Succulents outdoor all year? Here are the ones that resist and the story of my “resurrected” Echinocereus

Many succulents, whether cacti or other succulent families, tolerate the cold well. Not all cacti and not all succulents, of course, but many species can face the winter without problems even outdoors not only in the regions of Southern Italy, but also in many European states or in Asia and in northern America. The story of the Echinocereus laui in the photo above contains a very important lesson from this point of view. With the exception of epiphytic cacti (Schlumbergera, Epiphyllum, Rhipsalis, etc.), for species such as Melocactus and Discocactus and for succulent plants native to Madagascar or some African regions (Adenium obesum, Uncarina, Aloe, many Euphorbia and almost all Asclepiadaceae), many succulents can spend the winter months at temperatures close to zero Celsius degrees, as long as the soil remains dry at least from October to the end of March. However, there are some cacti and some succulents capable of surprising us and surviving the rigors of winter without problems, in some cases even in damp soil (therefore partly exposed to the elements).

Among these, some species of Echinocereus, as the plant you see in the photo, which I had given up for dead, and whitch instead was reborn after two winters spent entirely outdoors, exposed to the cold and humidity whitch characterizes northern Italy. In this article here is the history of this plant and a brief overview of the succulent plants that we can keep outdoors all year round. (…)

Continue reading “Succulents outdoor all year? Here are the ones that resist and the story of my “resurrected” Echinocereus”

Pots and inert in the cultivation of succulents: can we recycle them or is it better to throw everything away?

Autumn comes into full swing and with the arrival of cold days, succulents plants require less “attention” from us. In this period, at least in Northern Italy or in middle-north Europe, the plants must already be in their winter location, protected from bad weather and excessive cold. There is time for repotting, since it is better to wait until mid or late winter for this type of operation. Watering is obviously suspended and all we have to do is carry out some preventive treatments to protect the succulents from fungi and mold during the winter months. So, what better time than this to dedicate yourself to tidying up the pots, jars, soil and materials needed for the substrates? And this is where a far from banal question arises for many growers: pots and aggregates (inert) are expensive, is it really worth throwing them away and buying new ones or is it possible to recycle all this material? The answer, clearly, is yes: recycling is a must, but be careful, under certain conditions and making sure that everything we are going to reuse is perfectly clean and free of parasites, spores, mold, dust, etc.

The following article is dedicated to this theme, which goes into detail about the cleaning and sterilization of vases (plastic and terracotta) and the materials used for the substrates (pumice, lapillus, gravel, etc.) which have been set aside after the last repottings carried out in recent months. (…)

Continue reading “Pots and inert in the cultivation of succulents: can we recycle them or is it better to throw everything away?”

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. (…)

Per proseguire nella lettura dell'articolo Accedi o Abbonati
To continue reading the article LogIn or Subscribe

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. (…)

Per proseguire nella lettura dell'articolo Accedi o Abbonati
To continue reading the article LogIn or Subscribe

How to grow cactus: the handbook with the 10 things you absolutely need to know to avoid mistakes

Full sun? But what do you want to know, the window on the landing is enough! Substrate? I buy it ready at the supermarket, it’s perfect. The pots? The smaller the better: never leave more than half a centimeter between the plant and the edge of the pot… And so on, by dint of amenities, false beliefs, hearsay phrases that rapidly becomes dogma because… because it was said by that guy on Facebook and it’s immediately clear that he’s someone who knows about it because his videos has the right lights and Kubrick seems to have done the editing for him. Joking aside, how much nonsense do we still have to hear today about the cultivation of cacti? How many improvised “influencers” ride the crest of social media driven by the Mistral of likes (yes, likes, which in jargon are called “the metrics of vanity”…) and, supported by legions of followers and big thumbs up, they deliver lessons and conferences winking from the monitors, revealing “5 fantastic tricks you don’t know about cacti” or “how to go from seed to flowering plant in 35 seconds”. Or, with an attitude halfway between the conspiratorial and the revealer of esoteric secrets, they promise to teach you everything, absolutely everything about the cultivation of these splendid plants. Then, perhaps, you dig a little and discover that the influencer on duty has been growing cacti for 2 or 3 years – a gift from grandmother -, keeps them next to the PC or television (“you know, they absorb magnetic rays”), he can’t distinguish a Rebutia from a Begonia and has never bothered to leaf through any book on cacti and succulents. There are also influencers for plants, right? No. There are likeable and well-prepared characters, there are pretty faces who know something, but there is also a lot of “fluff” (forgive the old reporter’s term). So much wrong information, so much confusion and so much unpreparedness.

So, without any desire to offer you “The Word” with this article, here is a handbook, a list of ten things you need to know (or you should already know!) if you really want to cultivate your cacti in the best possible way. Without tricks or deceptions: here we are at the fundamentals, come on. But without these you go nowhere. And I am convinced that even those who, scrolling through the 10 points will say “ah yes, I know” ten times, will find in this handbook a useful tool for reviewing, asking themselves a few more questions and pushing themselves to improve. And rest assured, what follows does not come from the web, but from 30 years of experience in the field, of experiments and failures, from discussions with growers and scholars far more expert than me and from reading a few dozen manuals in Italian, English, French, Spanish (and also German, although in that case, I confess, I limited myself to photographs and captions, not knowing the Teutonic language!) (…)

Per proseguire nella lettura dell'articolo Accedi o Abbonati
To continue reading the article LogIn or Subscribe