots. Use a think stick to clear the roots of old soil. After re-potting do not water right away, let the plant rest out of direct sunlight for a week or two. This will allow any damaged roots to heal.
- Propagation: Cuttings or division. As succulents grow in all shapes and sizes the way to propagate the plant will be dependent on which plant it is. Some leaves from a succulent can be cut and placed either on top of the soil or lightly penetrated inside some top soil. Roots, little ‘side’ plants or arms will soon emerge and form a new plant.
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