Cacti and succulents are really “in” right now. And they should be. They’re fun, interesting, and easy to grow.
The word “succulent” comes from the Latin word “sucus” meaning sap or juice. All succulents contain specially evolved cells in their roots, stems or leaves that absorb and retain water. That’s because they’ve evolved in areas that contain little annual rainfall or in areas that have very dry periods part of the year.
So what is a cactus? A cactus is a type of succulent—but not all succulents are cactus! A cactus is a special type of succulent that has “areoles”—specific areas, often fuzzy, from which spines grow. If it has spines, but they don’t grow in a little “circle” chances are it’s a succulent, but not a cactus.
What does that mean to you and me? Well, not much. The care is pretty much the same. All cacti and succulents need really good light—most prefer several hours of direct sun–but not all day. There are a very few (like the sanseveria aka Snake Plant) that will tolerate lower light.
Because succulents have evolved in areas with drier environments, the one thing they will not tolerate is staying too wet. Most all should dry out almost completely between waterings. So, no, we can’t tell you to water once a week. We can tell to water only when you’ve checked the soil and it’s dry. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it a challenge to stick my finger down in a pot full of spines so what I do is take a Q-tip and stick it in the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. If it comes out dry, then it’s time to water!
On the other hand, when you do water, be sure to water so that the water trickles out the bottom—to be certain the bottom roots get their share. Just don’t let them stand in water.
Succulents should not be fertilized too much or too often—and not at all during the winter months. A balanced fertilizer diluted half-strength is usually sufficient.
Cacti and succulents tend to have small roots compared to the size of the plant, so don’t need to be repotted often. When you do repot, never go up more than about an inch and be sure to use a prepared cactus/succulent soil mix. For best results, use a container with a drainage hole. I prefer terra cotta pots because they’re porous and that allows for even drying out all the way down.
With a sunny window and careful watering, cacti and succulents make beautiful and easy indoor plants. Come in and check out our fabulous selection.