Kyle Leonard is an urban gardener from Salford. He loves experimenting with succulents, cacti and anything else he can find the room to grow. You may also recognise Kyle as the founder of the infamous 2016 GardenTags seed swap. Read on for more of Kyles Urban Gardening Adventures…
Urban Gardening Adventures Vol. 5
Hello! Today we’re talking about cacti. I want to help you choose the right cactus for you, as well as giving you some tips on keeping your prickly friend healthy (and alive)! Many cacti will survive in England in the right environment. If you leave yours on a cold windowsill during the winter months, it won’t thrive in the harsh conditions. This, I know from experience. I’ve made this mistake a couple of times, and all affected cacti have turned to mush the second it turned cold.
My personal favourite cacti is the Dwarf Chin Cactus. This is the only cacti I own which has flowered. The Dwarf Chin Cactus has survived three very cold Northern winters (fingers crossed, anyway!) and has flowered two of the last three years. The only difference between last year and 2015, is the fact that I started using a very small amount of tomato feed. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that this is why it flowered twice! In June and in August.
Light, Water, Temperature!
Getting light right is a very important part of growing cacti. Every cacti needs a light, airy position, preferably in a south-facing window. However, if you can’t offer this, most cacti can survive on having sunlight for only part of the day. Most experts recommend putting cacti outside when it’s really hot. Personally I’ve never tried this, but maybe I will this year even if just to report back any changes I find and if I would recommend it too.
The hardest part to get right in my opinion is watering – it’s like a science! I have read many articles on growing cacti and they all state that you should wait until your soil is bone dry before giving it a thorough watering… but this is only in the summer. Personally, I would water them sparingly in colder months. An overhead misting, with a water spray can help to reduce the amount of dust on your cacti, resulting in the plant looking healthier. Rainwater is better than tap water for cacti, so if you have the option of being able to choose between the two, then it’s a no-brainer.
Cacti have a very high tolerance of temperature and full sunshine, but there must be plenty of air circulation. Always ensure there’s a steady stream of air entering the room which your cacti are in. It’s easy to do, just open a door or window. You need to steer away from baking the room, like an oven, which in essence could cook your cacti and undo your hard work by killing your plant.
Flowers on a cacti are more beautiful than on any other plant, in my opinion, simply because they’re rare. I have over 15 cacti and only one has ever flowered in 3 years. Many websites claim that a cacti only flowers once every seven years, which is heavily disputed as a myth. Many cacti will reach flowering size at two years old, flowering every year if you’re lucky. But some can take ten years to mature to their flowering size. To help your cacti flower, you need to offer them a cool, dry, rest period during the winter. A cool room would be the best solution to match these demands. If you’re looking for a cacti which will flower, then you can’t go wrong with a Christmas Cactus, Rebutia or Orchid Cacti.
To give your growing cacti a fighting chance of flowering, I would say to give it a small amount of tomato feed during summer. Once every few weeks would be enough but you could tail this to your conditions.
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