Reptiles, rodents, insects: how many encounters while growing succulents! Here are the ones to avoid

Even a young bat, entangled, poor him, among the deadly hooked thorns of an Ancistrocactus and died in that unwelcome embrace during the night, without my being able to notice it or do anything to free it. In many years of cultivation this has also happened to me as you will see in the photo in the article. Those who grow cacti, especially if they have a greenhouse (although singular encounters can also be had when growing them in a garden, on a terrace or on a balcony) know well that not only insects, but also many reptiles or small mammals usually slip through one plant and another. Lizards, spiders, ants, snails, mantises, small birds and mice (not so much the small ones, the so-called field mice, but the real rats, which devour any plant, thorns or no thorns) abound especially if you grow in countryside, where it is not uncommon to come across some harmless water snakes. They are abundant, in particular, if you prefer spartan cultivation, with reduced use of chemical products. Most of these “guests” do not cause any harm to the plants; still others are useful in the fight against parasites: think of ladybugs or of that little red spider visible to the naked eye that goes for a walk on the stems of cacti and which at first glance causes a stroke, but is actually a useful predator of the very harmful red spider, invisible to the naked eye (unlike the damage it causes to plants).

In this article here is an overview of the encounters with animals or insects that I have had in years of cultivation, both on a small balcony and in the current large greenhouse in the countryside. Above all, here is some useful information to understand which animals or insects are “friends” and which animals or insects are “enemy” and how to keep them at bay. (…)

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A repotting… monstrous! How to choose a cactus well and what to do immediately after the purchase

I’m not particularly fond of crested succulents, but at the same time I’m not entirely indifferent to their charm and every so often some “monstrous” specimen ends up in my greenhouse. Small digression: if you don’t know what a “crested” or “monstrous” plant is, there is an article on the italian version of the website (you can find it here and use the internal translator). Having said that, in the last few weeks I bought a crested Cereus peruvianus monstruosus from a nursery specialized in succulent plants. The plant is in excellent health and well formed, but the substrate, as almost always happens when buying cacti, is excessively peaty, at least for the type of cultivation I’ve been using for years now. I then took the opportunity to describe the repotting operation of this Cereus, so as to be able to speak of “monstrous” plants, of repotting, of simple substrates and within everyone’s reach from the point of view of realization and of good practices to follow when buying new plants.

Here then is the report – accompanied by photos of the individual steps – of this repotting, with some useful considerations, precisely, regarding soils, new purchases and crested cacti. (…)

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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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Two useful products for keeping succulents healthy: Neem oil and copper oxychloride

Many cactus and succulent enthusiasts are convinced that the cultivation of these plants necessarily involves the use of chemical products against diseases and parasites. Others consider the use of these products simply as a component of cultivation to be used in certain cases; still others are not too subtle and at the cost of having healthy plants are willing to destroy their lungs, massacre bees and poison the environment. Talking to them is as useful as trying to convince an agoraphobic to take a walk in a desert. But these people, after all, grow for collection and not for love of Nature or a sincere passion for plants. This article, the result of my personal experience and therefore not to be considered as a “lesson” in an absolute sense, may be useful to everyone else. The experience has led me to drastically reduce the use of so-called “phytopharmaceuticals” or “phytosanitary products” (which do not include fertilizers), especially toxic and synthetic ones. I have undertaken this path for some years now for reasons of health protection (mine first and foremost) and the surrounding environment, considering that many pesticides have, among the various side effects, that of killing bees. The issue relating to the death of bees may seem of little importance to the uninformed, but in reality it has enormous importance on a global level from an environmental point of view.

Let’s see in this article how it is possible to reduce the use of pesticides and fungicides, limit ourselves to products with low environmental impact such as Neem oil and copper oxychloride and still have strong and healthy cacti and succulents. (…)

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Crassula ovata, “Jade Tree” or “Money Plant”: here’s how to grow this beautiful succulent

Commonly known as the “jade tree” due to the bright green color of its fleshy leaves, or the “money plant” due to the roundish/elongated shape of the leaves, Crassula ovata is a very common succulent plant in cultivation. It can also often be observed in apartments, where it grows well thanks to its great adaptability and where it can add an unexpected touch of green thanks to its sapling habit, with thick and robust brown branches. Crassula ovata is certainly a common plant, not at all sophisticated, and simple in its forms; however, it has its own charm and the ease of cultivation makes it a succulent practically within everyone’s reach.

In the following article we see in detail where it comes from, what are the cultivation needs of this succulent, what are its weaknesses and how it can be successfully reproduced even by those who are beginners in the cultivation of succulent plants. (…)

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