Expanded clay and peat: are they really two materials to avoid when growing succulents?

Hated, mistreated, seen with contempt, often carefully avoided. Expanded clay and peat are two highly contested and criticized elements among growers of succulent plants and cacti in particular. Net of the chatter from the Internet, are these really two materials that should be forgotten with the cultivation of this type of plant? The question remains open and every grower has his reasons, but there is a fact: on the Net, as far as expanded clay and peat are concerned, everything is said. Above all, it is said that they retain humidity excessively and for this reason they should be banned from the cultivation of cacti and succulents in general. It is said that they favor the onset of rot, that they do not let the roots breathe and much more. Why then do many serious nurserymen (and expert growers with them) still make extensive use of those elements? Simply because, as in many factors of cultivation, the point is not so much the material itself, but the type of use that is made of it.

In this article, let’s try to understand if expanded clay and peat are really such “dangerous” materials for cacti and succulents, if and how they can be used and what their real pros and cons are. (…)

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Sowing cacti: how to prepare plants for the first winter and the “trick” to help them in the first few months

For any plant enthusiast, whether succulent or not, planting is an extremely important point of arrival. An arrival point which, in many cases, soon turns into a starting point which accompanies the enthusiast for most of his life. It is undeniable that there is no comparison between a purchased plant and one we have seen born, grow and develop from a tiny seed, even more if we have collected that seed from one of our plants. This is somewhat the “magic” of sowing: closing a circle born of a flower with another flower, the one produced by the plant originating from that first seed that we have been able to germinate, become a plant and lead to full maturity. And all this without going into detail about the satisfactions that are obtained by trying to select particularly interesting species, from flowers of unique colors to peculiar or almost unique thorns or stem shapes. As regards the procedure for sowing cacti and succulents, many novice growers “get lost” in the proverbial glass of water right after the phase least subject to our control, i.e. germination: we cannot in fact force a seed to germinate, although there are good practices that favor the birth of plants.

For many, however, the critical issues begin after that moment, that is to say in the first months of life of the plants, which are indeed delicate months because the seedlings are still weak and easily subject to rotting or parasitic attacks. It is above all to these growers that the following article is addressed, with a little “trick”, to be understood as advice, on how… to make life easier for seedlings and how to let them pass the first winter unharmed. (…)

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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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A good cactus potting soil with materials readily available in any nursery? Here is how to do it

Surfing the Internet shows how easy it is now to find retailers of plant-growing materials. It is also true specifically for cacti and succulent plants: online, from skilled nurserymen to businesses that deal only in materials such as potting soil, pots, labels, etc., it is easy to get everything you need to grow. But what to do if we don’t want to buy online? If we need large quantities of materials, and shipping can only go up to a certain weight? If we prefer to provide directly by buying potting soil (everyone may have their reasons for this or that choice)? Do we rely on the ready-made potting soils usually offered by any well-stocked nursery or garden? Or is it better to do it ourselves, assembling the various materials as peat, pumice, and sand, based on our needs?

In this article we see how to make a proper substrate for use with any genre of cactus and, with appropriate adjustments, with succulents, in general. We will make it, and this is the point of this article, with materials that anyone can now easily find in any place (…).

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Compositions with succulents: how to choose plants and what is important to know

Better to set the record straight right away: the topic of compositions has very little to do with the spirit of this site. In fact, we are just the opposite: on the one hand, the spartan approach that aims to obtain plants similar to those in habitat and that is the basis of my cultivation method; on the other hand, cultivation for aesthetic purposes only, which I do not practice but which we know very well is widespread. But life, as you know, is never all black or all white; some nuance must always be there…. So, here is an article accompanied by a video of mine on how to make a simple succulent plant arrangement. After all, an eye for aesthetics never hurts, and even I, who love “lived-in,” nature-like plants, do not disdain a well-done composition, as long as it is no-frills and made with respect for the needs of the individual plants. Warning: the theme may seem obvious and the subject matter very simple, but it’s not so and you will understand why in the next lines.  Assuming that in plant compositions everyone is free to do what they want, this is just an aesthetic field, that is, related to personal taste, if you want to make compositions that will last over time and that will not make the plants suffer or die quickly, it will be wise to choose the right essences judiciously and place them in the correct substrate.

Let’s see in this article how to correctly choose the plants for our compositions (…)

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