Here comes autumn: what treatments can we do to protect succulents and reduce losses?

With the beginning of autumn almost all succulent and cacti begin to prepare for the vegetative stasis which will last until February/March. In the winter months, cacti (with some exceptions such as Melocactus, Discocactus and epiphytes such as Epiphyllum) and many succulents (with the exception of those originating from the southern hemisphere or areas such as Madagascar) stop growth and go dormant to recover energies and be able to flourish during the following season. In these months the plants should be kept cold and should not be watered. However, it is useful to carry out some preventive treatments to prevent the formation of mold or fungi during these months, thanks to the winter humidity, which, when the temperature start to rise, triggers rot. Warning: preventive treatments with chemical products can be useful but do not necessarily have to be carried out. It is simply a preventive measure, since the best form of defense is always the spartan cultivation of plants accompanied by a good exchange of air during autumn and winter. There are growers who limit these treatments to the essentials, perhaps favoring products with a low environmental impact (I myself have adopted this decision for years) and growers who abuse chemical products in the hope of thus making their plants invulnerable to animal parasites, fungi and mold.

In this article, which completes what has already been explained in other articles (which you will find thanks to the internal links) we see what is advisable to do in these weeks to protect the plants and limit losses due to rot or parasites as much as possible. (…)

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Towards summer: useful tips for taking care of cacti and succulents and avoiding nasty surprises

After an almost non-existent, anomalous and ugly spring (at least here in Italy), the temperatures have risen considerably and we are heading towards summer. In some respects, the most delicate period for cacti and succulents, i.e. the transition between the end of winter and the vegetative restart, is now behind us and the next few months will be rather “quiet” for those who cultivate these plants. In fact,  the main commitments will concern watering and fertilization, since repotting should by now be completed and treatments against pests and parasites can be given when necessary and not systematically. Even in the period of full vegetation of cacti and succulents, however, there are pitfalls and there are some elements and factors of cultivation to be taken into due consideration.

We see them in detail in the following article (…).

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The cacti, the spring that doesn’t come and the rain that doesn’t stop: should we be worried?

A spring that is struggling to establish itself, temperatures that fluctuate continuously with sunny and very hot days and gloomy days with the thermometer plummeting. Above all, heavy rain almost every day for at least a week, at least here in the North Italy. Many of us have already moved their cacti and succulents outside, or have removed the winter protections (non-woven fabric or transparent sheets). Many are worried, some run for cover by bringing the plants indoors, others are undecided about what to do… Is it really the case to worry about the combination of low temperatures and persistent rain?

In this article, here are some reflections and the answer to the question that many of you are asking me these days, as always based on what I have learned in years of cultivation (…).

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Cacti and diseases: stop anxiety, sometimes we can’t help but let Nature take its course

Let’s talk about cacti and diseases starting from a simple photo. The plant that inspired this article, and which you see above, is (or rather, was) an Ancistrocactus (=Glandulicactus) mathssonii. I had obtained this specimen with my sowing about ten years ago and fortunately eight or nine other “brothers” of this plant are still in perfect health, growing and flowering regularly. This particular plant, although treated exactly like the other specimens of that sowing and planted in the same type of substrate in which my other mathssonii live (clay, marl and 60% aggregates), a couple of years ago took a fungal pathology and within a few weeks it was dead. I think it was fusarium, but today it doesn’t matter, because the disease has run its course and what remains is… the armor of this cactus, that is a beautiful interweaving of thorns that embraces the void left by the stem which, over time, it dried up until it decomposed and disappeared altogether. The observation of what remains of this plant, which for a couple of years I have kept along a low wall not far from the greenhouse, where I usually move the diseased plants (by diseases, in this case, I mean generically pathogens and parasites) to prevent them from infecting other specimens, led me to some considerations on the cultivation and treatment of plant diseases.

Considerations that I have condensed in the following article an excerpt of which was also published in the British Cactus and Succulent Society newsletter. (…)

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Preparing cacti and succulents for spring: exposure, fertilizing, here’s what to do

Bright blooms, fleshy and brand-new leaves, sparkling spines sprouting from the vegetative apices: for succulent plants, spring represents a real rebirth. Here in Europe, the vegetative stasis that characterizes the winter of most succulent families ends between the second half of February and the beginning of March, when the plants gradually resume vegetation and reactivate the root system. For some families, the restart is evident: this is the case of Cactaceae, which already in February show new spines and often the first flower buds (genera such as Stenocactus, many species of Turbinicarpus, some Mammillaria, etc.). Also, leafy succulents such as Crassula, Echeveria, Portulacaria, Aloe, Adenium are well-known for producing new shoots, new branches and leaves. For other species as the Agavaceae family, the recovery is less evident: it slowly forms fresh sprouts at the centre of the apical rose, destined to be noticed only in a few months, when the separation of the true leaves will take place. Whether the recovery is sudden and flashy or slow and hidden, in March it’s essential to devote some extra care to succulents: in this way, it will be possible to obtain healthy and robust plants that show their full potential development and flowering.

Now let’s see everything we can do at this time of the year, especially if we don’t have a greenhouse and we grow on the windowsill, on the balcony, on a terrace or in the garden. With a warning: whatever you have to do, with succulents and cacti, you must not be in a hurry: hurry to water, hurry to treat, hurry to move the plants… Getting caught up in the rush, the anxiety, the fear of doing something wrong, is the best way to run into mistakes. So let’s see how to avoid them. (…)

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