How to: look after your trendy cacti and succulents
They’ve been absolutely everywhere, declared by Vogue as the hottest Instagram craze and the basis of Ikea’s new ‘Urban Jungle’ range. But in case you still haven’t quite noticed, exotic plants — with particular focus going to cacti and succulents, are one of the biggest trends of 2017 in interior design.
These types of plants range from infuriatingly pernickety to look after, to so hardy you start to wonder if you’ve accidentally been watering a plastic plant for the last 12 months. If you’ve never been the green fingered type but want to embrace this trend, here’s our run down to everything you need to know about looking after exotic house plants
Image Credit: F. D. Richards. CC License
Don’t assume you can treat them all the same
One of the defining characteristics shared by cacti and succulents is the fact that they store large amounts of water within their flesh, which is what allows them to live in their desert habitats. This means they thrive in dry conditions with lots of light and little water, right?
Wrong, kind of. While this is true of many types of succulent, some species of cactus like the stunning orchid cactus and Christmas cactus, evolved in the rain forests of South America, meaning they require more frequent watering and slightly more humid environments, with less light than your run of the mill cactus. A good rule of thumb to find out where best to place a new succulent and how to care for it, is to find out its original habitat.
Image Credit: Maria Keays CC License
Replanting can be perilous
While the particular type of photosynthesis makes them particularly adept to surviving in locations where few other plants can, it also makes them extremely slow to grow. Happily this means they need repotting less frequently which thanks to their prickly nature requires a little bravery.
The Royal Horticultural society states that most succulents will be best re-potted in the spring, and you should only do so into a pot very slightly larger in diameter, to accommodate for the slow rate of growth of most of these plants. They also say to keep pain to a minimum handle them with an oven glove or use strips of newspaper as ‘tongs’.
Image Credit: Sonny Abesamis . CC License
Give them a dust
This may seem like the path to madness, similar to that great aunt who everyone recites stories of finding hoovering the lawn at 3am. But, left to their own devices cacti in particular will start to accumulate household dust and even cobwebs. If household grime starts to detract from the beauty of your succulent, there’s no shame in giving it a little scrub to get it looking its best again. The easiest and safest way to do this is to use a humble paint brush to dust between the spines of the plant.
Image Credit: Juliet Wang . CC License
You can turn yours into a gift supply
Many succulents like money trees, can be reproduced, propagated if you want to use the fancy gardener’s term, through devision, this means that off-cuttings and accidentally snapped of leaves can be turned into new baby plants, which make fantastic gifts for friends, particularly as housewarming presents.
Branching varieties can have their side shoots and stem removed, while clump-forming cacti produce offsets which you can merely lift and divide.
Most cuttings will need to be left to dry where they were separated from the plant, before they can be potted. This can vary in time, but a ‘callous’ should form to give you an indicator of when is good to go, most good garden centres and some supermarkets will sell special compost designed for cacti and succulents.