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Cactus planting and growing

Cactus. - Various kinds of cactus are often seen in small collections of house plants, to which they add interest and oddity, being different from other plants.

Most cacti are easy to grow, requiring little care and enduring the heat and dryness of a living room much better than most other plants. Their requirements are ample drainage and open soil. Cactus growers usually make a soil by mixing pulverized plaster or lime refuse with garden loam, using about two-thirds of the loam.

The very fine parts, or dust, of the plaster, are blown out, else the soil is likely to cement. They may be rested at any season by simply setting them away in a dry place for two or three months, and bringing them into heat and light when they are wanted. As new growth advances they should have water occasionally, and when in bloom, they should be watered freely. Withhold water gradually after blooming until they are to be rested.

Some of the most common species in cultivation are the phyllocactus species, often called the night-blooming cereus. These are not the true night-blooming cereuses, which have angular or cylindrical stems, covered with bristles, while these have flat, leaf-like branches; the flowers of these, however, are very much like the cereus, opening at evening and closing before morning, and as the phyllocacti may be grown with greater ease, blooming on smaller and younger plants, they are to be recommended.

The true night-blooming cereuses are species of the genus Cereus. The commonest one is C. nycticalus, but C. grandiflorus, C. triangularis and others are occasionally seen. These plants all have long rod-like stems which are cylindrical or angular. These stems often reach a height of 10 to 30 ft., and they need support.

They should be trained along a pillar or tied to a stake. They are uninteresting leafless things during a large part of the year; but in midsummer, after they are three or more years old, they throw out their great tubular flowers, which open at nightfall and wither and die when the light strikes them next morning.

They are very easily grown, either in pots or planted in the natural soil in the conservatory. The only special care they need is good drainage at the roots, so that the soil will not become soggy.

The epiphyllum, or lobster cactus, or crab cactus, is one of the best of the family, easy of culture. It bears bright-colored blossoms at the end of each joint. When in flower, which will be in the winter months, it requires a richer soil than the other cacti. A suitable soil is made of two-thirds fibrous loam and one third leafmold; usually it is best to add sand or pulverized brick. In fall and early winter, keep rather dry, giving more water as the plant comes into bloom.

Opuntias, or prickly pears, are often grown as border plants through the summer. In fact, all the family may be planted out, and if a number of kinds are set in a bed together, they make a striking addition to the garden. Be very careful not to bruise the plants. It is better to plunge them in the pots than to turn them out of the pots.