Succulents and cactus
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Succulent plants and cactus are wonderful examples of nature’s adaptability as they have evolved to thrive in the driest parts of the world – places where most plants and indeed animals cannot survive.
To withstand such tough conditions, succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, roots or tubers, while cacti’s prickly spines are actually leaves that have evolved to catch dew drops as well as protect the plant from hungry animals.
It is these low maintenance and drought tolerant qualities – as well as their wide range of shapes, sizes and colours – that make succulents and cactus favourites for easy gardening, both indoors and outdoors.
What we call the spines on a cactus are actually a kind of leaf, and these spines are the difference between a true cactus and a succulent. Not all succulents with spines are cacti – ones with spines on the ends of its leaves are just succulents.
Shop the best succulent pots and cacti at one of Flower Power’s 10 Sydney stores.
How to grow succulents
Thanks to their huge variety of colours and shapes, as well as their hardiness and tolerance to drought, succulents are favourites with both experienced gardeners and novices for indoor and outdoor gardens.
It is important to plant succulents in well-draining soil; mixing sand or perlite into potting mix is a good way to achieve this, though you can also buy cacti and succulent-specific potting mix. Don’t worry about adding fertilizer or compost into the hole or pot, as succulents get most of their nutrients from the air and rainwater. If you're concerned about your plant getting enough nutrients, give it a half dose of slow release fertiliser in spring or early summer. Don’t overfeed succulents – they are hardy for a reason.
How to grow succulents in pots or indoors
Pick a pot suited to the size you want the plant to be – you can control how big the plant gets with the size of the pot as succulents will generally only grow to the size of their surroundings. Avoid plastic pots – terracotta makes the best succulent pots as it lets the soil dry out faster, and make sure your pot is free-draining, so your plant never sits in a tray of water.
If you're growing your succulent indoors, make sure it has plenty of bright light and air circulation to reduce disease. If it is not getting enough light, you may find it starts stretching out of its pot. Move it closer to the light as soon as you notice this.
Your indoor succulent may appreciate a summer holiday outdoors, just make sure you give your plant time to get used to being outdoors. Some succulents will get burnt if you put them into the direct summer sun – it won’t kill them but it will make them less attractive. When the weather turns cold, bring plants back inside to the warmth. Some need more light than others so be sure to ask a Flower Power expert horticulturalist for advice.
How often to water succulents
While it is important to give your plant water in spring and summer while it is growing, make sure it drains well and let the soil dry out completely between watering. As the weather cools, water it less and less, letting it dry out completely over winter.
How to grow cactus
When you buy a cactus from Flower Power, check the label or ask for advice from one of our horticulturists, but they are generally fairly easy plants to take care of. Cacti respond actively to their environment and many have a short blooming season immediately after heavy rains.
It is important to plant your cactus in sandy, free-draining soil – regular soil or potting mix will likely kill it. For that reason, it is best to plant your cactus in a separate bed, rockery or plant pot with a special succulent or cactus potting mix with plenty of sand or perlite. Cacti have shallow roots, so don’t plant them too deep or it may die. When handling cacti to repot them, you can wrap part of the plant in eight or nine layers of newspaper and tape it up, so you don’t hurt yourself in the process.
How to grow cactus indoors or out is the same; place it in full sun, or as close to full as you can manage, in a warm, sheltered spot.
How often to water cactus
During peak growth times and the warmer months, water your cactus regularly, but allow it to dry out completely between waterings. In winter, when the cactus is dormant, only water very lightly when totally dry. Your cactus does not need to be fed, but a half dose of a slow-release fertiliser during peak growing season will increase the likelihood of it flowering.
Come into Flower Power to learn how to grow cactus or succulent pots with ease, or shop our range online.