How to grow cactus plants

Cactus plants, or cacti, make excellent indoor plants. Like succulents, they’re used to the hot, sunny, dry conditions of desert. Their leafless stems are designed to store water, so they can cope with drought. As such they need very little watering and can even rot if given too much. Cacti can be grown in pots or terrariums for years. They have different shapes and sizes and if you’re lucky, they bear delightful, colored flowers in summer.

1.How to plant cacti
Always plant cacti with care. The spines can prick and hurt your skin. It’s a good idea to use common kitchen items such as a thick tea towel, spoon and fork to help you.
Mulch with a layer of horticultural grit or pebbles to complete the look of the pot display. This also prevents water splashing back on the cactus.

2.How to propagate cacti
Cactus can be grown from seed although it can take several years for plants to reach a decent size. You can buy mixed cactus seed cheaply, and it’s fun to see which cactus varieties you end up with.
To grow cactus from seed, fill a pot with a moist, gritty, free-draining compost, firm down and level. Scatter cactus seeds over the surface, taking care not to sow them too thickly. Then, gently sprinkle a thin layer of vermiculite or fine grit over the seeds. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to preserve soil moisture, and leave the in a greenhouse or on a warm windowsill. You may need to find an alternative spot for them in winter if the windowsill becomes too cold.
Some cacti can be propagated from cuttings. Others bear offsets, which can simply be snipped off the plant and potted on.

3.Caring for cactus plants
In summer, water cacti no more than once a week. A good watering less often is better than a little-and-often approach. You shouldn’t need to water cacti at all in the coldest months.
Repot cacti every couple of years, to give them fresh compost – you won’t necessarily need to pot them into a larger pot.

4.Growing cactus plants: problem solving
Cactus plants are usually trouble free. If overwatered or not given enough light they can rot at the base. This is usually fatal for the plants.
Cactus plants can develop spindly growth but it’s easy to rectify.
5.Cactus varieties to grow
Echinocactus grusonii – golden barrel cactus is globe-shaped but eventually grows tall. Native to Mexico, it bears bright green stems with spiked ribs. Bright yellow flowers appear in summer.
Gymnocalycium paraguayense – a variable cactus with flattened spines. It produces creamy white flowers in spring and summer.
Mammillaria spinosissima – a globe-shaped cactus with bright pink, funnel-shaped flowers. Its central spines are a reddish-brown or yellow.
Rebutia krainziana – a clump-forming barrel cactus, forming dark green stems up to 7cm in diameter, with contrasting small, white areoles and spines. In late spring large, yellow or red flowers develop around the main stem, forming a tight clump.

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