The Ultimate Cacti and Succulent Care Guide - Ivy Nook

The Ultimate Cacti and Succulent Care Guide

They may be some the easiest plants to care for, but no-one likes to be forgotten about!

Take a look at our top tips to keep your cacti and succulent babies happy.

How to water cacti and succulents.

It’s true that cacti and succulents can survive a few skipped waterings, they store water in their fleshy leaves to help them survive in their natural settings - usually dry, arid landscapes.
If you want them at their best, it is still a good idea to keep up with their watering needs. If the soil is completely dry, then they will require a thorough water. If the plant is in it’s own pot, then placed in a decorative pot, allow the plant to drain any excess water out to avoid root rot. Then repeat when the soil is completely dry.
You can water from the bottom, place the pot in a bowl or on a plate of water and allow the plant to sit for 15-20 minutes to soak up the amount of water that they need before removing it.
If your cacti or succulent is planted directly into it’s decorative pot and there are drainage holes in the bottom, the same processes can be followed above. If there are no drainage holes, water sparingly weekly to avoid water sitting at the bottom of the pot.

Will cacti and succulents grow in shade?

Cacti and succulents are best suited to bright, sunny spots whether that is indoors or outdoors. This will allow them to carry out their natural life cycle and keep them in peak condition.
There are some varieties of cacti and succulents that will grow in shady spots. These include Sansevieria (Snake Plant), Sedum Morganianum (Burro’s Tail), Haworthia Fasciata (Zebra Cactus) and most aloes.
Cacti and succulents that won’t tolerate shade include Echeveria, Aeonium and most cacti varieties.

Why is my succulent growing tall?

This is a common symptom of the plant not receiving enough light. Instead of the compact, rosette formation it should be, the stem has started to shoot up and get ‘leggy’ searching for light.
If this has happened to your succulent, it will need moving to a bright windowsill to recover. In extreme cases, the plant may need re-potting if it is starting to resemble a tree! See below for details on re-potting succulents and cacti.

Why is my cactus or succulent going brown?

If your cactus or succulent is going brown, this is usually a sign of root rot and the most common cause is over watering. Other signs include drooping, going soft or clear signs of rot and discolouration on the stem.
However all is not lost! You can try and re-pot your plant depending on how far the rot has spread - see below for re-potting instructions.
If your succulent leaves are turning brown, this can be a sign of normal growth. Older leaves will turn brown and drop off with age, as new growth stems from the centre of the plant. Best practise is to check the stem and main growing area of the plant for signs of rot. We are always happy to offer advice so if you want a second opinion send us a photo and we will be happy to have a look!

How to re-pot your cactus or succulent.

Remove your cactus or succulent from it’s original pot carefully, so as not to disturb the roots. Put some cacti and succulent soil mix into the base of the new pot (if the pot has no drainage holes, ensure the bottom of the pot has a good layer of stones/pebbles to allow the water to drain away from the soil), then place your cacti or succulent onto the soil. Carefully fill in the gaps around the plant with more soil, firming with your fingertips as you go, until the soil is level with the top of the pot and base of the plant. Take extra care to firm the soil around the base of the plant to ensure it is stable - if you are re-potting a cactus be sure to wear gloves!
You may need to re-pot your plant to save it from lack of light or root rot, if so you need to take a clean cutting from the healthy part of the plant. Look on the main stem for where the issue starts and using a sharp knife, make a clean cut slightly above this to make sure the plant is still healthy. Then leave out to dry for a day or two so that the end of the cutting can callous over to encourage root re-growth. After a couple of days, place the calloused end of the cutting into some cacti and succulent potting mix and after a couple of weeks your new plant should start sprouting new roots and continue to grow!

Succulent cuttings and propagation guide

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

How to propagate succulents and cacti.

To propagate your succulent, gently remove some healthy leaves from the plant and place them on top of some dry cacti and succulent soil. After a few days the end will dry and callous over, at this point you can either leave the leaf where it is and after a few weeks you will start to see new root growth. Alternatively once the end has dried and calloused, you can then plant this into a dry soil mix for the roots to grow and a tiny new plant start to appear! Do not water the soil for a few weeks to avoid rotting, and only in small amounts until the plant begins to establish.
Some succulents are propagated by stem cuttings, these are when the plant offsets smaller plants from the stem or base. If the plant offsets from the base, carefully remove it from it’s pot and gently pull the offset away from the main plant, ensuring care is taken not to damage roots and roots on the new plant are retained. You can then repot straight into it’s new location in cacti and succulent soil mix.
If you are taking a stem cutting, ensure you make a clean cut with a sharp knife against the stem of the mother plant to avoid any damage and carefully place the new plant on top of some cacti and succulent soil. Again leave for a couple days to allow the end to callous, then place the end into your soil mix and wait for a week or two before watering to allow the new plant to acclimatise and begin to establish. Water in small amounts to begin with until you notice that the plant is beginning to show strong signs of growth, standard watering can then be resumed.
To propagate your cactus, you will need to make a clean cut across the body of the plant with a sharp knife, before leaving the end to dry out and callous over for a few days. Then place the calloused end of the cutting into some damp cacti compost mix and root growth should begin after a few weeks. In this time water sparingly on a weekly basis, just enough to keep the soil moist but not wet and in a few weeks your new plant should begin to show signs of growth. The base of the plant you cut will look strange for a while! However new growth will start to appear.

Will cacti and succulents grow outside?

The majority of cacti and succulents will thrive being outside when the conditions are right. Late spring, summer and early autumn here in the UK will provide ideal growing conditions to put your cactus or succulent outside so that they can reconnect with their natural growth cycle. Some succulents are winter hardy, Sedum and Sempervivum are a good option, although not all are evergreen and will die back over winter. The Echeveria genus also has a good choice of hardy varieties, including ‘Lilacina’ and ‘Topsy Turvy’, as well as a range of Agave plants, that will not lose their leaves over winter. Note that in extreme cases of wet weather (snow, prolonged cold rain etc.) it is best to provide your succulents with sheltered protection to avoid rot.

Where do cacti and succulents come from?

The majority of cacti and succulents originate in hot, arid landscapes that receive little rain. Common places around the world where cacti and succulents grow naturally include Central and Southern America (including the Agave and a lot of Echeveria species), the southern states of the USA including Texas, Arizona and California - home to a large population of cacti, Aloe and Crassula. South Africa has a large variety of native succulent species, including Conophytum, Haworthia, Aloe and Crassula. Finally the majority of Aeonium species call the Canary Islands their home, with some also being found in Madeira and Morocco.
It is important to consider where a particular species of cacti or succulent originates for us to provide a similar habitat, enabling them to thrive in our homes.

Feature image by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

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